HOPE in "Lenting" Go
Am I the only one who grew up with a limited understanding of Lent? Perhaps it was the church I grew up in… or perhaps I didn’t pay enough attention in Sunday School. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t until much later in life (hold your laughter) that I understood what Lent is and when it falls on the calendar. Considering Lent is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calendar, I must be a slow learner.
While Lent has encountered adjustment periods throughout the generations, it has always been and should always be about self-examination and self-denial. Throughout Lent, Christians prepare for the Easter holiday, commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus. Customarily, Lent is a time for fasting, abstinence, or letting (“Lenting”) go of something they enjoy. At times, people even give up their time while participating in community service or charity work. In the past, I have “Lent” go of bourbon, chocolate, and ice cream. For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of partying with yours truly, Mr. Jim Beam is a go to drink of mine. It isn’t at all easy for me to “Lent” go of Jim… just sayin’.
In all seriousness, Lent spans a 40-day period to prepare our minds and hearts to glorify Jesus’ life, death, and bodily resurrection. Ash Wednesday represents the first day of Lent, occurring right after Fat Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardis Gras). Why 40 days? Good question! Christians honor the 40 days and nights following Jesus’ baptism when He went into the wilderness without water and food. It was then and there when He was tempted by Satan. Yes, Jesus wrestled with temptation and relied on God’s voice to prevail. Through those 40 days, Jesus modeled how we should deal with temptation by going to God and His Word.
When we deny ourselves of something we enjoy, we become more aware of God’s provision as we wrestle with the temptation to consume it. Denying ourselves of something… especially something we LOVE… enables us to clear our minds of earthly needs to focus on Jesus and the eternal goal of sharing His story. “Lenting” go of something meaningful, replacing it with prayer and worship enables us to develop a deeper and intimate relationship with God. Enter… HOPE. HOPE in God. HOPE in His provision and promises. HOPE in His Word and wisdom. HOPE in God’s character and care.
The process of “Lenting” go isn’t easy. Nothing worth anything is ever easy (excluding the process of being saved, which Jesus made VERY easy). “Lenting” go should involve something significant and meaningful, so you experience real temptation and go to God. God wants us to give it all to Him. All our trials and truffles, challenges and chocolates, struggles and strombolis, ordeals and Oreos, decisions and donuts… He wants it ALL so He can take all of it and turn it into HOPE. During Lent, God takes 40 days of temptation and turns it into 40 days of HOPE as we grow closer to Him: His Word, His voice, His character, His Spirit, His peace… His HOPE.
Whether it is the beginning of Lent or Lent is months away, you can “Lent” go whenever you feel the need to be closer to God. This can be as simple as “Lenting” go of social media in exchange for 5 minutes to spend time with God. You may want to “Lent” go of clutter by clearing one room, closet, or drawer for a period of 40 days. Or you may want to “Lent” go of your favorite dessert or drink. The goal is to draw closer to God while keeping your distance from things that are weighing you down, distracting your focus, or becoming an idol (yikes!).
Everyone’s “Lenting” go journey will feel, look, and sound different, but the goal is still the same. When we get closer to God, those earthly things that were important to us are not so important anymore as we look at them through the eternal lens of HOPE. Our perspective becomes one of pure HOPE as we yearn to become like Jesus while shining our light and bringing God the glory. People will see our light, be drawn to us, and find HOPE in God. I have said it before… God loves irony. How ironic is it that something that once was our focus, enables us to put our focus on God? As we “Lent” things go, we find our HOPE in getting closer to God while experiencing His wisdom, character, peace, and joy.
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While Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, here is a list of other events that spanned 40 days. Imagine what you can accomplish in 40 days with a focus on God’s HOPE!
· The Hebrew people wandered 40 years in the desert while traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33)
· Jonah's prophecy of judgment gave 40 days to the city of Nineveh in which to repent or be destroyed (Jonah 3:4)
· Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18)
· Elijah spent 40 days and nights walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8)
· God sent 40 days and nights of rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4)