Do you long to draw closer to God? Are you thirsty for the Living Water? Do you hunger for Daily Bread? Do you crave God’s voice? Do you want more of God’s presence?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I invite you to observe Lent this year. Depending on what church denomination(s) you have been to, you may or may not have heard of Lent. I currently go to a non-denominational church that doesn’t really observe Lent. But I still find Lent to be a valuable time, so I prefer to observe it.
What is Lent? In anticipation of Easter, Lent is meant to be a time of spiritual reflection. It can be a very rich, soul-nourishing season, if we make the right decisions. I will dig deeper into that in a bit.
When is Lent? Lent starts on Ash Wednesday (which lands on 2.14.18 this year) and lasts for forty days (excluding Sundays). Lent ends just before Easter. Depending on the denomination (i.e. Catholic), some say it ends on Holly Thursday. But in the churches I went to growing up (i.e. Methodist), it was said to end on Holy Saturday.
You will often hear people say that they are giving something up for Lent. But I believe the principals have strayed. Let me explain…
I am sure you have heard of Mardi Gras, which is French for Fat Tuesday. This is the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Many people give up certain foods or drinks during Lent. And on Mardi Gras, they indulge in those things one last time before Lent begins. Then they say they are giving up chocolate or coffee in the name of the Lord.
In my opinion, if you give up something for Lent, it should be something that hinders your relationship with God. I guess if you really love chocolate, more than you love God, then giving up chocolate might be appropriate. But I don’t think giving up chocolate (for example) is helpful in most cases. To be honest, there were times when I gave up chocolate for Lent. But now I have a different view on what Lent is truly about – growing in our relationship with the Lord. And it seems to me that many people use something insignificant to give up for Lent. They find something that won’t truly challenge their spiritual walk. They would rather do something easy. But it won’t provide purpose or meaning, and they won’t see lasting results.
But please keep in mind that there are times when giving up a meal might be a good idea, such as not eating dinner for the forty days, if you are using this mealtime as a means of traditional fasting. You could use the time to pray, rather than eat. Or you could also consider using the money that you didn’t spend on that meal, and donating it to those less fortunate.
In today’s society, a good thing to give up might be social media. This tends to be a huge distraction in our lives, which takes away from our time with the Lord. Giving up television, computer time, or video games are other good examples. But this will vary with each person. It all depends on what stands in the way of deepening your relationship with God.
Or another option would be to add something new to your routine, rather than removing something. If you don’t read your Bible on a regular basis, this would be a good time to start. Or you might want to find a Lent devotional to read over the forty days. Or you could also consider adding more prayer time into your day. Again, this will vary with each person. If you see an area where you are lacking, then consider making this a priority for the forty days.
The point is to draw closer to the Lord. So if you decide to observe Lent, then you will need to examine your own life to see what the best options would be.
It is important to go in with a solid plan. There have been years when I said I would just “cut back” on devices. This didn’t work out well because I still looked at my smart phone every day, and in the end I didn’t see any real changes in my life. But if I had decided on checking my personal email only once a day, not looking at Facebook at all, and otherwise only using my phone for calls – this would have worked out better. It would have given me more concrete guidelines to follow, and in turn, I would have seen better results.
So before this Wednesday, I encourage you to give this some thought. (If you read this after Lent started, it’s not too late! You can still use the time remaining.) If you want to deepen your relationship with God, then consider observing Lent. And think about what things you might want to remove and/or what things you might want to add to your routine. I pray that by Easter, we all will see that we have drawn closer to God and deepened our faith!