Monday, March 13, 2023

Fasting, Lent and Redemption

The phrase "Redemptive Suffering" leaves a bad taste in many people's mouths. It feels "transactional" like the practice of "buying indulgences" before the Protestant Reformation to purchase salvation. How can we make a transaction with God when God gave us everything we might offer as payment?

Other people have a one-dimensional view of God. They might think "God is love. God does not want us to suffer. To say He does is sick and perverted."

I want to present another perspective. I am not invested in "winning" anybody over to this way of thinking. I just want to share where I am on my journey.

The father who loves his son disciplines him

The father who has no love for his son lets the son behave in any way the son is inclined to behave with no guidance or discipline. That son grows up to be feral. He cannot maintain gainful employment. The son dissipates his life on booze, drugs and floozies. He probably does not live very long. That son's children are unlikely to thrive.

Discipline is applied externally by the father so the son can internalize it. The father's discipline is the template, the skeleton of what becomes the son's self-discipline.

The son who is denied nothing is not loved. The son who is loved must "suffer" discipline. (Hebrews Chapter 12)

To endure suffering is to deny the primacy of "self" and to join the family of "Follower of Christ and the Father". We die (a little bit), as Christ died, for our salvation and to join Him in solidarity.

Jesus promised us that we would suffer if we become faithful followers of His message.

Pray always

Neurons that fire together, wire together.

Beyond stoically enduring privation, if we say a quick, little prayer every time we feel a hunger pang when fasting, then we train ourselves to "pray always".

A similar "trick" is to mentally say a prayer every time we hear somebody misuse the name or title of God.

Dying to self

To be born in the spirit, one must die to self. One must make a break with their former life. One must leave behind the "triggers" that caused us to stumble and sin. (Hebrew/Aramaic word closest to "Satan" means stumbling-block).

The seeds of this appear in the Old Testament.

1 Kings Chapter 19 tells us of Elisha wanting to kiss his mother and father good-bye before answering God's call to be a prophet. Alas, even that was not allowed. Elisha slaughtered his father's oxen and burn his plow...burning the bridge behind him.


The Bible has much to say about trials and temptations, tests and privation, strength and endurance. The race is long. The fight is endless.

Faith does not come from our will. It comes through the grace of God and by following God's instructions. He instructed us to build our endurance through certain types of exercises: Prayer, fasting, charity and so on.

These exercises prepare our hearts for the gifts of the Holy Spirit like tilling the soil of a garden prepares it for seeds.

And for what it is worth....I gave up drinking alcohol for Lent. I was joking about the sardine-and-durian pickles.


  1. Nothing to disagree with there, ERJ. Christianity could be considered the ultimate endurance sport.

  2. I haven't heard a sermon that good in church for a long time. Right on. --ken

  3. Good post. I'm fasting today and will say a prayer when I'm hungry.

  4. Amen! Good stuff. “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Proverbs 13:24 loosely


Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.