Three weeks does not seem like a long time. It’s only 21 days. 504 hours. Certainly I could commit to something for such a short time. Right?
Well, yes and no.
This past Lenten season, I decided to embark on the 21-day The Daniel Fast (www.thedanielfast.com, Susan Gregory). When I “give up” a single item (coffee), I find ways to compensate (tea). Or I choose a sacrifice (chocolate) that can be accomplished without drawing on Christ. So I needed something that would invade my whole day, every part of my waking and lying down. The Daniel Fast does that.
The Daniel Fast is a commitment to give up all sugar (even as an ingredient), all processed foods (absolutely nothing with preservatives or ingredients you can’t pronounce), all dairy, all meat, all beverages except water (yep, even coffee), and all foods that contain yeast. It’s more than Paleo, not at all gluten free, and something akin to Vegan on steroids.
You cannot enter the Daniel Fast unprepared. It affects every single decision you make about food. Label reading is paramount. Menu plans are a must. Planning ahead is the only way to succeed. I knew what I was getting into. I had done this fast before.
I was about 17 days into it when it happened. I gave the devil a foothold.
My mom had been hospitalized the day before. Planning to be with her for the day, I ate breakfast at home and managed lunch according to the fast at the hospital bistro (shockingly), but I did not bring snacks for the long day. By 5 p.m. I was quite hungry.
My husband stopped by the hospital to say hello after his own long day. He was hungry too. As we left together, the only thing on our minds was to eat – and soon. My husband stopped on his way home and picked up Chinese food, remembering my favorite dish: Happy Family.
There is nothing about Chinese food that adheres to the Daniel Fast. I had food I could have prepared that would honor my fast. But I was beyond hungry. In the moment, having not planned a quick, fast-friendly dinner, I let my guard down. I took the easy option and inhaled my Happy Family.
The next morning, as I got up and went into the kitchen, defeat had already settled in my heart. You broke your fast last night. Just call it done. Give up now. It’s fine.
But, it wasn’t fine.
The sacrificial nature of the fast is to embrace bending our fleshly desires over to Christ. For 17 days I grappled with that. As I submitted every food decision to honor God through the fast, I experienced intimate communion with him and a fellowship I had been missing.
Then the Chinese food incident happened. I wrestled with the idea of abandoning the fast altogether. After all, I’d already fallen. Already failed. I couldn’t even commit for 21 days. What kind of Christian am I? I may as well go ahead and have a cup of coffee.
Instead of acting on that desire, I decided to first read my devotional for the day.
“… do not let sin reign in our mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as a instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:12-14 NIV).”
Through these life-giving words, grace breathed into my weakness and arrested the temptation to keep on “failing.”
I committed to 21 days. I had 4 more days to go. Why should I offer those days over to my enemy?
Why should I let the voice of failure be the last thing I heard?
I can’t say I heard God say, no, don’t have any coffee. But through his Word, I recognized the choice before me. Who will I yield to?
There is a passage in Ephesians that implores us not to sin in our anger and give the devil a foothold.
This idea of giving our enemy a foothold catches my attention. I think Paul specifically calls out anger because anger is a strong negative emotion that is hard to control. But there are other ways to give Satan a foothold. When I broke my fast, I gave him one that allowed him to tempt me to give up. I messed up once – it’s over.
A foothold means we give our enemy a place to insert himself into our situations. It’s an opening that invites him to speak lies of discouragement, doubt, and division into our lives.
Any compromise we make that invites us to keep on compromising living a life that honors Christ is a foothold. Any “failure” we feel we have made that invites guilt, shame, or condemnation is a foothold. Anything that causes us to say I may as well quit, I’m not worthy, or I’m no good, is a foothold.Don’t let failure have the last word. Protect your foothold. Click To Tweet
I needed to plan ahead to remain strong in Christ through my fast. We know our areas of vulnerability. We do. We know where we have chinks in our armor. Planning ahead and being prepared will help us guard against giving up those footholds. We can arm ourselves with the God-honoring responses for when the attacks come.
And, when we do react out of weakness and find ourselves contemplating offering a part of our life over to our enemy in defeat – let’s claim these words:
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Choose today. Do not give the devil a foothold.