At first glance, fasting from food can appear to be a difficult practice with no clear benefit. While it might help take a few pounds off, the discipline involved can be overwhelming.
However, if we are able to stay faithful to a regimen of fasting (especially during Lent), the spiritual benefits are profound. In fact, you can experience a freedom you never thought possible.
One of the main reasons why fasting leads to freedom is because often we are “enslaved” to food, whether we realize it or not. Certain foods can have power over us and if we aren’t careful, we can end up indulging in habits of eating that endanger our health as well as our spiritual wellbeing.
On the other hand, when we fast from particular foods (like sweets, for example), we take control over the situation and develop the ability to say, “No!” That is a powerful ability that fasting can unlock for us, leading to a freedom we may have never experienced.
Fr. Richard Simon affirmed on one of his shows for Relevant Radio this spiritual principle.
Fasting is an exercise in freedom … The purpose of it is to train your will to do God’s will. To train your will to obey the Lord. Freedom is the absolute requirement for the Christian life. And most people think that freedom is getting what they want, but they don’t understand that they don’t want what they want, it is their passions controlling them … Fasting is to dispose you to do God’s will … the purpose of a fast is to make you able to say no to yourself and yes to what the Lord wants. It’s an exercise in freedom.
Spiritual writer Thomas Kempis similarly wrote about how Jesus wants us to be free to accept his will and to do that, we need to deny ourselves on occasion.
Let this be your whole endeavor, this your prayer, this your desire; that you may be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only; may die to yourself, and live eternally to [Christ] … Forsake yourself, resign yourself, and-you shall enjoy much inward peace.
When considering a fast, keep in mind this benefit of freedom and how denying ourselves certain foods can bring about a spiritual peace that endures. Instead of being ruled by the refrigerator, we are in control and experience true freedom over our senses.
Better than fasting: Spiritual advice from a mystic, a poet, a doctor, and a saint
3 Mental health benefits of fasting, according to Thomas Aquinas