A 40 day fast to deepen your relationship with God

By JC

I recently completed a 40 day fast for my marriage during which I performed at least one daily act to try to show my spouse the kindness and love of Christ, regardless of his behavior. While Fireproof was an initial jumping off point, I created my own version to better fit my situation. I learned as I did mine and landed with the below.

Goal: Deepen your relationship with God.
Notes: I recommend that you combine this with a daily food fast. When you crave the food(s) you have given up, it will remind you throughout the day of the fast. Due to its origins, the text of this fast assumes you are married. However, you could potentially replace “spouse” with any key person in your life. As I mentioned last time, this fast is NOT intended for people who are in marriages where your health/well-being is at stake. I am not asking you to stay with someone for 40 days who mistreats you or your kids or anyone. If you are in this kind of relationship, please get help: www.thehotline.org. God created you in His image, and He did not intend for you to be abused by your spouse or anyone.
Prayer when craving the missing food(s) and during your daily quiet time: “Let today be the day I come to know You deeper than ever before.”

Day 1: Commit to reading the Bible daily for at least 15 minutes, if you do not already do so. Commit to praying daily for at least 10 minutes, if you do not already do so.

Day 2: Find a “Nathan” for this fast to hold you accountable. Named for the prophet who confronted King David in 2 Samuel 12 after he sinned against God, a “Nathan” is the person in your life who will challenge you, call you out, and tell you like it is.

Day 3: Ask how you can pray for your spouse. If he or she won’t/can’t answer, pray Deuteronomy 6:5 over them: “I pray [spouse’s name] will love the LORD our God with all [his/her] heart, all [his/her] soul, and all [his/her] strength.”

Day 4: At least during the fast, commit to live out Ephesians 4:26-31:

“‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

Day 5: Commit to live out Galatians 5:22-26:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”

Day 6: Commit to communicating to your spouse either a verse or a prayer every day during the fast.

Day 7: Forgive your spouse. Write a letter to give them or burn.

Day 8: Ask your spouse how the situation or circumstance he or she asked you to pray about is going. If a specific request was not provided, communicate to them, “I am praying for you daily.”

Day 9: Do something unexpected that your spouse will see as a kind gesture.

Day 10: Thank your spouse for something he or she recently did.

Day 11: Write our three positive things about your spouse. Leave it for him or her to find.

Day 12: Think of something you do that you know annoys your spouse. If you don’t know, ask. Don’t do this thing for the rest of the fast.

Day 13: Think of a conflict you and your spouse have that you can pray about and find a compromise. Try to put your spouse first.

Day 14: Be present with your spouse. No need to say or do anything. Just be present.

Day 15: Cook or buy your spouse his or her favorite dinner.

Day 16: Find a way to show respect to your spouse today.

Day 17: Pray to God to examine your heart and show you anything that offends Him.

Day 18: Pray for God to allow you to see your spouse through His eyes.

Day 19: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.

Day 20: Remove any temptation that may be in your life – a person, a thing; get help for an addiction, etc.

Credit: JC

Day 21: Plan to worship with your spouse.

Day 22: See if your spouse will share with you anything for which you need to ask forgiveness. If so, ask forgiveness. If you don’t feel sorry, pray about it. Don’t just emptily apologize.

Day 23: Do an unexpected kind gesture.

Day 24: Leave your spouse an encouraging card with Scriptures.

Day 25: Find out your spouse’s love language. If you already know, fill him or her up.

Day 26: Pray with your spouse. If you can’t, tell him or her that you are praying for them.

Day 27: Recommend a Bible study to your spouse to read alone or together.

Day 28: Thank your spouse for a specific thing he or she recently did.

Day 29: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.

Day 30: Leave your spouse a handwritten letter of encouragement with verses.

Day 31: Do an unexpected kind gesture.

Day 32: Write what made you fall in love with your spouse. Give it to him or her, if you so choose.

Day 33: Create a “break” for your spouse. Do a chore, errand, or something else he or she would normally do.

Day 34: Cook or buy your spouse his or her favorite meal.

Day 35: Plan to worship with your spouse.

Day 36: Spend time with God. Ask Him to examine your heart. Listen.

Day 37: Thank your spouse for something he or she recently did.

Day 38: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.

Day 39: Determine what, if anything, you want to share with your spouse about the fast. Any letters written during it? Any insights?

Day 40: Write vows of commitment to God. What areas in your relationship with God need to be renewed? Strengthened?

In a future installment, I will share my renewed commitment to God from Day 40. Thank you for reading. I pray that if you choose to fast, you will find what you seek.

40 days in the desert

By JC

Today is the last day of the 40 day fast for my marriage. I completed at least one daily act of kindness for the past 40 days to try to show my spouse the kindness and love of Christ, regardless of his behavior. Prior to this fast, I was frustrated with my spouse’s behaviors and saw him differently than I do now. Doing the acts of kindness had an opposite effect than I would have expected. My spouse ignored or rejected all of my acts of kindness and instead increased his negativity.

I have been praying hedges of protection with the blood of Jesus at least once a day around the kids and the house to protect us from the increased negativity. There is so much power in the name of Jesus!!

Before I go any further with this post, I feel burdened to say that the 40 day fast approach is NOT intended for people who are in marriages where your health/well-being is at stake. I am not asking you to stay with someone for 40 days who mistreats you or your kids or anyone. Please get help. I learned over these 40 days that it takes 7 times for someone who is being abused to finally leave. More sobering than that, not everyone survives to their 7th attempt. If you are in this kind of relationship, please get help: www.thehotline.org. God created you in His image, and He did not intend for you to be abused by your spouse or anyone. He sees you as His temple:

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.”
from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

There are many other verses, but just know that you are loved by God Almighty, there is hope, and you ARE strong enough in Jesus to leave. I now know that.

I received so many insights during this 40 day fast. I mentioned one example of a fast in my last post, that one is for two married people who are both believers and one spouse does not hate the other. That is not my situation, as my husband has not spoken to me in many months and refuses to be in the same room with me, even though we currently live together. So, I modified the fast I used to better fit my situation, but still included Christ-like daily tasks. I will post the revised fast I created soon.

I recommend that if you create your own fast, daily pray and obey two sets of Scriptures. The first is:

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:29-32

The second set of verses is:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
from Galatians 5:22-23

Pray that you will show the fruit of the Spirit daily to your spouse and to others as well.

Armed with daily prayers and an open heart, the insights began to flow over the 40 days:

  • Working to be more like Jesus ALWAYS hurts because as sinners, we are so far from Him.
  • Everyone needs a “Nathan” and should be a “Nathan” for someone. Named for the prophet who confronted King David in 2 Samuel 12 after he sinned against God, a “Nathan” is the person in your life who will challenge you, call you out, tell you like it is, and hold you accountable.
  • If your spouse is saved and does not pray with you, read with you, worship with you, or help you feel Jesus, get on your knees and pray about it. It is a problem. Galatians 5:7-8 states, “You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.” These verses spoke volumes to me in my situation.
  • God never commanded us to obey someone in authority when they are leading us to rebel against God. There are many examples of this in the Bible, but I will note only one. From Daniel 6:6-10, “So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said [. . .] give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. [. . .] But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” We are never to rebel against God because someone in authority over us leads us that way. Never.
  • I had to realize the need for God to change my heart. Regardless of how my spouse acted. I needed to respond in a Christ-like manner and show my kids a healthy example of Jesus in marriage in my home. I needed to examine my own heart.
  • I must see my spouse as a child of God; Jesus died for my spouse. No matter how I feel about him or how he treats me, God loves my spouse. I prayed that God would help me to see my spouse as God sees him. Instead of frustration with my spouse, I began to feel deep pity. I then cried many mornings praying for my spouse as I saw how he is missing out on the incredible relationship that believers should have with Jesus. To be clear, my spouse says he is saved and has been baptized, but refuses to pray with me or the kids, I have never seen him read the Bible or heard him quote Scripture or say the name “Jesus.” It is not my place to judge his relationship with Jesus, all I know is I now pitied this person that used to frustrate me. I began to beg God daily that my spouse would come to know Jesus deeper that day then he ever had before. I will continue to pray this.
  • I asked my spouse, “How can I pray for you?” Note that I prayed for him daily already, but this was an opportunity for him to share with me, if he chose to, what his prayer needs were.
  • Share with your spouse that you pray for them daily. It is irrelevant if they care or acknowledge this. You never need anyone’s permission to pray for them.
  • Anytime you try to move your family to obedience, Satan will fight you hard. He wants the family out of alignment with God’s Word because the family is the foundation to everything.
  • I needed to find things for which to appreciate my spouse, such as, “Thank you for cutting the grass.”
  • I needed to acknowledge Christian things my spouse does, such as, “I am grateful that you were baptized.”
  • I wrote a letter to my spouse asking for forgiveness. As he has not spoken to me in many months, I still wanted to do this task, as I am sure I have hurt him over the years of our marriage. I did not want to write some generic letter, so I prayed about what to write that would be authentic and possibly heal my spouse. During my quiet time one morning, God showed me that I failed at Ephesians 5:22-24, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” As a wife, I did not always obey these verses. So, I apologized to my husband for not consistently obeying Ephesians 5.
Credit: JC
  • As the hate and hurt flowed from my spouse, Pastor’s wife shared with me that it is the anguish in my spouse’s soul manifesting, which reinforced the pity I now feel.
  • I wrote vows to God on the last day of the fast. Pastor told me this fast was going to be more about me and less about my marriage. I admit I did not understand that in the beginning, but he was right.

If your spouse is not saved, I highly recommend Stormie Omartian‘s The Power of a Praying Wife Book of Prayers or The Power of a Praying Husband. I prayed through this book nine years ago, and my spouse made a profession of faith and was baptized as I completed the book. Also, please refer to 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, “Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a fellow believer has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a believing woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him.” I was in that boat for two years where I was the believer and my spouse was not. Again, I am not at all saying to stay with someone who abuses you. Please get help.

As for Snow, his unbelieving wife is divorcing him. This situation is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15, “If the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.”

As the 40 day fast concludes, I now see my spouse as someone to be pitied, and I cry out for him daily instead of the “mindless” prayers I used to pray for him. I now know that with Christ’s strength, I can respond to hate with love. I now trust God even more, for I was reminded that God has me and my kids; He always has. I now pray “Thy will be done” and mean it.

I thank God for this fast and pray that if you choose to enter a fast, you will receive the insights you seek.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
James 1:5

Please listen, church family

By JC

Before I was saved, I knew a lot of “church people.” They dressed up pretty and went to church “religiously” every Sunday. I can’t tell you how they lived each moment of every day, but I remember they oozed with condemnation. I always felt they were completely unapproachable and extremely judgmental about anyone who didn’t talk, act, dress, or look like them. This club was exclusive and private.

Before I was saved, I cussed like a sailor. I dressed less than modest, and I certainly didn’t act like a Christian. I both felt judged and was judged. Now that I have been saved for 11 years, I realize how wrong this “church family” was. They were doing the exact opposite of what Jesus wants us to do. We are to reach out to the undesirables, the untouchables, the “sinners.” Just read any part of the Gospels, and this is what you see our Master doing. He is the Savior saving the ones who need saving. We all need saving.

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Romans 3:23

See those two words? “Everyone” and “all.” That means us, the church family, too.

This blog is all about raw truth, unfiltered. Anytime that Snow or I write anything, we bathe it in prayer first. We pour ourselves out as an offering, ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us up, and just write. We pray that what is written helps just one soul – just one.

Here comes the raw truth about church families. We are judgmental to the point where we hurt each other. We practically chase each other away (sometimes do). Can you imagine how the lost or the visitors in our churches feel?

Let me give you an example I am living currently. I have been a member for over ten years at the same church. A few thousand people attend each week. The church is becoming more diverse, which I love and pray for. Only very recently have I reached out to a few dear friends about the hurts in my marriage. I have endured many things in the past 11 years. I have been married almost 25 years, and I have never talked to anyone about any of it.

I thought I was being submissive just like the Bible says. There are many, many verses on wives being submissive to their husbands.

“These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”
Titus 2:4-5

Other verses on submission include: 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11, Ephesians 5:21-25, and Colossians 3:18.

I want to be clear that Ephesians 5:24 causes me a struggle when my husband is baptized and looks like “a good church family member,” yet is disobedient in most everything. (See my prior post, “Writing Jesus with a burdened heart.”)

Ephesians 5:24 says, “As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” Wow – everything? What if he is leading you and your children into disobedience? Clearly, the verse is using the model of Christ leading the church, and Christ is sinless, so the church should absolutely follow and submit fully to Christ.

Also, I am aware that no husband is sinless as Christ, so they are all going to make mistakes. But living a daily life of disobedience because that is what my “believer” husband is leading me and our kids to do? No, thank you! I will not disobey Jesus. He is my leader first.

Here is where the church family may want to take James 1:19 to heart, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

Credit: JC

I confided in my best friend, who is church family. I had held the hurt in so long, I just needed to talk to someone I trusted. Sharing with someone that you are hurting and struggling in your marriage is not easy. Unfortunately, the judgment started immediately. I was swiftly quoted Malachi 2:16, “‘For I hate divorce!’ says the Lord.”

Here is where I am pleading with the global church family – please do not judge another’s hurts and wield Scripture without listening, without trying to understand the heart and motive of the other person. Or just pray with them first before offering your opinion. Listen for God’s guidance before quoting Scripture after two minutes of conversation and deciding the case to be closed.

Please do not misunderstand me, brothers and sisters, I use the Word for everything in my life.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
2 Timothy 3:16

“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”
1 John 4:1

I believe every single word of Scripture is God-breathed. I love the Word of God. All I am suggesting is that when fellow church family members come to you – please listen. Please pray with them. They may be in domestic violence situations or other abusive situations, and you quote Malachi 2:16 to them?

I know my friend was trying to be helpful. I know her response was intended to be loving and Word-based. I love her dearly for using the Word in her life daily. I refrained from going into any details that would potentially dishonor my husband. That is not what I feel led to do. Instead, I smiled at my friend and shared that I am aware of Malachi 2:16. I have studied it and prayed about it. I did not use the word “divorce,” and I may never, but instead I was seeking Godly counsel.

I shared that I know Jesus came to set us free, and He came so that we may have life and life abundant (John 10:10). I also shared that I have been praying about this for 11 years. I also feel Jesus saying, “I did not free you to remain in chains.” I do not believe that God intends for His children to remain in abusive relationships. Yes, I am aware of the various verses that talk about divorce, yet I hold the belief I hold.

Does that make me a church family member to be judged or shamed? Maybe. But, maybe also the church family made assumptions. Maybe they judged without the facts or without prayer. Maybe. Just maybe. We should first hold the person that reached out, pray with them. Listen. Fast with them. Offer to pray for them daily and right there on the spot.

The final suggestion to consider, fellow believers, is the possibility that if a spouse is struggling in marriage, there is something deeper going on. There is more to the story than you may realize. There is more to the story than you are being told. If you are in a happy marriage, do not project your life onto this person in need. On the other hand, if you are miserable in your marriage, if you have had Malachi 2:16 wielded against you in the past, do not continue this cycle. Do not fall prey to “misery loves company.” Break the cycle.

None of us are perfect. If we were, Jesus would not have had to die for us on the cross. We are, each of us, flawed. We are humans. It is not for us to judge the personal decisions of church family members, especially those reaching out to you for help. That is between Jesus and them.

Who are we to even think we have the ability to judge? Compared to an all-knowing, all-loving, compassionate God? We can’t possibly fill His shoes.

Pray with your church family. Listen to them. Be there for them. Hold them. But until your own life is completely free of sin, do not judge them. Do not shame them. Just love them.

“Those who trust in me will never be put to shame.”
‭‭from Isaiah‬ ‭49:23‬