I like to suffer. Perhaps a strange thing to admit. One of life’s greatest pleasures is your leg falling asleep, the sudden stabbing of needles piercing your sole as you shift position. God didn’t have to gift us this nonsensical bodily function, but in His infinite grace He did. Praise.

Uncomfortability feels comfortable. Stretching myself, pushing my mind and body feels like the more correct course of action over a life of lethargy, apathy.

I enjoy doing hard things. Things that people generally shy away from if there’s an easier, parallel course. Things outside “normal” comfort zones that build muscles, be they physical or mental or emotional.

Why join a “regular” gym when you can join CrossFit?

Why book a hotel when you can camp out or sleep in your car in a Walmart parking lot?

Why pay ten bucks to park downtown when you can park a mile (or two) away for free, and also get your day’s steps??

Or how about this: I’ve come home multiple times needing to pee more than I’ve ever needed urinary relief in my life, yet I’ve methodically emptied my pockets, taken off my coat, hung it on the hanger, even untied and removed my shoes, before gingerly stepping to the bathroom to relieve myself.

No kidding, one area of growth for me has been consciously giving myself permission to suffer no longer and just immediately go to the bathroom when I get home. If left unchecked, my affinity for “building muscles” can spiral out of control. Regularly practicing self-care has become just as needed a task as going to my CrossFit-adjacent gym, to the point I’ve started scheduling it into my weekly rhythms.

Don’t you dare bother me every Monday night while I enjoy some wine and a lavender bubble bath.

Resting and enjoying life, I’m learning, doesn’t come naturally for me. In a warped sense, then, I’m also building this muscle by doing what comes difficult. I’m learning to care for my body and show myself grace, and this course of action feels correct.

I’m getting there.

But when things in my life feel as if they’re generally going well, I often second-guess myself and the world around me, imagining I must be mistaken or not seeing the full picture. Why am I not suffering in some discernible way right now? Is something wrong?

I second-guess God, worried that whatever financial or relational or any other provision will soon be pulled out from under me like a rug. Some might call this mindset as seeing the glass half-empty; I just call it as seeing the glass. Life never stays excellent forever, right?

At my core, I’m realizing, I tend to believe that I don’t “deserve” whatever goodness does find me, surround me. Maybe God is a good, good Father, but I often feel like a bad, bad son.

My sexuality is at least partly tied to this core belief. Particularly when the male inferiority, male envy, and male lust of my sexuality are consuming me and I yield to temptation. Again. And again. And again.

As I write this, we’re in another season of Lent, these sacred weeks before Easter, a time to remember Christ’s sacrifice and, perhaps, practice fasting. To wait and pray and meet with God a little more intentionally this month.

Lately, though, I’ve wondered how helpful fasting has been for my walk with Jesus. Do I fast because I truly desire to hear from Him more clearly, walk with Him more closely, and feel less spiritually cloudy?

Or do I fast because, well, it’s comfortable to be uncomfortable? Because it almost feels good to deprive, if not punish my body — particularly after I sin?

This isn’t meant to be a post on body image, particularly my lifelong struggle to feel comfortable in my skin — but sometimes, I’ll admit, it feels good not to eat. To skip a meal or two, starve myself a little; cut some calories, perhaps shed some fat. Fasting from food has never felt exclusively spiritual for me; it’s generally had another unhealthy dimension to it.

I’m getting pudgier than I’d like to be. I could probably stop eating for day, maybe even two or three. Oh, and if I happen to encounter Jesus along the way, hooray.

Or taken to another degree . . .

I don’t deserve food because of what I did online last night. The cost of rectifying that action needs to weigh twice as much as the gain. Only then will God know I’m still serious about following Him.

Quite a few times, I’ve gorged on sexual temptation and then immediately fasted from food. These “fasts,” though, have felt more emotionally driven than spiritual-minded, more self-mutilating than self-denying. Was I communing more with my Maker or my shame?

Some measure of spiritual communing has been part of the fasting equation, and God has met me in those shadows of shame. But I’ve wondered if such fasting is ultimately a good practice for me.

Of course, food, something we all need, isn’t the only thing from which you can fast; sacrificing one of life’s necessities isn’t the only worthy sacrifice. In years past, during Lent or otherwise, I’ve also fasted from coffee (a truly irritable month), social media or technology at large, and of course that one infamous Lent of going without masturbation.

I never followed up on that post as intended, but I technically faltered the night before Easter. Isn’t that the worst??

This year, I forgot about Lent until four days after Ash Wednesday. I struggle with all-or-nothing mindsets, another point of growth for me, so my initial thought was: what’s the point at this point?

But I’ve struggled with focus, particularly spiritual focus, for months, and I thought this Lent, however late to the party I was, would actually be a ripe time to get intentional again. So, I have.

It hasn’t been a perfect month of fasting. I started late, and I even forgot I was committing to this on two other days. It’s been hard, even annoying some days.

But God has been meeting me amidst the angst.

I share some of my experiences with Lent and fasting not in a pharisaical way, hopefully, but to encourage anyone reading to discover some practice of self-denial for yourself, and always to examine your motivations in doing so. Bodily issues or otherwise, maybe fasting from food isn’t healthy or helpful. Or maybe you don’t “believe” in Lent.

Regardless of the time of year, can you seek to remove a distraction, if only for a time, to meet Jesus in a new way?

Despite my complicating relationship with suffering, I still find something genuinely beautiful about meeting with God in the place where my stomach or mind or soul groans. A newly opened space, like a spiritual wormhole, to talk to Him, cry with Him, cry at Him, and breathe with Him.

Fasting then feels less like an infliction of punishment and more like a tuning to another channel. One with far less static.

How I long to hear from Him.

Do you regularly practice fasting, and are you participating in Lent this year? What are the benefits and challenges of fasting?

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