The season of Lent begins on Wednesday this week – which also happens to be Valentine’s Day – but this is an exciting thing! I am always excited for Lent, because it is an opportunity for me to build some new habits into my life.
Obviously, the first question you are going to ask, if you’re not familiar with Lent is – what the heck is Lent?
And that’s a great question!
Lent is the period of 40 days – not including Sundays – before Easter.
Why not Sundays (another great question)? Well, Lent focuses on preparing our hearts for the celebration of Easter, beginning on Maundy Thursday, continuing on Good Friday, through Holy Saturday, and finishing on Resurrection Sunday. For Christians, each Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection, which is why the days of corporate worship was changed from Saturday, because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. So, since we are celebrating a ‘mini-Easter’ each Sunday, we don’t count those days in our preparation period.
So, why 40 days (again, excellent question)?
This is because this period of preparation focuses on preparing our hearts to celebrate our most holy time of year. That means that we need to spend more time than usual fasting, praying, and seeking God. During Lent it is common to give something up that you would normally indulge in – for some it is wine, others sweet food, others it is something like TV or social media. This is to give ourselves more time to focus on the event that is coming, to enable us to spend more time with Jesus in the lead up to our celebrating His death and resurrection.
So Lent is a period of self-denial that lasts 40 days.
Can you think of another instance in the Scripture where something like this happened?
Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving him.
We do this to identify with Jesus and His wilderness experience. In the Christian Calendar – which you will know, if you follow the blog, that I am a fan of – we tell ourselves the story of the life of Jesus, and a part of that is His period of fasting and preparation for ministry. We are preparing our hearts to better celebrate the victory of our King over our great enemies of Satan, sin, and death. Easter Sunday/Resurrection Sunday is meant to be a joyous occasion of feasting after our fast because Jesus is alive!
But we have to go through the wilderness to get there.
Not an easy thing to do.
But I find that it is helpful, when going through seasons in life, to embrace the discomfort, to welcome this difficulty, knowing that it is only a season, that it is not forever, and that on the other side is great celebration.
So here are three things that might help you get through Lent this year:
Don’t be too ambitious
Often we want to give up everything, or to do a proper fast for Lent. I remember one year I was so ambitious that I gave up coffee, chocolate, sweet foods, junk foods, basically any food that wasn’t natural. That was a hard 40 days! I did it, but I learnt my lesson, that I couldn’t be too ambitious, because then I was focussing on the things that I was giving up, rather than the Saviour that I was giving them up to get to know better. So, the lesson is, don’t try to give up so many things that your willpower is depleted so quickly that you don’t have any left to continue the disciplines that will connect you to Jesus. Give up just one thing at first, and be faithful to that, then next time do something a little harder, or have a mini Lent later in the year where you fast from other things for a time as well.
Do Take It Seriously
Having said that you should take it easy, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it seriously. Lent is a time that we are supposed to put aside those things that draw our attention away from Jesus, the things that may have crept onto the throne of our hearts and taken His place without our ever knowing. So we need to be sure that we are taking this matter seriously. We are trying, with God’s help, to smash our idols and draw closer to God. That is a serious business.
Find Companions For The Journey
If you do decide to go on this journey, it is not going to be easy. And one of the best ways that you can make sure that you are going to succeed is to go on the journey with someone else. Maybe your entire church is doing Lent, that is very cool, you can no doubt find someone who will get alongside you easily. If that’s not the case, then try to convince one of your friends to journey with you, or at least to keep you accountable as you go. It will increase your chances of success many times over.
May you be blessed in 2018 as you prepare your hearts for Easter, focussing on Jesus, and get ready to celebrate the joy of the Good News – death and sin have been overcome, and new life is possible!
Question: Will you be doing Lent this year? If so, what will you be giving up?