We suggest you take a deep breath. Fasting is a ride full of ups and downs, swerves, literally turning your world upside-down within a concentrated period of time. The following will attempt to prepare you for the ride but nothing can prepare you for the pleasant (and at times unpleasant) surprises you will encounter along the way because the fasting experience is as unique as you.
Prepare For Ups And Downs
We have said fasting is a ride full of ups and downs. You need to be prepared for this. Like the moment you unexpectedly nose-dive from the height of euphoria, free-falling face first into physical weakness and tormenting emotions. Scary stuff, it is here many bail out in disillusionment. We all experience “The Downs” during a fast. Knowing why they occur helps greatly with dismay, unless you are one of those who love the thrill of bungee jumping into unfamiliar depths of the heart. Fasting has two very different states, both vital for needed change. In the stripping of weakness a new depth of prayer is found. In the refreshment of jubilation a new standard of living is established. Weakness and strength are equally important components of growth. Both are teachers—one harsh and hard, the other kind and compassionate. One breaks, the other rebuilds.
It’s detox time. Years of beer, binges and late night ball games return from the dead. Your body cannibalizes on sick cells and dirty fat, releasing toxins into the blood. Phantom chocolate bars, Big Macs and fries enter the bloodstream, making you feel like death warmed over. It even has a name. Cleansing crisis. That’s the bad news. The good news is the body is finally able to rid itself of years of accumulated toxins, an essential but painful stage to healing. The Downs are hard to endure. The mind rationalizes, I feel horrible, this can't be good for me. It's like enduring a cold or virus. You can maintain a normal routine of work on a dip but it requires willpower and determination. It also helps to know: the longer The Downs, the greater The Ups.
Emotions and thinking are affected; old memories and negative feelings arise from the dead, like a detox of the soul.
There is a strange parallel between the physical and spiritual state, and try as I might; I have not been able to separate the two. Only a deliberate act of faith has enabled me to rise above the wearisome Downs. Faith that it will pass, that this is a healthy part of the process. Faith in what is set before me, not how I am feeling. So don't be discouraged when you feel irritated, short-tempered or mildly depressed. You’re in good company.
When toxic residues enter the blood, they affect mind and body functions. Ketones, an intermediary metabolic product, may accumulate in the blood to high levels and cause ketoacidosis. Combined with high levels of urea, resulting from protein metabolism, this state can cause intense discomfort, headaches, back pain, dizziness, weakness and nausea.
Energy packets of glycogen are stored in the liver and muscles for use during bursts of physical activity. During The Downs, the body utilizes glycogen from the liver and muscles for energy. This results in the familiar feeling of weakness. During a peak the body has an abundant supply of glucose, and glycogen replacement occurs at a rapid rate, creating abundant energy. There is also an intermediate state when glycogen is starting to be replaced. You will feel energetic but lack the endurance to match.
Being aware and persevering through these various fasting states and energy levels are necessary for success.
Enduring a cleansing crisis is the hardest part of the healing process. Unless called to water fasting, sip melon or carrot juice. Herbal tea with honey warms the shivers. Do not eat during a cleansing crisis; the body is overloaded with the work of removing toxins. Digestion will make matters worse. Using the enema kit and drinking greater amounts of juice will help.
The Downs usually last from one to three days, and may hit day 2 or day 28 of a fast. The greater the quantity of toxins in the blood, the worse you feel. As unholy as an enema may seem, it has helped me end the crisis by removing toxins from the colon.
Ground where mortals walk suddenly disappear. Arms are spread like wings to the sky, daring gravity’s earthly pull. Alas, what is this? How can it be? Sweetness of sound, a warming joy. Lifting into up-drafts, carried higher still into the brightness of sunlight, the inward self opens like the fragile petals of a flower; child-like freedom, uninhibited laughter, unashamed love bursts forth. God is everywhere. In everything. How can I exist anywhere but here? Need and want are left far below; the presence of God suffices all. Just His glorious presence inside and out, washes, cleanses, renews, strengthens.
Dr. Ehret, an avid faster describes it thus. "An indescribable feeling that gave me great joy and happiness just to be alive. Greater power, energy and endurance . . . All my faculties were improved, beyond the healthiest part of my youth."
The experience is similar to driving an old car that has needed major repairs, the brakes squealing, paint peeling, and engine knocking. You pick the car up after a week in the garage; it shines with fresh paint, new brakes, shampooed interior and a finely tuned engine. It’s like rediscovering your car all over again.
The physiological half can be easily understood; increased endorphin levels similar to the endorphin-high experienced by long distance running. Cleaner brain functions, every cell quivering with health. We will talk more of this later. The spiritual half cannot be as easily examined other than by countless testimonies of lives permanently changed. Both halves work perfectly together, flesh submitting to spirit, unlike most people’s experience where quenched spirit must daily submit to demanding, addicted flesh. During fasting the power of addicted, whining flesh has been dealt a deadly blow, resulting in unspoiled freedom.
Many have tried to get this high through narcotics. Drugs will increase endorphin levels for a short time feigning freedom, but with continual usage the body becomes accustomed and cannot produce endorphins without the drug. This masquerade, empty of any spiritual reality, will over time, carve out a hollow soul; death is often the result. The non-believer may fast purely for physical reasons and will experience increased health, feel a stirring within, but miss out on the principal end. What a pity.
During The Ups, it feels as if there is an endless supply of physical energy. Don’t be fooled by this, you are still fasting and conservation is the wisest practice. I had to learn this the hard way, overdoing it by jogging or working too hard, fuelled by the feeling of invincibility and strength. Energy can be fickle, notably during the first stage of a fast.
Beware, thoughts are intensified in this state. If your brain is speed-thinking without direction or action, look out! Excessive emotions are common and misdirected, like towards Granny’s apple pie or the pretty lady (or guy) next door. Focus on Christ and you will be richly rewarded.
Prepare Your Purpose
We are not told if He said goodbye to family, took extra clothes or sandals. What we do know is before Jesus started a three-year ministry, He walked to the edge of town, looked over a barren desert, heard eternal purpose calling at His back, and stepped from the world of living into a world of death. Jesus did not fast to heal an ingrown toenail. Such purpose would not have held Him 40 days fasting alone in wasteland. He was to be stripped naked, hung bleeding and broken before a bloodthirsty mob. He was to become a doomed world’s only hope. Such purpose sustained Him 40 days on water, shaking and sweating out the courage the next three years would demand of Him.
Lost your purpose? Lost in useless living? Before you start fasting, go to a quiet room, shut the door, sit down, and take some time to think about why you are fasting. Healing? Better health? Weight loss? Clearer thinking? Fine. But is that enough to sustain you during The Downs? Besides, they will happen anyway, all by themselves. No, go deeper. What is the purpose of your life? Your fast is as good as its purpose.
Here are some suggestions.
Become a kinder father. Restore your marriage. Become more than an ordinary Sunday school teacher. Overcome bitterness. Get your perspective back. Heal broken-heartedness. Reconnect with Jesus. Write your purposes down and tape them to your wall where you can see them every day. Before we can exercise outward authority, we must first effectively exercise it inwardly. This is why first fasts tend to lead inward.
Related Article: How To Stay On Your Fast