Fasting and Making Resolutions for a better Year

                               BY Shey Tatah Wo Scandy
Shey Tatah

End and start of a New Year is usually the period when people usually take a close evaluation of themselves, to see what went wrong and make resolutions on how to better their lives for the coming year. For some Christian churches, this exercise is not new and they do not have to wait until the end of year. Those who respect and keep the church seasons have the opportunity to always renew their faith and adjust their lives each time a New church season begins, the Muslims on the other hand have a similar  period linked to the catholic season of lent where they have 30 days of fasting.  But the key question is why do people observe a period of fasting at one particular period? What does it really mean to fast? Is fasting linked resolution?
Decorations for Ramadan in Amman, Jordan

What is Fasting for Muslims?
Abu Haruun Hussein on Islam attempts an answer stating that they fast because the Qu'ran expects or commands them to do so to attain righteousness "We fast because we are commanded to fast in the month of Ramadan as a means to increase in righteousness and dutifulness to The Creator."

He goes further to support his assertion from the Qur'aan
[002.183] "O you who believe! Observing fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become pious."
This therefore means that the Fasting period often referred to as the Ramadan states the hypothesis for what is evil and bad, what is wrong and what is right and therefore fasting is a MUST for Muslims and also maybe to whoever is by them according to Hussein's argument

[002.185] "The month of Ramadan which was revealed by the Qur'ân, is a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the Criterion (between right and wrong). So, whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan), he must observe fasts that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe (fasts) must be made up] from other days..."

With this argument one can also deduce from this Surah 2 Al Baqarah in the Qur'an that  "Fasting is meant to teach the person patience, sacrifice and humility. Ramaḍān is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. Muslims also believe that through good actions, they get rewarded twice than they normally can achieve. During Ramaḍān, Muslims ask for forgiveness of their past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds."
Ash Wednesday in Catholic church

What is Fasting for Christians?
I do not intend to dwell philosophically nor theologically, rather i will handle this from the lay man point of view for an easy understanding giving room for more opinions. Unlike in the Muslims context where the Ramadam has a specific goal and objectives for fasting, the case is a little bit different with the Christians.
We hear a number of times how someone fasted in order to grow closer to God. In most cases they are talking about the giving up of food or meals in order to spend time with God. This has of course sparked a lot of debate among people as to whether fasts are warranted, and there is some concern as to whether or not Christians & Christian teens should be fasting at all.

According to Kelli Mahoney, the term "fast" is not biblical or religious in itself. It is defined as abstaining from food or other items. There are medical fasts, moral fasts, and religious fasts. However, there are many instances in the Bible where people fasted from food. Most famously, Jesus abstained from eating for 40 days in the desert when he was tempted by Satan:
Luke 4:2 - "where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry." (NIV)

Today fasting is not about staying away from food and alcohol alone. There are plenty of items we can fast that will help keep our minds and hearts focused on God. Fasting television or the Internet can also be good alternative items to fast, as fasting is very much about why you fast not necessarily what you fast, Mahoney added. But could this be the only reasons why people fast? Of course not, there are plenty of reasons to fast. Sometimes people fast to help them make a decision, and they want to make sure they hear God's direction. Likewise the Muslims, some fast to help others grow closer to God, or to heal from some hurt. Isaiah 58:5-8 gives us some insight into some biblical reasons for fasting:
Isaiah 58:5-8 - "You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind... Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind." (NLT)

One key issue to understand and that need not be ignored is that during Fasting, Prayer plays an important role for we need to have contact with God in order to fulfil that intention we are fasting for. Therefore fasting without prayer is vain.

The Link between a resolution and fasting:

Why take much time on resolution and talk about fasting? I think it is simple, it is about making a decision to change for the betterment of our lives. We resolve to fast, we resolve to stop doing something, we resolve to pray, we resolve to be good though at times we often fail. But failing to make resolutions is like resigning to fate. For those who believe in the assertion that change is constant, so too do we need some changes in our lives even in various aspects. Be it in terms of drinking, eating, living, etc, there is always something behind our minds that make us reflect and want to bring a change in our daily deeds.

For some it does not matter, change or resolutions come at anytime but for others they need periods like the ones provided  by the liturgical calendar of the church to help them have a checklist of their lives, for some they expect the New year to make certain promises to themselves and others. Therefore a normal human being should be conscious of these reflections all the time but since some of us are busy with material and other aspects in life God provides us with the opportunity to mirror ourselves and give a better reflection of who we are and want to be. That is why i will sometimes advocate for a New year resolution which is taking yourself back to evaluate yourself, and see where you are lagging and try to suggest possible ways of improving and maybe changing some habits things that made you not attain your goals or succeed in life. Some resolutions can end after a week, weeks, month, months etc but there is something positive in it that you took the challenge to admit that something needs to be done in your life.

Today being aware of the various different resolutions we make which sometimes are geared towards doing good and avoiding evil, some do ignore that aspect to take good care of themselves, me included. I therefore during the New Year echo this aspect of we taking a close look to living a healthy life with what i will term 10 ways of destroying yourself. If we pick out these 10 though we could have many or narrow them down to less than 10 and make resolutions to them, we can be doing some good to ourselves and not only looking at New year resolutions to being an external change but also an internal healing and change.

But before i do that permit me share this puzzle and experience copied from board of wisdom for reflections.
Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day.
Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course?
Each of us has such a bank. It's name is TIME.
Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds.
Every night it writes off as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to a good purpose.
It carries over no balance. It allows no over draft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day.
If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no drawing against "tomorrow."
You must live in the present on today's deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success!
The clock is running!! Make the most of today.

To realise the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realise the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realise the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realise the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realise the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who just missed a train.
To realise the value of ONE SECOND, ask someone who just avoided an accident.
To realise the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics.

Treasure every moment that you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time with. And remember time waits for no one.

Continuation is 10 ways of destroying yourself:

Happy New Year
Shey Tatah Sevidzem
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why its called the present!

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