Have you ever heard of the word “Lent”? Depending on your religious background, this word might be very familiar or completely unknown. The word “Lent” is from the Old English word for “spring season.” It is a solemn, religious observance for 40 days before Easter when individuals attempt to prepare their hearts for Easter through self-sacrifice, self-denial, and self-discipline.
While there are individuals that use this time to truly focus on their relationship with Jesus, it often leads to focusing on oneself. Self-sacrifice in giving to others is often a way to feel good about oneself. Self-denial of giving up a favorite food or activity is often a way to show off your own religious fervor. Self-discipline of forcing spiritual activities into your schedule is often a way to feel good enough to show your face at church on Easter Sunday.
The problem with the way the casual friends of Jesus handle Lent is that it is self-focused in the end. After all, self-sacrifice, self-denial, and self-discipline all start with “self.” It becomes a way to show you are in the “Jesus club.”
Unfortunately, Lenten goals rarely seem to be submitted to the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The Washington Post has tracked Lenten goals over the years and reports that the most popular goals are to give up chocolate, alcohol, and swearing. This leaves both Christians and non-Christians everywhere wondering how important chocolate is to the Holy Spirit. Lent is a time meant to lead someone closer to God, but if goals are not directed and empowered by God, isn’t the exercise pointless at best?
If you or your family decide to celebrate Lent this year, will you submit your desires to the Holy Spirit and wait for Him to lead? You might be surprised to learn that instead of adding to your load, He is calling you to rest in Him. He might be leading you to talk to Him more instead of obsessing over the foul language. Where God guides you, He will give you the strength to do the good He has for you. Then, your family can rejoice knowing that all the glory for this season goes to God.
While God may lay on your heart special times of fasting or dedication to Him, being living sacrifices is not limited to 40 days in the spring each year. Paul said, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” All of who we are is to be daily dedicated to God. This shows both to God and an unbelieving world that He is worthy of all of us every day of our lives.
As Christians, we need intentional submission to God’s sanctification every day. Just as we love and care for our children every day, God loves and cares for us daily, and He desires us to accept His life-changing love more deeply each day of our lives. When you are His child, there is nothing you can do for Him this Lent, or ever, to make Him love you more. And, when you are His child, there is nothing you can do to make Him love you less. You are His! Let that fuel your heart toward Him this spring. His love and sacrifice are a free gift, so you do not have to earn your way to Easter.