What are you giving up for Lent?
It’s a common enough question to be asked around the start of Lent, the season that leads us up to Easter. It’s been a practice of Christians for a long, long time to give up something for the season of Lent as a kind of fasting. You would do without something as a way of removing a distraction so that you could focus more on God. It’s a fine practice and if it’s helpful for you and your walk with Jesus, then by all means, carry on.
Much of the time, however, giving up something for Lent becomes our second stab at making our New Year’s resolutions (which by now we’ve long since forgotten about!). We give up chocolate, caffeine, alcohol or McDonalds – stuff that we might be better off without anyway – and use Lent as one six-week-long endurance test.
I’d say that’s missing the point of Lent.
Lent is a season of preparation and reflection. It’s a season where we slow down and prepare once again for the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection – two monumental events that our life of faith is centered around. Jesus’ death on the cross was for you. It was to take the punishment that you deserved for sin. He did that so that you wouldn’t have to. And His resurrection from the dead proves that He is the Son of God and that sin, death, and Satan are defeated forever. These are no small events and their significance and importance is worth reflecting on and preparing for.
Lent isn’t about cutting out something that’s ultimately insignificant from your life for a moment, like chocolate or caffeine. It’s about shifting your gaze toward the cross and empty tomb. Does giving up chocolate help you do that? My guess is probably not.
So here’s a better idea: Give up on giving up. What I mean by that is, use this time of Lent to invest in your walk with Jesus. Give up not reading His Word everyday. Give up not going to worship every week, where you get to hear Jesus, receive Jesus in the sacrament, and be strengthened together with His people. Give up not going to Bible study or a small group. Give up not praying and talking with Jesus. Give up not bringing Jesus into your everyday life and keeping Him relegated to an hour on Sunday.
You can cut stuff out of your life and that’s fine. But you can do that anytime. Instead of making Lent your New Year’s resolutions 2.0, think about what you could quit not doing that would help your journey with Jesus and try that instead. Are you going to be able to do it perfectly? Of course not. But that’s why Good Friday and Easter are coming – to remind you that it’s not about what you try to do but about what Jesus has already done for you.