I suppose in some ways, because it doubles as a devotional, The Ten Day Word Fast functions as a book. At the very least, I intend to review it as one here because it is one of the few small devotionals that has really had a profound spiritual impact on me – even as I have a tiny quibble with it.
Available on Youversion, The Ten Day Word Fast is…well, it’s exactly what it says it is: a commitment to fast from complaining, criticism, sarcasm, and gossip for ten days. Each day has a small devotional, along with accompanying Bible verses, and the fast builds in scope as you go along.
I’ll get my issue with the fast out of the way first, because it was the only real struggle I had. The fast introduces itself with the following phrase: “Are you critical of your boss or pastor?” Throughout the book, the authors return to this example over and over again, and at times it seems as though they are only worried about whether or not you’re critical of/complaining or gossiping about your boss or pastor. They’re not, of course; the principles in the devotional apply quite broadly. But I’ve written about why I have a problem with the un-nuanced dictate that “criticism of the pastor is a sin,” and to see it parroted here without much reflection bothered me a little. Although the authors try to draw out the definition of criticism versus loving admonishment, I’m not quite sure that they got there.
Beyond that, this devotional turned out to be really helpful for me – or, at least, the structure and the inspiration behind it did. Each day has a small devotional and an accompanying Scripture reading. I’ll be honest and say that the devotionals themselves didn’t strike me as particularly eye-opening: they were for the most part simple summaries of the definitions of criticism, complaining, gossip, and sarcasm, our motives in using these forms of speech, and examples of how those play out in everyday life. But the devotional was a good staging ground to remind me of what the Bible says about these things, and how I tend to slip into them without noticing.
What I liked best about the devotional is that it starts off small, with complaining. And for the first two days, that’s pretty much the goal: don’t complain. It keeps the fast from feeling too overwhelming, and it helps you become aware of your speech and what you’re saying. As days go by and you build on the fast by adding criticism, gossip, and sarcasm to the list of words you’re fasting from, you realize that you’re creating the foundations of godly speech in your life.
Make no mistake; this fast is difficult. Fasting from complaining was hard enough all on its own; by the time I reached sarcasm I had days where I was simply silent at times, unsure of anything I could say that might fall into a godly category. And I won’t lie and say that I did well. I broke my fast by accident many times! Still, the exercise of even attempting the fast was valuable: it made me acutely aware of what I say and why I say it.
I’ve fasted from food before, but never from words. And I was astonished to find that this fast was so very helpful. In accordance with Scripture, it isn’t something that you have to announce or display or make a big deal out of, and it is simple and has a clear and defined purpose. I found it a tremendously useful spiritual exercise, made even more so by the fact that it is only ten days long. Something about the prospect of “ten days” made the fast seem workable and not overwhelming. My walk with God certainly benefited, not just from the godly speech I was able to try and cultivate, but from the fact that – because I did a lot of not speaking – my mind often turned to God when I struggled to find words.
If you struggle with complaining, criticism, gossip, or sarcasm – or even if you don’t think you do – I’d give this fast a try. For ten days you’ll have the privilege of examining your words, and cultivating godly speech. It’s an endeavor that will leave a mark on you at the end of the ten days, and will hopefully have altered the way you think about your speech to others. Even if you don’t find the devotionals particularly scintillating, the exercise itself is more than worthwhile.
You can find The Ten-Day Word Fast here. It’s free if you’re registered with Youversion.