This past Wednesday marked the first day of Lent, a 40-day period when people prepare their hearts and minds for Resurrection Sunday. This part of the year, when we all get ready to observe Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, has always been really exciting to me. The past few years I have really started to take an interest in the different ways different people take part in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Lent, in particular, has been on the forefront of my mind for some time. It has caused me to want to dig a little deeper and understand it a little better – possibly even observe it, though not to the degree that some people may. I read through some articles the other day that explained what people do for this 40-day period and what its meaning is. And while I am still learning about it, what I got from those few articles was this: Lent is a time when people want to hit a sort of “refresh” button. They desire to maybe get rid of a nasty habit, or fast from something in particular. It’s a time to prepare themselves and their lives for Resurrection Sunday when we all celebrate the glorious day when Jesus rose from the grave.
Now, to me this sounds like a great opportunity for spiritual growth. That’s one of the reasons I was so interested.
However, I thought about it, and really couldn’t think of anything to “give up” for 40 days that I would rush right back to afterwards. I thought of all the typical things: chocolate, Facebook, etc. But what’s the point of that? Those are (basically) everyday things that, like I said, I would rush straight back to after the 40 days were up. So, I had this crazy idea that in stead of give something up, take something on! Start something new! Start something meaningful and beneficial to not only myself, but to others! When I first thought of it, it was just an idea that I had thought of. But then I read a blog post that talked about the very thing I had thought of a few days before, The Reverse Lent Challenge over at Karen Ehman’s blog. I figured it was a green light. A Do It! from God. So, here is what I have come up with (with some inspirational help from things I have read):
– Thank God for a blessing each day. His mercy is new each morning, so even if you’re not having the best day ever, God has still given you SOMETHING to thank Him for. Find it and praise Him! You could even start a journal for the 40 days recording your praise for this time. It could end up being a great keep-sake.
– Spend time in prayer for someone else. I’m thinking of the JOY example (Jesus, Others, You). First, we praise God. Then, pray for someone you know. It may be a friend, family member, or neighbor. It may take 3 minutes, it may take 30 minutes or more. But in a way, you are actually “giving up” something for Lent by doing this: your time. Take time to love and serve others through your prayers.
– Spend time in prayer for your spiritual growth. Take time to ask God to show you the things you can do to either work on or get rid of in your life to bring you closer to Him. Also, as we are nearing Resurrection Sunday, ask Him to help you be sensitive to His Word and the story of Jesus’ life here on earth. It is life-changing to truly listen to it and let it work in you. In fact, it could mean the difference between life and death.
– Spend time in God’s Word. Especially the Gospels, where it tells the events of Jesus’ life here on earth. I would suggest setting 5 extra minutes aside from your daily Bible time to add that extra time to soak in the story of the Gospel.
Obviously, participating in Lent is completely up to you, but the more I come to learn about it, the more I am drawn to the idea of spending time to evaluate, cleanse, and even strengthen my spiritual life.
Before I finish, however, I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about fasting. This is one of the usual and more popular ways to observe Lent. There it absolutely nothing wrong with it. In fact, it is a Biblical practice that I would encourage. What isn’t Biblical is boasting about it… and I see that more and more. Matthew 6:16-18 says, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” The Bible says very clearly that we are not to use fasting to make us look super spiritual to the whole world, but to actually keep it a secret. Giving up TV for a whole 40 days, or not eating out at your favorite fast-food restaurant within the next 40 days is not my business. It is between you and your heavenly Father. If you believe that giving those things up is the way to help you focus on your relationship with the Lord, then, by all means, go for it! God uses all sorts of things to draw us to Him. But your 500 Facebook friends don’t need to know about your fasting.
I am not trying to preach, or point fingers. I honestly believe there are people out there who just simply don’t know what the Bible says about fasting, even though/if they are a Christian. What I am trying to do is encourage you to observe this time of Lent and to receive all of the wonderful things God may have in store for you through this time! It will look a bit different for everyone. But whatever you do, I pray that it will be a time of reflection and growth in your love for the Lord.
I have attached a blog post I recently read about Lent that I really enjoyed. Check it out: Yes. Do That. over at Amy’s Finer Things.