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When I Fasted 42 Days

It was 2006. Andrew Shearman had spoken to the AIM staff retreat the previous year. It had felt like we were on the brink of something special. We had launched the World Race and sent 4,000 volunteers to help with the hurricane Katrina cleanup. I sensed that God wanted to speak to us and that…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

It was 2006. Andrew Shearman had spoken to the AIM staff retreat the previous year. It had felt like we were on the brink of something special. We had launched the World Race and sent 4,000 volunteers to help with the hurricane Katrina cleanup. I sensed that God wanted to speak to us and that he wanted me to go on a long fast – 42 days.

I decided to not eat food, but still drink juice. I was in the habit of running 30 miles a week and I decided to keep on running regularly.

Although I’ve fasted a good bit, I wasn’t looking forward to going without food this long. When I was a wrestler in high school and college, it was normal to cut weight by not eating. But the memories were not pleasant.

Initially, I was hungry! I weighed 163 pounds and lost about half a pound a day. After a couple of weeks, I was down to 156 pounds.

Hunger pains were more an issue of discomfort than sheer, piercing pain. My tendency in life is to give in to my body far too frequently. I need to, with Paul, learn “the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry” (Phil. 4:12).

My mind is a trickier opponent. Food is a happy, pleasurable thing. We are by nature pleasure-seekers and pain-avoiders.

My wistful glances at the refrigerator had a certain restrained madness behind them that, if ever unleashed, made me feel as crazy as Bruce the shark in “Finding Nemo.” Bruce is the Great White who, abandoning the thin veneer of restraint, wildly declares, “I’m having fish tonight!”

There’s a Bruce the shark raging down inside me. No wonder Paul’s advice to the church at Colosse sounds so ruthless: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3:5).

I thought I was praying about the World Race. I knew it was going to blow up and I wanted to steward the dream of God well. After a couple of weeks, I received what I thought was a vision of a generation fully alive (shared on this blog).

But my most profound experience came 19 days into the fast as God spoke to me about his heart for orphans and allowed me to feel what he feels about them. Julie Anderson had just adopted Ellie in Eswatini. God asked me, “Who will be her family? And who will be family for others like her?” He said, “You must father the fatherless.”

I was overwhelmed. God feels so deeply about his kids and he wants us to care for them on his behalf. To feel what he felt was one of the great surprises of my life. And with it came a charge, a stewardship – “You will care for my children. You are to bring them into your homes – onto your porches and into your kitchens.”

Since that time, our team began caring for orphans. And that ministry has continually grown every year. We now have the responsibility of feeding and caring for some 8,000 vulnerable children in Africa.

Eventually I was able to break my fast. It felt wonderful to eat again! The World Race grew and kind of took over my life up until Covid hit and we had to bring everyone home. And my sense is that God has more for us – that the last 16 years has been a warm up for what he wants to do in the future.

The experience has been humbling. We tried a lot and along the way we experienced so many setbacks. I’ve felt like a failure so many times.

We’re back to a place where we are again seeking God for what he wants to do in the future. Maybe it means a fast. If so, I probably will enter into it begrudgingly. Fasting never seems to be easy….

Has God ever called you to a long fast? Was it difficult to say yes? Did you experience fruit?


Comments (5)

  • I did 10 days on the Race month 2 in Honduras. A good time to grow, but should not have gone running, plus climb the mountain/hill behind us afterwards. It was a struggle, but I felt like it was a good time to grow.

    Granted y’all stated a little after that while I was still on the Race that we shouldn’t do long fasts while on the Race. Oops! Haha.

  • A number of years ago, Abba asked me to go forty days. I was frightened at the thought, so I fasted for ten days specifically to discern if I had heard correctly. I did. I entered into this believing I was going to have angelic visitations and that God was going to have many intimate conversations with me. I expected direction, impartation, anointing. I believed the heavens would come alive. I thought I might see the cloud. I was expecting his manifest presence and for the room to be filled.

    He was silent. For forty days I felt abandoned. I knew he was there, but he was hush on everything.

    Consecration is a tough road. Setting oneself apart is hard – really hard. Dying is deathly.

    Fruit as we often define it neither blossomed or was harvested. Part of me died during those forty days. In death there is life. In life there is fruit.

    Any fruit that is manifest in me, I give it all to the Most High. He is the most beautiful, and in him we have life. All of the glory to our Lord Jesus.

    And in that death, I have seen such life in the sex trade. I see revival in sex trafficking. I see girls run to Yeshua, hands lifted high, and knees bowed low. We’ve recently seen an American bar owner in the sex capital of the Philippines close his bar and run to Jesus. We’ve seen his girls restored. This is crazy good! Oh God is so wondrous. Carrying our cross of death is worth all the life it brings. Oh, there is no one like our God!

    • So good, Kenny. I always love hearing from you!

      A few nights ago I wrote a poem that I thought you would appreciate insofar as it describes your ministry. Here it is:

      Their Distress

      If true religion is
      Caring for widows
      And orphans
      In their distress,
      What does that
      Distress feel like?

      Put on a widow’s life
      For a moment –
      See this daughter
      Now exposed
      To all that is harsh.
      Think her thoughts:

      “I have lost
      And am lost.
      My heart broken.
      I am alone, abandoned.
      I live overwhelmed, numb.
      …enough just to breathe.
      My life boat has a hole.”

      This is God’s daughter.
      He wants to wipe her tears.
      He wants to use
      Your hand to do it.

      How will you respond?

  • Thank you so much Seth. God loves those daughters. You were there in the beginning up in Helen, Georgia when God was leading me to go to their rescue. Jesus is so wonderful!

    It’s about time to catch up in person again. Hope to do so. Bless you brother. I appreciate and love you so much.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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