My home church here in New Jersey recently concluded a 40 day fast to jump-start the new year. The focus was on praying for a breakthrough, and man did I need a breakthrough. I needed several in fact, and I’m sure this was the case for many of the congregants. We live in a society where distractions are prevalent and the desire to be holy and consecrated to God can easily wane. This is where I found myself spiritually, so I welcomed the idea of fasting from just about everything that I could fast from.

Here’s what I did: I deleted my social media apps, put away the coffee maker, got rid of all the chocolate and sweets and geared up for a long 40 day Daniel fast. But like every new “thing” I set my mind on I started the fast off strong. I journaled, I prayed, I followed the steps, I bought the 40-day fast book, etc. I was going to win this thing.

Then the trials came.

I was bombarded by mini-attacks that had seemed to come one after the other. I just couldn’t do it, and on the tenth day, coincidentally the number of judgment, I gave in and broke the fast for the first time. I broke the fast several times in fact until the very end. Does God love me any less? No, but I forfeited a blessing that could have been mine and a closeness with God that is sweeter than anything else on planet Earth.

So what went wrong? I discovered two things.

First off, in our 40-day fast booklet, the writer urged each participant to join a connect group and to find someone to pray with. Thinking I could win this thing on my own, I did neither of those things successfully. I did join a connect group but went only once, and while there I ended up chatting with a friend off to the side while the group went through the lesson. And we weren’t chatting about how God was using the fast, but rather how we broke it several times already. The truth was I didn’t want to get all vulnerable with a group of people that I didn’t quite know, nor did I want to “bother” anybody by calling them up to pray. While meditating at home one evening about how I seemingly couldn’t overcome certain cyclical sins in my life, I suddenly heard that still small voice that so many Christians long to hear. It said, “It’s because you’re not getting the help you need”. And no, I’m not hearing “voices”, but just one Voice. The Holy Spirit. Praying and fasting are essential to victory but for ultimate healing and wholeness, one must go even deeper. Some sins are rooted so deep that intense counseling is needed in order to gut out all hurt that has been living inside since childhood.

So that’s where I found myself. Is that where you find yourself today? Maybe you need to confide in someone about your sin instead of bottling it up. The first step is to confess! Now let’s look even deeper into this issue as we go to my second thought.

Along with getting help for my cyclical sins, I heard the Holy Spirit loud and clear one evening while sitting in my car. Sometimes He can be still and small but sometimes He is loud and clear! My two-year-old son often falls asleep while driving home each evening from my mother’s house. She watches him three days a week while I go to work. Often on the drive home, I will blast some music to release the stress of the day (how my son can still sleep with music on is beyond me, but he does). I was listening to the new EP from Jen Ledger, the female drummer of the Christian heavy metal band Skillet (It’s so good!). While parked in front of my house, my son still asleep in the back, I began to wonder yet again why all these issues were still so prevalent in my life. I had confessed my struggles with a professional counselor and to God, so now what? Then there came that Voice again and this time He said, “It’s because you’re not dead yet.”

Now before you think that this was some sort of suicidal thought, it wasn’t.

In John 12:24 -25, and in many passages of scripture, it talks about death to self. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Notice how Jesus says that the grain of wheat will “remain alone” unless it dies. So that’s where I found myself, alone and not dead to self yet. Coincidently, while having this thought, the song I was listening to off of Ledger’s EP was called “Not Dead Yet”. The Holy Spirit was loud and clear. I had failed the Daniel fast and barely got back on the wagon. I confided in a friend concerning the issues I was dealing with but failed to continue confessing and asking for help.

In conclusion, there is no quick fix for some of the issues we deal with. Granted there are some instances where the healing and victory come suddenly but for the most part, it is a continual and daily process of seeking help while dying to self. Asking for help is, in fact, dying to self. It takes a lot of courage and humility. So if you’re repeatedly dealing with the same issues it’s probably because you’re not quite dead to yourself yet. Starve the flesh and it will soon die. Feed the spirit and you will find life.