The Lenten season is officially upon us. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a day dedicated to recalling our need to repent from our sins and turn back to God. During Lent, our call is to die to self and live in Christ. This is a process of growth and change. Some things you need let go of, others you need to do more of. It all is possible with some simple tweaks in our lifestyle.
Discussions about Lent often center around questions such as, “What should I give up,” or “Where should I give more to?” Giving up something we enjoy such as a favorite food or activity is a good thing to do. Giving more time and/or money to charitable organizations is also good to do. However, do not lose the spirit of Lent. Whatever you decide to do, it must revolve around growing closer to Christ and becoming more like him.
You might protest and say, “Hey, I’m busy though. I have school, work, family, etc.” That very well might be true. However, do you not make time for what you want to do? Do you not binge watch your favorite Netflix series? Do you not spend hours checking your social media and browsing the web? You have the time, if you want to. That is where repentance comes in.
In a 2017 survey from LifeWay Research, 57% of American who observe Lent choose to fast from a favorite food or beverage, or attend church. The percentages for additional prayer or fasting from a favorite activity were significantly lower. Bottom line — American Christians take the easy way out. You can debate me on this, but think about it. Is giving up McDonald’s fries really as time consuming than digging into the Scriptures? Is showing up for an hour on Sunday really as difficult as increasing the amount of time you spend on your knees before God?
The difference is sacrifice of what really occupies our time. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” To gain a treasure, you have to pursue it and guard it. That takes time and effort. That is what Lent is really about. It is not about what is easiest or most convenient. It is about doing what makes the most impact for your eternity.
However, it is not complicated. There are small adjustments we can make. Here are three simple ways to improve your spiritual health this Lent:
- Have a Morning/Evening Devotion.
Opening up and closing your day with God’s word is a very powerful practice in the Christian walk. If you are strapped for time in the morning, get up 15 minutes earlier to fit in the devotion. If you are strapped for time in the evening, reduce your media time by that mere 15 minutes to fit in the devotion. Don’t say you are too tired. You are not too tired to watch that series, view that post or grab your paycheck. Lent is about doing better. Remember, God gave you his very best at Calvary.
2. Volunteer at a Local Organization.
There are tons of ministries and charitable organizations that need people’s time more than anything else. Find one that is accessible to you in your area. There is a great chance your home church runs a ministry that needs your help. Volunteer to help for just two hours on a Saturday rather than attend that sports event or social activity. The difference you make with your time is going to surprise.
3. Forgive Someone Who Wronged You.
Perhaps this is the toughest thing to do during Lent or anytime of the year. It is perhaps the most important. Nothing glorifies God and reflects who he better than when we forgive someone who wronged us. Think of just one person, whether neighbor, family member or friend and decide right now to forgive them this Lenten season. You need prayer and patience with yourself.
It might take you the whole forty days, and that’s okay. Just exercise the love and freedom you have in Christ and release that burden. Restore that relationship if God permits. I know it’s so hard. But I can personally attest to you, that nothing is more freeing or more powerful than when we forgive. I have had relationships healed and my peace returned when I chose to forgive. The same will happen for you.
Whatever you ultimately decide, do it wholeheartedly. God blesses our efforts when done in accordance to his will and with a sincere heart. God wills for us to become more like his son. Will you act with a sincerity of heart? May you all be blessed with peace, love and comfort this Lenten season as we love God more and discover how much he loves us.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” ~ St. Augustine of Hippo
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