I Want to Eat Right, but Right Now I Want a Donut.
Matthew 6:16-18 When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites… that their fasting may be seen by others…But when you fast… wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others…And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
I have been meaning to fast for some time but the truth is, I really like eating so I have just not gotten there. I knew this passage was coming up however and I had some things on my mind to pray about, so yesterday I fasted. I know that today’s passage says that I should not fast and tell, but I think God does not mind if I share my experience here.
I did not enjoy it. I was constantly hungry. I do not know that I would have made it through the day if I had not felt some accountability to the writing of this blog. I realized how much my appetite still rules over me instead of me ruling over it. In theory, I want to fast, but in reality, I want to eat donuts.
This, I think, is Jesus point, that fasting is about denying self. It is interesting that Jesus does not say if you fast, but when you fast, as if that this just was a normal thing to do. Apparently some hypocrites of the day made quite a show of fasting, drawing attention to self, feeding their own pride. To this, Jesus said, they have received their reward (v 16).
If I do something for self-gratification or self-promotion, then that is all I will get out of it. When I feed the appetites of self, the reward is just that, instant and fleeting gratification. If, however, I voluntarily sacrifice my own desires to turn to God, He rewards me with himself and life everlasting.
This, to me, is how fasting works. In my need and discomfort, I turn to God. When life goes well however, I tend to forget my need. In fasting, I induce a need that I may not be aware of otherwise. When I fast, I am constantly hungry, which reminds me of my constant need for God. When I want to eat the donut, I instead turn to God in prayer.
God draws near to those who draw near to him (James 4:8). When I purposefully deny self and follow God, He moves and works in me. This voluntary sacrifice of my own appetite may not be monumental, but it prepares me for the temptations of lust, drugs, anger, pride and approval. When I train myself to deny the constant hunger of the donut, I grow in self-control and in focus on God. This prepares me for temptations with much greater consequences.
So, I think my discomfort in fasting is actually useful. In my discomfort, I turn to God and I learn how much my appetite still rules me. In seeking God, He works and draws close to me, filling me with himself. God after all, is always the goal.