“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18
Fasting is going to be a part of our Lenten journey. Fasting is a temporary giving up of something that is not harmful for the purpose of helping us to focus on our need for God. Feel free to modify as you need to for your particular situation and medical needs, but for most of us this will be skipping breakfast and lunch on Tuesdays over these 40 days.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Jesus assumed his followers would fast (see passage above).
Jesus told his followers not to make a big deal of their fasting to others. He was basically saying to them, “Brush your teeth, comb your hair, and don’t walk around looking miserable.” Don’t be legalistic. If you have an office birthday party for lunch on a Tuesday, move your fast to another day. At the same time, if someone asks you why you aren’t eating, simply say you are fasting, that you are not suffering (they are free to eat in front of you), and that it is about joy and not suffering (I don’t believe Jesus meant for us to lie to people who ask, but to not go around trying to show off).
Fasting is not about misery–it is letting go of a penny so that you can receive the one hundred dollar bill. I do not consider missing a meeting so that I can go out on a date with my wife to be a tremendous sacrifice.
Fasting has no value in itself. It is only valuable if it helps us express our deeper hunger for knowing Christ more fully. Fasting without pursuing Christ may be healthy for your body, but it is not what Jesus meant when he assumed his followers would fast.
Every time you think about food or your stomach grumbles (you will not die from missing two meals), speak with Jesus and thank him for the life that he alone can give.
I would love to hear from you with any questions you might have or about your experience. May this be a holy season in your life! Jeff