I was eating only fruits, vegetables, and some whole grains. I felt amazing, had energy like never before, and was learning to appreciate the little things—like fresh strawberries on a hot day and homemade salsa with some warm baked pita bread. I loved it, and I kept thinking, “This is what God must have intended!” I had made this commitment to the Lord that I would do the Daniel Fast (which is a partial fast based on the verse in Daniel 1:12 when Daniel requests that he and his friends be given only vegetables and not the King’s food for ten days).
But then I arrived at my birthday celebration after having a rough day, and behold, delicious homemade banana pudding. It was plopped right in front of me and I was so excited at the sight and smell of it that I scooped it up without even hesitating. I’d had a bad day, after all. Sure, I was doing the Daniel Fast, but it was my birthday! One scoop wouldn’t hurt, right?! No big deal.
I went home that night feeling awful—physically and mentally. I hadn’t had much sugar or preservatives in weeks, so physically this did a number on my stomach. And mentally, I felt so guilty that I hadn’t even batted an eye at this snack that wasn’t on my list of “approved” foods. I was ashamed because I was so quick to believe this food—banana pudding—would make me happy, that I didn’t even pause to consider the ramifications or pray about my decision. I just followed my gut, quite literally, and regretted it the whole way home.
Fasting is not about the food you don’t eat, the weight you may lose, or the pride you feel in saying no to something. It’s about carving out space to make room for Jesus and leaning into Him instead of relying on your instincts or selfish desires. That night, the banana pudding wasn’t the sin—my lack of reverence and care for the Lord in my actions was. I set aside the previous weeks of commitment and discipline for a quick indulgence that did nothing but bring regret and shame. It truly wasn’t worth it.
So what should I have done in that situation? I could have awkwardly turned down the banana pudding and made a big ordeal, mumbled something about eating better, made some excuse. Or I could have just said, “No, thank you!” and let that be that. I was worried what people would think, and also, I just really wanted the banana pudding. Here I was, jumping ship back into eating whatever I wanted without any regard for the commitment I had made to the Lord.
Fasting can very quickly become legalistic and all about the rules if we aren’t careful. But in this moment, it was a matter of the heart. I wanted that pudding to make me feel better. I wanted the comfort and familiarity of a snack I loved so much that I just dove into it without even thinking. In that moment, I believed the lie that I needed that treat to make me feel better, so I ate it up in seconds.
Big surprise that when I finished the pudding I did not feel any better, but actually felt much worse! It offered no comfort and I was walking in regret.
So how do we fast with a clear conscience and a heart that is dedicated to God in the midst of circumstances beyond our control? I think we have to be intentional to commit our way to the Lord before we come to the decision. I was always taught growing up that I needed to know ahead of time what I was going to say when someone offered me alcohol, or a boyfriend tried to do more than I wanted to do physically. I needed to know my limits and boundaries and commit to them, but more importantly, I needed to know why I was committed to them!
Fasting is not that different. Why are you fasting? Is it to prove something or complete a checklist that will make you feel more spiritual? Or is it to draw near to the Lord, listen to His voice, and make space for Him to speak? (See Ezra 8:23, Judges 20:26, 1 Samuel 7:6, Psalm 35:13, and Matthew 4:1–11 if you are wondering why God’s children should fast).
If it’s the former, then bending the rules will feel much more negotiable, because you will feel like you set the rules in the first place, so why not bend them? But if it’s the latter, and you are genuinely drawing near to the Lord by denying yourself something that you enjoy or crave, then you will be faced with a much more spiritual decision: Do I want this thing more than I want to honor Jesus?
When you know your motive and are prepared to answer any temptation that comes your way, the choice to eat banana pudding or not will seem trivial. I can choose to say no, because I’ve committed this part of my life to the Lord right now, and I want to honor that commitment. I can choose to say no, because leaning into the Lord is better than giving into this desire. I can choose to say no, because I am making space to need Christ, and He will fill in this gap for me.
I can lean into the Spirit when my flesh is weak and trust His strength to give me the wisdom and ability to keep my commitment (Matt. 26:41). I can pray when I don’t have the words to say and trust that He will speak to my heart in that moment of uncertainty (Rom. 8:26). I can rely fully on Him because I am acknowledging that I have no good apart from Christ (Ps. 16:2).
Let your fasting be done in secret (Matt. 6:16–18), but let your commitment to Christ be evident to all. Be bold in your desire to chase after God more than you want to delight in the things of this world (1 John 2:15–17). Be willing to say no to the banana pudding so you can say yes to honoring Christ. I can speak from experience that saying yes to the lesser things is never worth the cost of turning your back on Jesus!