For some of us, the beginning of the new year includes a fast (often the Daniel fast) with the intent of starting the new year with a spiritual and physical cleanse. As this week marks the end of the fast for many, I wonder how many of us have already gone back to doing, eating, and saying those things we proudly gave up for 7, 14 and 21 days?   For some of us (and I’m telling on myself now), it wasn’t even 24 hours after ending the fast that we went back to those same bad habits that we’d been able to resist doing.   So, what was the whole point of the fast?  It wasn’t just to make you suffer like Jesus but to also reflect on how making those sacrifices can transform your life.    

I remember about 27 years ago doing the Daniel fast for the very first-time during Lent.    It was so hard!   However, I was diligent and gave up eating all meat, sweets, junk food…in other words, everything I loved to eat.   Because I saw the health benefits of changing my diet for those 40 days, I found myself paying more attention to what I ate after the fast ended.   But I also found myself wanting to do another kind of cleansing where the effects were longer lasting.    I decided to do a detox where I only ate certain foods that were supposed to clean my body of toxins.    For the most part, I did alright on the detox but wasn’t prepared for the headaches it caused.  In fact, I’d read that the headache was the body’s reaction to having those hidden toxins come to the surface.   Rather than get alarmed when the headaches came, I rejoiced because I knew that my body was being cleansed.      Interesting thing about detoxing:   it is different for everyone.  For example, I might have headaches and someone else may have overall feelings of weakness even if we follow the same regimen. 

A spiritual detox will have those same kinds of effects.   Instead of giving up food, you search your heart to see what might be hidden that causes you to have a less than satisfying spiritual life.   Spiritual toxins include unforgiveness, pride, bitterness spitefulness and anger.   I John 1:8-9 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”    Just like I have to be honest about the things I eat that aren’t healthy, I also have to admit when how I live my life as a Christian doesn’t line up with the word of God.    

Just like a natural detox differs from a diet in its overall focus and purpose, a spiritual detox differs also from the momentary 21 or 40 day fast.   Rather than give you a temporary break, it provides a more thorough and beneficial cleansing. It’s more of a long-term transformation than a short-term solution.

Shewanda Riley, PhD is a Fort Worth, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.