With Easter fast on its way (the creme eggs have been on the shelves since before Christmas), many of us will be marking the Lent period by giving up something that we feel we would struggle to live without.
My past attempts at this have had mixed results; the most successful was when I gave up chocolate. I made it right to the last week before quite accidentally eating a flake in an ice cream cone on an unexpectedly hot April Sunday.
But, I’m not sure how “successful” this exercise has ever been in terms of deepening my spirituality or focusing my mind on the incredible meaning of the Easter weekend.
In fact, if anything, it has always made Easter Sunday more about chocolate than the joy of Christ’s resurrection, having deprived myself of it for the previous 40 days.
This year, in an effort to become changed over this important period, I am planning to go on a “negativity fast.” Or, to be less negative about it, I am going to have a “positivity feast.”
The idea of fasting from negativity was first introduced to me sometime last year, and it immediately caught my attention.
I am a pretty positive person – and I like to think people would describe me in that way – but just like everyone else, I do sometimes moan about the bits of life I am finding hard or mundane.
And while it’s perfectly normal for us to have more difficult times in life, focusing on those things by constantly discussing them surely only serves to give them greater power.
For example, I have been self-employed for two years. And I’m busy, sometimes very busy, sometimes too busy, sometimes working until the small hours on a Saturday busy.
But who, as a self-employed person, would want to be anything other than busy? Busy means I have work coming in, busy means I have an income, busy means I can buy food and pay my rent, and enjoy treating myself and others.
I noticed that often, when people asked me how I was, my automatic response was to say, “I’m busy, but other than that I’m good.”
When I first heard about the negativity fast, I started making a conscious effort to change my answer very slightly to “I’m busy, which is good.”
By doing that, not only was I giving glory to God for blessing me with abundant amounts of work, but I was also changing my own outlook on life.
Nothing else had changed – my workload remained the same, my health was the same – yet I started to feel happier about being so “busy.”
I stopped seeing it as being just “busy” and began to see it as a gift from God. No longer was it a problem, but the realization of many promises God had given me in the past.
I recently saw a stylish canvas online that said, “Stop the glorification of busy.” I understood immediately what this was trying to say, but I’m not sure I want to.
So how does a positivity feast work?
I think it’s fairly straightforward, but to give me a kick-start I have just purchased a downloadable copy of “Igniting Faith” by Steve and Wendy Backlund, who are based at Bethel Church in Redding, Calif.
The book is broken down into easily digestible daily devotionals and helps you become focused on speaking hope over situations you are finding hard, rather than giving lots of airtime to the problems themselves.
I want my default position to be to focus on the positive, both in others and in my life. I’m hoping the next 40 days will be a big step toward that.
I think the negativity fast can help us draw hope and faith from the promises God has given us, and remember that he is much bigger than any problem we have.
I have had the phrase “Promises Not Problems” written on my kitchen chalkboard for several months now, and that is where I am going to start. Because, ultimately, I know that God is only, and is always, good, but I want to start living as though that is true.
Anna Whittaker works as a solicitor and is part of Jubilee Church Leamington in the United Kingdom. A version of this column first appeared on the blog, Resistance and Renewal, and is used with permission.