I gave my kids some suggestions as to what they could give up for Lent, and immediately received backlash.
“No way! That would be way too hard!” they cried.
“And that is exactly why I think you should give it up,” I responded.
Every year, I sacrifice something in preparation for Easter. Certain Catholic traditions stuck with me even during the period of time when I completely walked away from the church. Giving something up for Lent has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Only in recent years, though, have I come to understand why it’s important.
What Is Lent?
The Catholic Church describes Lent as “a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter.” (You can read more about the role of Lent in the Catholic Church here.) Historically, Lent was a time when new Christians prepared for baptism. The United Methodist Church says, “Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves to others.” (UMC)
I explained to my kids that Jesus sacrificed his life for us, so this is a season when we can sacrifice for him.
Lent lasts forty days (not including Sundays) and represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan and preparing for his ministry. This year (2020), Lent will begin on February 26 (Ash Wednesday) and ends on April 9 (Holy Thursday). The church remembers Good Friday on April 10 (when Jesus was crucified) and celebrates Easter on April 12 (Resurrection Sunday!).
Why Should I Consider Participating?
We live in a hustle-and-bustle, constantly-on-the-go time. Busyness reigns. Time is valuable, and it is easy to push God aside as we try to accomplish all the things. But God loved us so much, He sent His only Son to die so that we could have eternal life. He sent His only Son to save us! (John 3:16-17)
Jesus died a horribly painful, humiliating death for all of us. This is the perfect time of year to intentionally reflect on our relationship with God, and to remember the sacrifice of Jesus. It isn’t meant to be easy.
Sacrifice is defined as the “act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.”
Jesus gave up his comfort in heaven to come down and live a humble life serving others, ultimately dying a criminal’s death on a cross. He, who lived a sinless life, willingly allowed himself to be crucified to pay for the sins of all humanity. He regarded the possibility of eternal life for us as more important than his own comfort and safety.
I would encourage you to consider giving up something or doing something for another this Lenten season. Intentionally reflect on the reason for this season.
What Do I Sacrifice?
I fully believe if you turn to God and ask Him what stands in the way of your relationship with Him, He will answer you. One year, I felt Him convict me of my time on social media and watching television. I rushed through quiet time with Him in order to “relax” by scrolling through my feeds and listening to shows. I initially responded no way! but He persisted. My very hesitation revealed my heart.
You should sacrifice something that would be an actual sacrifice. This year my son suggested he might give up drinking water…but he doesn’t drink water regularly. I explained it’s not a sacrifice to give up something you don’t like anyway.
It would also be beneficial to give up something that interferes in your relationship with God. If you have time to post status updates and scroll through social media every day but aren’t reading your Bible, you might consider giving up social media (oh the horror!).
Food is another thing people tend to sacrifice. Candy, meat, soft drinks. If you choose to give up a food/beverage item, remember Jesus every time you feel tempted to cheat. And you will be tempted to cheat. Often. For forty days. It will give you the opportunity to thank God for His redemption plan multiple times a day!
Another idea is to commit to adding something to your day to draw you closer to God. Pick a Lenten Bible plan and follow it throughout Lent if you struggle to consistently read God’s Word. Set aside fifteen minutes a day to sit quietly and intentionally pray if you don’t have a routine. Save money each day and donate it to the church or another charitable cause if you struggle to be generous with money.
Whatever you decide, focus on Jesus through your sacrifice. He is the reason we have a chance to live eternally with God in heaven!