I tried to fast a couple of Fridays ago.
It didn’t go so well. I was irritable most of the time, but the worst part, was that I hated every minute of it.
I shared this with a good friend a week or so later, and she said, “If you hate it, then you shouldn’t do it.” She wasn’t necessarily saying that out of an American worldview that one should do whatever makes one happy. She was responding out of belief that self-loathing and irritability is not what fasting is for.
According to Jesus, fasting needs to be private and joy-filled, a wholehearted sacrifice to the Lord. Matthew 6:16-18 says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, 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 men 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.” So according to Jesus himself, if I’m miserable when I’m fasting, I should just quit.
The majority of my times of happiness on this earth center around celebrations with food and friends, so I definitely buy into the idea that fasting from actual food is one of the most challenging things I can give up. I also see how–if it’s made willingly–my gift of fasting will bring me closer to the Lord.
I’m not sure how to get over the wall to find joy during times. My last fast has shown me that the first step to fasting is preparation.
It’s Lent, a time of fasting. I’m not fasting from anything this Lent, and I actually feel like I’m missing out. A few of my friends are doing fasts that are bringing them to a closer understanding of the poor. I’m already thinking about whether I can prepare myself for such a sacrifice next year. Here are two creative fasts I’m considering for next year. Want to join in?