Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of posts on Facebook from people who are feeling defeated, guilty and discouraged because they broke their Daniel Fast by giving into the flesh and eating pizza, or a hamburger, or whatever. They gave in to their cravings. They gave into their flesh.

The easy response is, “Oh, don’t worry. God knows your heart. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

And there is a lot of truth in that. At least the part about God knowing your heart . . . and maybe about not being so hard on yourself. But what I see so often is that people just brush off the experience and miss the powerful lessons they can learn and the ways they can grow.

First, if you break the fast by giving into temptation you don’t need to start fasting all over again. I’ll cover more of that later. But just like when we sin, we don’t have to “get saved again,” the same goes with fasting. Continue on the journey and recognize that you detoured from the path. Now it’s time to get back on the road.

And let me also add that God is not going to deny you of His presence or not answer your prayers. You are not fasting so He will love you more or have a better opinion of you! Jesus already took care of making you pure and perfect in God’s eyes. So shake off any of that faulty thinking and know that fasting is not going to make God love you any more or any less!

Your first step to returning to the fast is to have a little meeting with yourself. Let your “wise self” interview that self-driven part of you to find out what happened. Why did you give into temptation? Were you not prepared? And so when you got hungry you caved and ate what was easy and available?

Maybe you are so focused on the food that you feel deprived. You’re not strong in the spirit, and rather weak in the flesh. So when you hear pizza or a hamburger or soda calling your name, you answer by giving in.

Perhaps you start having an internal conversation with yourself that goes something like this, “God knows I love Him. He doesn’t really care about what I eat. So I’ll be okay to change the fast and not give up some of the foods I like.”

The key is to find out why you broke the fast. What was going on? What happened? And what will you do “next time” so you are prepared, strong and able to withstand the temptation? These are valuable lessons you can learn about yourself and your approach to the fast. The thing is, the same reason you broke the fast is probably repeated in other areas of your life. So if you can learn the lesson and develop the muscles of the overcomer, then you are growing and getting stronger in your faith and in your life.

Once you’ve figured out your strategy for being better prepared, get back on the path and continue your spiritual journey. Spend time with the Lord and allow Him to speak to your heart and show you what you can do to stay strong and spiritually fed. Allow Him to fill you with His strength as you nourish your spirit from His Word.

And finally, shake off the disappointment, the guilt, and the discouragement. Wrap yourself in the robe of righteousness that Jesus bought for you on the cross and move on with Him at your side. Be thankful for what you have learned. Continue to learn and grow. And finish the race in joy and success! Remember, it’s not how you start that determines the outcome . . . it’s how you finish. And learning valuable lessons about yourself on the fast is all part of the value of this amazing spiritual discipline.