the stupid daniel fast


The Daniel Fast is stupid.

I know – we don’t criticize a fast being observed by thousands of Christians, but I am really annoyed.

In fact, the Daniel Fast has grown into such a sudden global phenomenon, it might be dangerous to voice my criticism. That Daniel story has been happily hanging around Sunday School for decades. Why did some some recent theological mastermind have to mess that up by setting into motion this particular fast? The stupid thing is now trending with pathetic recipes and blog posts, and devotionals, and entire churches and denominations advocating the Daniel Fast.

It is like Christians across the world suddenly read the same book.

Oh, yeah, well, I guess we did.

And, I understand that with this fast, we can embrace an opportunity to grow closer to God.

We imitate Daniel’s example of putting God first, standing against societal evils, keeping oneself pure, valuing prayer. 

I know. I get it. Food for the soul.

IMGP1224IMGP2310IMGP1053But, in between the groans of my stomach, I find myself wondering why God needs a fast to fill us?

Because, if anybody has the resources to crush slavery, to end death, to bring peace into our lives and into our world, certainly it is God. We celebrate his resurrection, his power over sin, his victory over death. We have this moment in our human framework when Jesus just walked right through Hell’s doorway and back into our linear timeline.

God has power over death. His death. Our death. The story of Lazarus teaches us that eternal truth.

‘Lazarus, come forth,

And, everybody who was dead in their sin understands that their name is Lazarus.

My name is Lazarus.

Your name is Lazarus.

Honestly, I don’t need a fast to see that.

I like the Lazarus story and the Daniel story. The good guys win in spite of unbeatable circumstances. Can’t we just leave a good story alone?

No. We have to pick at it. We have to fast about it. We have to preach it. And then, the next words of Jesus open up a whole new issue in this otherwise satisfying tale. I have been so thrilled with the power-Jesus that launches Lazarus through the death-tomb doorway that the next command surprises me.

Take off the grave clothes and let him go. (NIV) 

Unbind him, and let him go. (NASB) 

Loose him, and let him go. (HCSB)

Jesus just brought a man back to life, but wait, we have a technical difficulty that inhibits our celebration?  Really? We have a stone-cold dead guy walking around and we are focused on a pressing clothing problem?  


Transylvania in a different era.


Interestingly, when the Marys went to the tomb on Easter morning to see a dead Jesus, the stone was rolled away and his body was missing, and that preoccupation with grave clothes interrupts the story again – somebody adds, ‘and the grave clothes were still there.’

So, when Lazarus walked back into life, somebody had to help him roll out of those stinking grave clothes.

When Jesus came back to life, he took off his grave clothes and left them behind.

And why do we care about this?

With all of this obvious power over the life and the death cycles of our human reality, why is our story-telling God obsessing over this mundane detail?

If the moral of our story is that God has victory over death, who cares about clothes?

The mom who packs. The dad who carries. The traveller who pays for extra weight.

Take it from someone who has packed my bag plus 4 over the last decade for more trips that I can possibly count, those clothes weigh a lot. That underwear and sweater quickly turn into ‘Daddy can you carry this heavy suitcase for me?’

From dragging suitcases through airports and train stations at ridiculous hours of the morning, from pulling suitcases down from the van topper when the rain is falling and the ice is thickening, this is one thing that I know well.  Clothes are heavy when you are just trying to make it to the next station or through the next second. 

10388631_10152463050387934_6744048749536271614_n - Version 2Imagine Lazarus, full of life but still trapped in those rags of death.

To be honest, I think I spend much of my time dragging rags of shame around in a dusty little death dance.

Those areas of my life that I want to control, to hide, to protect. 

Maybe that is part of what this stupid Daniel Fast is all about.

Twenty-one days of pulling off the layers of death that bind. Twenty-one days of discovering how God truly breathes life into these shells of flesh and bone. Twenty-one days to give God the stinking, festering folds of our guilt and our shame and our greed, and our lust, and our self-centered addictions.

I don’t like trending things, unless it is my own blog post.

I don’t like fasting when it becomes some kind of a Christian bucket list.

I don’t like the discomfort of hunger pains.

But, I need to dance more than I need to eat pizza. I need to know true life and to celebrate it free of the rags that bind.

May God fill us with his spirit, set us free from death, and launch us into a world dying to live. 


3 thoughts on “the stupid daniel fast

  1. I was somewhat surprised about the sudden phenomenon of this fast’s popularity.

    And there are things I don’t get about it… Why most of the pictures for it feature a grain of wheat? Bread’s out of the food scope and harvest is in August or September, so why wheat? And the other reason of confusion… It’s done in January until February – FAR from the time when fruits and vegetables are good for food here in the CIS (not to mention affordable).

    The latter one was the reason I decided against participating in this thing because all the chemicals in the veggies right now would hurt my body more than help it. *Shrug*

  2. I am a bit mystified by the Daniel Fast, so I did a Google search before responding. Why are Christians fasting through January when Lent is just around the corner and we are getting ready to fast for a biblical and tradition-honored 40 days? Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, not 21. Fasting in January and then again through late winter and early spring is overwhelmingly rigorous. Additionally, the sources I found online indicate a start date of January 4–which means Christians observing the Daniel Fast this way are ignoring the Feast of the Three Kings–Epiphany–something we need to observe, celebrate and take to heart. January 4 is still a part of the Christmas season–a time when we are to celebrate, not mourn and fast. Finally, what is with all the grain in the Daniel Fast recipes? I thought this was a fast that excluded breads and whole grains. Early church fathers often fasted in ways similar to Daniel, eating only fruits and vegetables but no meat or grains. This type of fasting, even sustained for periods up of 40 days at a time, has been found to be healthy. In fact, saints who kept to this rigor throughout their lives often lived much longer, healthier lives than their historical counterparts.

    I agree with you in some ways. The Daniel Fast has some elements of stupidity to it. It seems to be a way of reinventing Christian practices in an attempt to make them suit our own purposes. The site I where I found most of my information even had an entire section devoted to weight loss! To bastardize the idea even further, it is commonly advertised as “the New Year’s fast.” So, is New Year’s Day the name of a Christian celebration now, or is someone attempting to popularize and water down Christianity (yet again) by forcing it into the mold of modernity and pop culture?

    *shaking my head*

    Marie Gail

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