I Challenge You: Deprivation
The tired phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” rings true in many aspects in our lives. After all, what is nostalgia if not the absence of our pasts? Today’s challenge, however, is not so much about nostalgia, but about purposely creating that distance from something to strengthen your relationship with God.
I have always preferred the term deprivation to fasting because it is a more all-encompassing word. With the fasting, there is an almost implied connotation that food is involved. When explaining the concept of fasting to someone, I like to refer to it as deprivation. Now, deprivation can come in two forms: forced and voluntary. Forced deprivation is when we simply do not have access to something. If you are stuck in the desert, you have a forced deprivation of water. A voluntary deprivation, however, is when we limit ourselves.
How can limiting ourselves strengthen our relationship with God? It is my philosophy that the less of my baggage that I bring to the table, the better I will be at connecting with God. Those who are dependent on receiving necessities have to put more faith in something which they do not control. Likewise, when we deprive ourselves of things, it increases our reliance upon whatever we use to make it through the day. For many, this reliance would be instilled in themselves. As Christians, we should be stowing our reliance in the Lord.
We can deprive ourselves in a wide swath of different methods. We can of course deprive ourselves of food to focus on how fortunate we are to have been blessed with an abundance to eat from God. We can deprive ourselves of television, the internet, books, or video games to realize how much of our waking time is spent occupying the white noise in our brain. It is only when we settle in the still and quiet that the white noise begins to tune in to the frequencies of heaven.
John gives us our end goal with deprivation: “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). With this in mind, we can target areas in our lives which are “us” so that we can devote them to the Lord. What areas of your perception of “self,” whatever that idea may be, must be carved out to replace the self with the otherness of God? If our ultimate goal as Christians is emulate Jesus, what parts of our day-to-day lives conflict with us achieving this?
A good way to start deprivation is to start it with something manageable. Boldly claiming you will go without food for a week is just setting you up for failure. Much as our bodies can’t go from sedentary to Olympic athlete in day, so too must our wills be strengthened against the desire to rely on earthly things. It is similar to addiction in a way. During my battle with a pornography addiction, I started out by only being able to abstain for a few days at a time. At this point, I have come far enough where I do not even think about it often at all and rarely relapse.
If your goal is to deprive yourself of food, simply start with skipping a meal. If it is some form of media, withgo engaging it for one day. Over time, your desire to rely on the Lord will increase and you can bear to forgo the pursuits your flesh finds pleasurable. This week, pick one thing that is not bringing you closer to God and forgo it for a period of time. After Jesus was baptized, he fasted for forty days before he began his ministry. If we are to have any hope in emulating Jesus, surely repeating his actions would be a fine way to start.
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March 20, 2019
March 20, 2019
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