by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12 NIV
A few years ago, I gave up gossip for Lent. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but I was raised as a die-hard, ultra-conservative Southern Baptist, and fasting was never, ever talked about in our church.
Trying something new in the spiritual realm was a bit scary. However, since learning about the tradition of fasting during the weeks leading up to Easter in order to concentrate more fully on spiritual things, I’d been intrigued. So, after God began nudging me toward a Lenten fast, I prayed, “Okay, Lord, I’ll do it. What do you want me to give up? Fries? Soft drinks?” I thought I could lose a few pounds and get more spiritual. Definitely a win-win situation, from my vantage point.
Then the Holy Spirit said, “Give up gossip.”
Well . . . that should be easy, I thought. I never talk about other people. And I don’t like it when other people do. Sure, that’ll be a cinch!
Just call me “Self-righteous Sally.”
I didn’t realize how addicted I was, until I had to give it up. Day one of my fast, I noticed uncomfortably that I really missed gossip: with girlfriends (although we usually called them “prayer requests”), from entertainment magazines (they’re not called “guilty pleasures” for nothing), and from gossip-type television shows.
I had always justified my need for the latest celebrity news by telling myself that I was simply keeping tabs on the arts, my chosen field. The problem was that gossip didn’t just inform my viewing. I also regularly read Internet articles about celebrities, which fueled my desire to watch shows and read magazines about them. Those habits made me less content with my body and material possessions, as well as the level of obscurity I “enjoyed” in my career.
God chose that time to show me clearly how I had let sins like gossip sneak into my life. After all, I had told myself, gossip was not lust or murder or adultery. It was a tiny slip-up, and everyone should be allowed one or two a day, right?
Clearly, God has a lot of patience with me. Once I got past rationalizations, excuses, and justification, I confessed and asked the Lord to forgive me. He also used the season of Lent to heal a relationship which had been strained by gossip.
Jesus once declared that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. Similarly, I’ve found that spiritual disciplines don’t only draw me closer to God; they also create more space in my cluttered heart and mind for life-giving, life-giving pursuits.
This year with COVID-19, all of us have had to sacrifice more than we bargained for during the Lenten season. However, these weeks of forced isolation are a good time to allow God to show us where we’ve worshiped false idols and given ourselves over to worldly desires.
Without our usual distraction of busyness and activities, we can choose to pray and fast, weeping over our collective sins and mourning our complacency–as in Joel 2:12. Perhaps God will use the pandemic to bring scores of people back to Him or into a saving relationship with Jesus for the first time.
But whether or not we see widespread revival, we can each individually search our hearts, confess our failings, and invest more of our time in pursuing the things of God. If we do, our season of “fasting” will reap eternal rewards.
This article first appeared on The Theology of Work website. Used by permission.
About the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.
Dena’s book, Grace for the Race, uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled females. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help moms realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!
Join the conversation: How are you using this time of isolation for your spiritual growth?