For you, maybe Lent kicks off the hype and excitement surrounding Easter, or maybe Lent is a time for fasting and sacrifice. Or maybe you’re sitting there thinking, “What is Lent anyway, and why is it a big deal?” Wherever you fall on the Lenten spectrum, I think I can shed some light on why Lent is still relevant today.
What Is Lent?
First, it’s important to understand the significance of Lent. The word Lent comes from the Latin root meaning “to lengthen.” It’s the 40-day period prior to Easter, excluding Sundays, that begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter). On Ash Wednesday, many Christians embark in the tradition of receiving ashes on their foreheads as a reminder that we were made from dust, and to dust we shall return. The ashes remind us that we are but fleeting flowers in a field, here today and gone tomorrow—but we have hope in the resurrection of Jesus!
Although Lent is not found in the Scriptures, many Jesus followers choose to participate through practices such as reflection, repentance and prayer as a way to prepare their hearts for Easter. You don’t have recognize Ash Wednesday or even start “on time,” but I encourage you to consider some way to make this a season of self-reflection as we recognize our need for a savior. For me, Lent is a time to open my heart a little wider so when we arrive at Good Friday and Easter, it is not just another day at church but an opportunity to receive the overflowing grace, hope and love of the risen Lord.
Here are a few ways you can engage in Lent to prepare your heart for Good Friday and Easter.
1. Give Up
The most common discipline that people engage in during Lent is fasting. Some may give up certain types of food (dessert, meat, etc.). Others may give up a habit or behavior such as caffeine, social media or TV. In past years, I have given up coffee (incredibly painful), soda and Facebook.
Fasting is a powerful discipline because when we deny ourselves something we desire, we are saying there is something more important in our lives than that thing. During Lent, we are declaring that God is more important.
When we fast, we are also reminded of God. On certain days I can go through the day without thinking much about him. But whenever I have to fight the temptation to indulge in something I have chosen to give up, it reminds me of Him, His sacrifice, and His reality in our lives. The year I gave up coffee, I was reminded every morning and really all throughout the day of this powerful truth.
2. Give Out
During Lent, you can also choose to give out. Jesus gave us everything on the cross, so this season can be an opportunity for us to give to others. What if during Lent we committed an intentional act of kindness every day? What if we asked God to help us see those around us that we could love, serve, and be generous toward? Imagine how powerfully that would reflect the message of the cross to those around us.
3. Give In
Some commit to a daily devotional activity during Lent. This often includes reading a short teaching on a Scripture passage or topic every day and then spending a few moments in prayer. A great devotional that we would like to recommend is a Lent reading plan on the YouVersion app. It brings together quotes, readings and Scripture to help you focus your mind on Christ.
Even though Lent is not a “requirement” for Jesus followers, millions every year choose to participate. It is not too late to jump in, so if you have yet to participate this year, we would love for you to join us. If you do, I know you will be amazed as to what occurs in your life as you choose to spend a portion of every day intentionally focused on Jesus.
No matter where you are in the process, I hope to encourage you to take a step towards preparing your heart and mind on Jesus during the journey to Easter.