Over the last fifteen years I have been running long distances. At least four or five times a week I gear up and run the streets and trails in my neighbourhood. At first I hated it, but over time it has become a love and something I can not go without.
While I don’t run races anymore, I have run a couple marathons in the past. My first marathon was pretty treacherous. I had only put eighteen kilometers together at one time prior to the race. Just to give you a mental image of how ridiculous this is, a marathon is just over forty-four kilometers, so you can imagine my horror as my young twenty-five year old self saw people my parents and grandparents age run by me to the finish line. My legs seized up and the pain I experienced was something I had never experienced before.
I remember crossing the finish line that day and chatting with a women my mom’s age. She finished before me and shared that she had run numerous races. “You know what running these long races is all about?” she asked me. I was obviously open to some wisdom from what seemed to be the Yoda of local marathons. “Pain management” she said. "You know the pain is coming, you just have to learn how to manage it.”
I took that conversation to heart and learned some things for my future races.
One of the things I did is I began to run when the elements were less than ideal.
You know that forty degree day in the middle of summer? That day when they tell you not to go outside, but stay in, put on the AC, and drink lots of water? On that day I would gear up (much to the chagrin of my wife) and go for a thirty minute run. I would also do the same on some really cold days in the winter. I would bundle up in the freezing cold and run on our snowplowed sidewalks.
Why would someone do something so ridiculous?
My thought was that if I could run on some of the harshest days of the year that I would, when it was time to run a race in more moderate weather in May or October, kick butt! The rough weather was something that would condition me in my training for better days.
In many ways fasting can act in the same way. When we fast it can become a discipline against broken desires. It’s no mistake that Jesus was fasting for forty days when he was tempted. One thing fasting does is it starves our flesh so that our souls can be fed.
This is why, when I walk with people who are continually succumbing to temptation I always ask, “Are you fasting?” Fasting builds spiritual discipline in preparation for these times of temptation. Let's be honest, there is an adversary and he wants to mess us up.
With all of this in mind, think of it like this. If you and I can abstain from food in a world of excess, we can overcome temptation.