fasting looks like fun

What an odd title.

Fasting isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be difficult. It’s supposed to be challenged. Intentionally refraining from something that is important to you, that is essential to your well-being, is a difficult thing.

The longer the fast, the harder it is supposed to be. Spending 40 days fasting, as Jesus did, has to be grueling. Spending three weeks fasting like Daniel did would be challenging. Spending a day without food for many of us triggers headaches.

And with all of that difficulty, Jesus says that when we fast, people shouldn’t be able to tell by looking at us.

In that comment, Jesus makes it clear that he knows people inside and out. When most of us are doing something difficult, we like other people to know. When we spent the night not sleeping, we make sure that people understand why we are cranky. We help them to have the appropriate amount of sympathy for us. We often remind people of how busy we are. We frequently help people know our burdens.

And Jesus says, when you are giving up food (or whatever you are fasting from), don’t look miserable. (One translation says that the hypocrites “disfigure their faces,” an apt description of us when we are trying to look like we are feeling miserable.) Instead, wash your face, comb your hair, look as alert, as happy, as normal as you can.

Will our family know that we are missing a meal? Yes, of course. Will that negate the value? Probably not. Unless we are fasting to impress them.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the outcome of fasting which tells us why we are doing it. For now, this thought.

The hardest part of fasting may be that people won’t know. Which is, of course, the point.