Tomorrow starts the 40 day period of Lent. Lent is honored and celebrated in most evangelical and liturgical faiths. Although I’m currently worshiping in a Baptist church that will not observe this period, I find it helpful to practice observing Lent.
I am aware that the season of Lent is man-made and is not mentioned in the Bible. I have many friends who say that alone is a reason not to observe Lent. I am no theologian, but I do know that I need to be reminded often to love, serve and worship God because I’m a straying sheep. In the words of the hymn “Prone to wander Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” For me Lent is a time to focus on the Lord, striving to follow Him and seek His goodness, to crucify my own fleshly desires and to fully enter into the work of the cross. Lent is about realizing that because of Calvary I am unified with Jesus.
Maybe you’ve never observed Lent because you don’t know what it is and you feel that it’s too mystical, foreign or difficult. I have a few articles that you might enjoy reading and that could help you decide if Lent is right for you. Perhaps you are contemplating Lent, but think what should I give up? I think it’s not so much about what you are giving up, but what you are receiving. As you intentionally focus on the Lord your perspective changes. Walking in the truth sets you free. Matthew 6:30-34 (ESV) says “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” So 40 days of focusing on kingdom things prepares your heart to receive God’s goodness. God truly has your best interest in heart and all of your needs will be provided lovingly.
I believe that Lent is an individual thing. Perhaps you will fast food every Friday. Maybe you won’t fast food at all. Maybe it’s one nagging thing, persistent habit that you will focus on crucifying during Lent. Maybe it’s a four things you will give up and work on extinguishing. Maybe you’ll attend and Ash Wednesday service, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Maybe you’ll just observe at home and then celebrate the culmination of Lent on Easter Sunday at your regular church. Whatever is right for you. I recommend trying it. It’s been a blessing to me.
This year I’m going to focus on spending time in God’s Word daily for 40 days. I am going to memorize 5 scriptures (minimum). I hope to attend an Ash Wednesday service, a Maundy Thursday service, a Good Friday service and celebrate with my family on Easter. I also would like to engage in an act of kindness weekly (serving at the shelter, sending a note of encouragement etc., fixing a meal for someone etc.). It’s going to be a time full of worship, love and although it is somber (thinking about the death of Christ) it is going to be full of joy and love as I celebrate my spirit living in union with Christ forever because of Calvary and the Resurrection.
Maybe you’ll join me this year. I would love to hear about your Lenten celebrations. 40 days of intentional focus on God….not me. His goodness, not my effort. Eternity not the temporal. Grace not shame. Forgiveness not expectation. Love not anger. Beauty not evil. I can’t wait because each day draws me closer to God and following the Shepherd leads to green pastures, still waters and a renewed soul.