Then the LORD said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.
“If any of the people, either men or women, take the special vow of a Nazirite, setting themselves apart to the LORD in a special way, they must give up wine and other alcoholic drinks. They must not use vinegar made from wine or from other alcoholic drinks, they must not drink fresh grape juice, and they must not eat grapes or raisins. As long as they are bound by their Nazirite vow, they are not allowed to eat or drink anything that comes from a grapevine—not even the grape seeds or skins.
“They must never cut their hair throughout the time of their vow, for they are holy and set apart to the LORD. Until the time of their vow has been fulfilled, they must let their hair grow long. And they must not go near a dead body during the entire period of their vow to the LORD. Even if the dead person is their own father, mother, brother, or sister, they must not defile themselves, for the hair on their head is the symbol of their separation to God. This requirement applies as long as they are set apart to the LORD. (Numbers 6:1-8)
Sometimes all you’ll get out of a vow is pain. A Nazarite vow meant giving up haircuts and anything made out of grapes, among other things. Examples of people in the Bible who took a Nazarite vow include both Samson and Samuel, who were Nazarites from birth (Judges 13:7 and 1 Samuel 1:11). The apostle Paul took the vow as an adult, but only for a specified, limited period of time (Acts 18:18). Paul also paid for the ending ceremony for other Nazarites (Acts 21:17-26).
The purpose of fasting, the purpose of vows, the purpose of spiritual discipline of whatever sort, is not discomfort. God is not brought nearer or better understood as a consequence of suffering. Pain is not the key to reaching God. God is not accessed by a ritual or the equivalent of a secret handshake. Instead, it is the discipline of the thing: the perseverance, the seeing it through to the end, that becomes the learning experience. A person gets to know God better not in the pain, but in practicing one of God’s qualities. God is not one to ever give up. He is not one to quit. To make a vow and to see it through to the end builds patience and perseverance, qualities that are valuable in life and in one’s relationship with God. After all, God may not fulfill his promises instantly. His answers to our prayers often take time. We just need to be patient.