Should I Fear Fasting? Psalm 35

empty plate with fork and spoon crossed

During the season of Lent, there can be many calls to use fasting as a spiritual discipline.

  • no red meat on fridays
  • stay off social media
  • pick one thing you really love and give it up for the season

In most Christian circles you will rarely hear fasting mentioned, and few will have read anything about it. And yet it’s mentioned in Scripture more times than even something as important as baptism (about seventy-seven times for fasting to seventy-five for baptism).

Donald S. Whitney
“Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life”


I was afraid to fast.

I grew up in a home where disordered eating played as a background playlist on loop. To this day, my mother will evaluate my food intake. Anxiety, an honored guest, typically joins my mother and me for every meal we share. Am I eating enough? Have I ordered something that meets her approval? If we go out to a restaurant, I can expect her to suggest I help her eat the food on her plate because surely it is too much for her. I must help finish what she can’t see wasting.

Second, only to my mother’s food anxiety, comes my mother’s health anxiety. Let’s just say, I may have been raised with the idea that my body lacked certain abilities to deal with everyday stresses. My blood sugar was far too unstable. My coordination and physical strength were things I simply couldn’t expect to have. I could easily get hurt doing normal things. So, skipping a meal or two was far too risky. Ironically, it was during a time when I was preparing for surgery that I discovered I could miss a meal or two or three without passing out or experiencing some other dire consequences.

To be clear fasting is not only about giving up food. God may call His followers to give up any number of things. In this piece, I will be focusing on fasting from food, but there are many other ways to fast.

For years, fasting food, as a spiritual discipline, was not available to me.  Recently, God made it clear that He wanted me to learn to trust Him in this area. He gently called me out of a toxic dependence on avoiding fasting out of fear.

Unhooking toxic disordered eating patterns from the invitation to fast from food challenged me to even greater dependence upon God. Asking the Holy Spirit to examine my heart and check my motivations became essential.  I am continuing to disconnect fasting from becoming a weight-loss tool for me. The struggle is indeed real for many believers caught up in diet culture as I was for decades.

“Fasting from any nourishment, activity, involvement or pursuit—for any season—sets the stage for God to appear. Fasting is not a tool to pry wisdom out of God’s hands or to force needed insight about a decision. Fasting is not a tool for gaining discipline or developing piety (whatever that might be). Instead, fasting is the bulimic act of ridding ourselves of our fullness to attune our senses to the mysteries that swirl in and around us.”

Dan B. Allender, PHD

As Dr. Dan Allender explains, what I gained from fasting was an opportunity to attune my heart to God’s heart.  

Saul, David’s mortal enemy, pursued him for decades. In Psalm 35, David cries out to God for help and support.

1 Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid.
3 Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to me, “I am your salvation.”

4 May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin
    be turned back in dismay.
5 May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away;
6 may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

7 Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me,
8 may ruin overtake them by surprise—may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.
10 My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
Psalm 35:1-10 NIV

David found himself fully relying on God’s ability to rescue him. His desperation draws him closer and closer to God.

11 Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved.
13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
14 I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother.
15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing.
16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me.

Psalm 35:11-16 NIV

In verse 13, David talks about how fasting brings about humility and causes a heart shift. Fasting attunes hearts to what God cares about. The enemies remain, and David continues his lament and mourning. However, David feels his heart shift from anger to empathy. He begins to mourn and weep for his enemies. Only God could bring such a change.

While David’s attitude toward his enemies shifts in profound way, his enemies continue along the same path of vengeance. They mock and slander him when he stumbles.

17 How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions.
18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.
19 Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye.
20 They do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land.
21 They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.”
Psalm 35:17-21 NIV

David’s enemies are relentless in their bad behavior. Somewhere between these verses, David chooses a different response from what surrounds him. He promises to praise God. Even after he declares this he continues to be surrounded by false accusations and sneering. His promise to praise reveals a spark of hope being fanned into a flame of passion.  

22 LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord.
23 Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord.
24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me.
25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” or say, “We have swallowed him up.”
26 May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace.
27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long.

Psalm 35:22-28 NIV

David praises God amid pain and offers these praises all day long. In Psalm 35 David moves from lamenting his hopeless situation to proclaiming God’s righteousness and praising Him all day.

Choosing to fast can powerfully propel me into a closeness with God’s heart and His desires for me. In this position of dependence, I become more attuned to what God delights in despite my circumstances. The Lord begins to allow me to catch a glimpse of some of the mysteries that swirl inside. My empathy grows for others and bonds me even more closely with God and His heart for all He created. Fasting is both a tool and a gift from my heavenly father. He knows exactly what I need.

What experience do you have with fasting food as a spiritual tool? What questions do you have about fasting? Have you chosen to fast from something this Lent?

How Can I Respond to False Accusations? Lessons on God’s Love Learned from a Man on the Run – Psalm 18

Person running away

False accusations have a way of wearing me down. Initially the truth stands guard on my heart, and I feel righteous and free and can put the lie away. However, sometimes a false accusation returns days, months or years later. Perhaps it is something with a small grain of truth that has been manipulated by the enemy? Maybe it is something to do with a fear I have?

False accusations can begin to feel like a dripping faucet, initially a small annoyance but eventually becoming something that distracts me or exhausts me. I feel I must defend myself. I need to set the record straight. I want to fight for what is right.

The culture around me reinforces messages of offense at every turn.

  • Don’t take that lying down
  • Tell everyone you know that the false accuser is wrong
  • Gather a group of people to support you and attack the accuser
  • Seek the revenge you are entitled to
  • Get the last word on the matter

While I have never been pursued by a murderous king, I can relate to David’s conflict with Saul. David faced so many false accusations from Saul. When a shepherd boy named David was anointed and chosen by God as the future King of Israel, it touched off a twenty-year conflict. The current king, Saul waged war and pursued David relentlessly. He began with false accusations and escalated the chase to a murderous rage.

What did David pursue in response to Saul?


Support from others?

A violent solution?

Even when David could have killed Saul, he continued to seek God, first and foremost.

On the day that David was delivered from all of His enemies (the ones Saul used against him), David wrote Psalm 18. The psalm is all about giving glory to God and never mentions Saul. In one of his first acts as the new king, David directs his new subjects to praise God. While on the run from King Saul, David had learned some hard-earned lessons about God’s character and actions.

What does David learn about God?

  1. God hears us when we call out to Him.
  2. God shows up to fight for us.
  3. God rescues us in unmistakable ways
  4. God delights in us.
1 I love you, Lord, my strength.

2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

3 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.

4 The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

5 The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.

6 In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.

Psalm 18:1-6 NIV

  1. God hears, listens and responds (verse 6) Nothing escapes his notice, and He is willing and able to rescue. Even when we can’t see Him, He hears us and knows all about what we are struggling with.
7 The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.

8 Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.

9 He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.

10 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.

11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.

12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.

13 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.

Psalm 18:7-13 NIV

2. God fights for those He loves, so we don’t need to. (Verse 13). God can balance out an unfair advantage –when a king pursues a shepherd boy with vengeance and great resource. God’s supernatural battle strategies can’t be explained away or ignored.

14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.

15 The valleys of the sea were exposed, and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.

17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.

19 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Psalm 18:14-19 NIV

3. God draws me out of my depth, out of my way and into his firm grasp. When he rescues me, He does so in a way that defies the idea that I did it myself. His power is demonstrated for all to see. The day of my disaster (vs. 18) transforms into a day of giving thanks for God’s great merciful rescue.

4. God delights in me and you and asks me to focus on Him not my accusers or pursuers. He will take care of them for me and you.

This twenty-year conflict with Saul prepared David for one of the greatest challenges of his life – serving as the King of God’s people. During a very difficult season, David got closer to God by placing his focus on that relationship.

Today, I will take time to turn away from focusing on those who annoy or accuse me, and I will direct my energy towards giving God praise for all He does. I will pray through the first 19 verses of Psalm 18 and ask God to show me how He is always fighting for me and making provision.