Most of us consider fasting only when times are truly tough. You may want to seek God’s face this summer over your lost summer in overseas missions, a loved one threatened by the pandemic, injustice, or financial and unemployment fears.
Fasting during distress
Jesus spoke of fasting, funds and the Father to people on a mountainside:
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. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:16-19).
Jesus expected people to fast (“when you fast…”), but not to wallow in self-pity or draw attention to themselves. He wanted our nonverbal communication to express trust in God, even if we’re fasting while in distress.
Jesus said that the Father sees when we fast. When we have trouble and pain, He uses our suffering to produce perseverance under our trials (James 1:12). Jesus wanted His listeners to know that we could still trust the Father when our dreams are dashed, when the world seems unfair, when we’re worried where the next tuition payment, job offer, or missions donation will come from and if we can hold out until then. The Father sees us and our pain.
Pain, “the gift that nobody wants”
In Philip Yancey’s Where Is God When It Hurts, he notes that Dr. Paul Brand, in his medical work with lepers, studied how they unconsciously wounded themselves because their nerves are largely numb to pain that would keep a healthy person from pushing through the hurt. Yancey writes, “Pain is not God’s great goof. The sensation of pain is a gift—the gift that nobody wants.”
You may be experiencing the unwanted gift of pain this summer. Your mission trip overseas may have been canceled. Your family may have been hit with the coronavirus. You may have suffered injustice or had to face your own lack of mercy toward others. Your plans to pay for housing or a fall semester may have fallen through. Whatever your pain, you can trust the One who’s “familiar with pain,” who “took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:3,4).
The unseen Father, who sees us and knows what we need, feels our pain. He wants His children to hope in Him under our trials, where He will be right with us. Bring your struggles to the Father—and skip a meal this week, if you want to focus on Him and His plans for you.