Happy Thursday! Thanks for being patient with me as I took last week off to be with friends and family for the Easter season.

It’s fitting that I close the March book reviews in April, because our last March sister is what I’d consider a bit of a wild card. I grew up watching Kirsten Dunst portray Amy March and I absolutely hated her. The book version was slightly better, the BBC version unmemorable (though I loved Meg, Jo, and Laurie), but it wasn’t until Florence Pugh portrayed Amy in the 2019 Greta Gerwig version of Little Women did I even consider that Amy might have any redeeming qualities. They turned a silly girl into an intelligent young woman with a mind of her own, and it’s on that surprise transformation that I find my next book recommendation to be one that 2019’s gift of Amy March would read for herself.

The 40-Day Sugar Fast was a book I hastily grabbed off the checkout line shelf at Hobby Lobby over a year ago. I made it to Day 5 and never picked it up again. This year, I decided to fast sweets and desserts in observation of Lent, and I decided to read this book as a companion to the fast.

It is like Amy March in this way: it started simple – giving up sugar – and ended up being more complex than I anticipated. Even though the back cover text states that Jesus is “the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger,” I was still surprised to find out how much that was true in a physical sense, and more surprised to find just how strong a hold sugar had over my life.

Let me be frank: I discovered some ugly truths about myself through this fast and this book. I went into Lent expecting to spend time reflecting on Jesus and struggle a bit to not eat dessert, but as I made my way through the Sugar Fast I realized that sugar was way more important to me than it needed to be. It was my comfort, my something to do when I was bored, my social activity, my reward for hard or stressful days…in short, sugar was my everything. It might seem silly to say that, but when I compared how often I turned to something sweet as an answer or as a way of making myself feel better, however innocently intended, as compared to how often I turned to Jesus as the answer, I realized that my relationship with sugar was bordering idolatry. I valued its power and the way it made me feel. Not only that, but it was a roadblock on my journey to Jesus, the thing that waylaid me almost every time. Yet because it was a hollow choice, it was unsatisfying. Go figure.

When this realization hit me, it felt like something actually physically hit me. It felt even worse because the further I journeyed through the 40 days the more I felt the craving. I wanted the craving for sugar to magically go away. I wanted the temptation to be removed so I could focus on Jesus unhindered, but temptations don’t work like that. The things that make up our personal vices will always be alluring. It’s the knowledge that we have the God-given strength to turn away from temptation and the decision to do so that is the conquering victory. I needed to learn how to fill that craving with things of the spirit instead of things of this world. Through prayer, worship, and Scripture, the craving for Jesus increased and the sugar cravings lessened. I wish I could say I don’t crave sugar at all after 40 days, but I do. However, it’s not at the forefront of my mind. It’s not the desire of my heart. I can say “no” to a sugary treat and I can say it easily. I rest in the confidence of knowing that as I strengthen my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with sugar will fade away. It is – and will be – something I can look back on and say: I laid this at the altar, and I left it there. And I walked away with Jesus.

I wrote all over the margins of this book. So many things are underlined and circled it would be ridiculous to go through and try to pull out the passages and the lessons that meant the most. Speake does a great job of easing the reader into the 40 days. She starts simple with plenty of room for grace and second chances, even acknowledging that if the reader has “cheated” and feels like starting over or giving up, to just keep reading and recommit. That alone was powerful, because of course, I did cheat within those first five days. She doesn’t go into the science behind what happens to our bodies when we give up sugar, but offers resources in the Appendix instead. She states upfront that she doesn’t want the science to be the focus, and I appreciated the clarity of her intentions. Speake slowly untangles the web that ties physical cravings – sugar – and spirituality together so that by the end of the book you realize the journey was never really about sugar. It was about Jesus. Always and foremost, Jesus.

While I found this book to be excellent reading during Lent, it was not written for Lent or Easter. It can be read at any time, however, Speake does lead an online, community Sugar Fast every January. You can learn more on her Facebook page.

Thanks for reading, friend.

love, meg