Several months ago my daughters and I saw the movie High School Musical for the first time, and we have been fans ever since. The movie starts out on New Year’s Eve when Troy and Gabriella meet at a ski resort and are chosen to sing karaoke, which they do amazingly well. When Troy returns to school after winter break, he is surprised to discover that Gabriella is a new student at East High. Troy is a popular basketball player, and Gabriella is a girl Einstein. They quickly become friends and decide to audition together for the leading parts in the winter musical. This change of status quo upsets their friends and causes major disruption among the students at East High as other students reveal aspects of their life they had kept secret. Despite some attempts from jealous classmates to keep them from participating in the callbacks, Troy and Gabriella manage to make the tryouts, and they secure the leading parts of the musical with their duet Breaking Free.
As I listened to this song for about the tenth time, I realized why I was so drawn to this movie. Troy and Gabriela’s story is different from mine, but I too was in the process of breaking free, breaking free from my past and from bondage to sin. Satan especially was not happy with the change occurring within me and was doing all he could to stop me from breaking free. In John 8:31-32, Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth is what set me free!
These past two years have been emotionally difficult for me. This was our first term overseas, and I grieved for my loss of friends and my life as I had known it in America. I dealt with culture shock, culture stress, loneliness, marital difficulties, discouragement, spiritual heaviness, and homeschooling issues. I struggled with loving and relating to my team members, friends, and family. Depressed feelings led to bad eating choices, and I began to feel that the people around me would be better off if I was dead.
I continued to have my quiet time, but God seemed very distant. I prayed repeatedly, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24). In His time, God began answering my prayer.
I was able to attend a Women of the Harvest retreat held in the Middle East, and God used this event and the ladies I met with to speak truth into my life. God allowed me to understand that the struggles I was experiencing in my personal life related to sexual abuse I had experienced as a child. I had previously been able to forgive the men who had taken advantage of me, yet I had not realized how deeply my heart had been wounded. This revelation began the painful yet healing process of breaking free from bondage to sin.
I began reading The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan Allender, and I was greatly challenged by what I read as it related to adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. I finally understood how my heart had been damaged, and why it was difficult for me to trust and love others, including God. Satan, the Great Deceiver, the Father of Lies, had used the abuse of my past to develop a stronghold in my heart, and I was believing his lies about myself and God. What was done to me as a child was not my fault, but now as an adult I needed to take responsibility for the sinful attitudes and habits I had developed as a result of Satan’s control of my life. As I read through this book, I realized how the condition of my heart affected every aspect of my being. I also began to realize why I was discouraged and struggling with my thought life. I was in a battle, a battle for my heart!
During this time I also read A Hunger for God by John Piper and Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough by Elmer Towns. I understood more clearly how Satan controls our thoughts and lives through the lies he feeds us, and what an important weapon fasting is in the fight of faith. I had fasted before, but without a clear understanding of why this particular spiritual discipline was so vital to me as a Christian.
Joel 2:12-13 became especially meaningful to me at this time. “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning, and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and He relents over disaster.” Using this as my theme passage of Scripture, I began fasting regularly.
Over the next several months, I learned the following key things about fasting.
- It is helpful to write out and sign a fasting commitment that outlines exactly why you are fasting, how long you intend to fast, and what you will be fasting from. I have done this, and this exercise prepares me mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally for the upcoming fast.
- The way you fast can vary each time. I fasted sometimes for breakfast, sometimes for lunch, and sometimes for one, three, or five days at a time. To determine how long you should fast, ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, take into consideration any medical concerns you may have, and check your family’s schedule (vacations, traveling, etc.).
- What you fast from can vary. Sometimes I eliminated food altogether and sometimes I ate only fruits and vegetables. I have also fasted from reading Christian fiction, and joining WeightWatchers® for me has been a form of fasting. Again, seek the Holy Spirit’s leading in this area.
- It is OK if you have to start over because you were not able to fulfill your initial fasting commitment. This happened to me several times. After confessing my lack of discipline to the Lord, I wrote a new fasting commitment and started again. Very rarely have I had to start over a third time, but I realized that this was all part of the healing process of breaking free. As John Piper states in A Hunger for God, “Fasting is God’s testing ground—and healing ground.”
- The word ‘fasting’ indicates a continuous action. As Towns states in his book, “Fasting for an answer is similar to prayer. Sometimes you can pray once in an act of faith, and God hears and answers. On other occasions you must continuously ask in faith before an answer will come. We need to pray often and fast continually to build up our faith and our spiritual character.”
As a result of my times of fasting, God revealed to me areas of anger and fear that I needed to address. The Holy Spirit also convicted me of my own negative attitudes and bad emotional habits which had resulted in a negative outlook on life and a negative self-image. I was struggling with accepting God as a loving, faithful, trustworthy, and kind Heavenly Father, and it saddened me to realize that my unbelief was sin. Freedom came when I confessed these sins, and my relationship with God was restored.
As I look back over these past two years, I understand now that God sent me overseas to begin healing me emotionally. It has been a hard process for me, my husband, and my children, and I am saddened at the pain they went through on my account. Yet at the same time, I am very thankful for the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in my life and the freedom I now have in Christ. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV).
High School Musical concludes with all the cast singing We’re All in This Together, and that is true of our Christian lives as well. We as Christian women are warrior princesses in the army of God, and we are in this battle of life together. Peter encourages us to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:6-10). God was restoring me through this process of breaking free, and I take heart in the promise that God Himself will confirm, strengthen and establish me. May God grant us the courage to break free from bondage to sin and to experience the freedom and joy of Christ!