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Entering Lent with the Right Heart, and Why It Matters

Tomorrow, many churches will observe Ash Wednesday and begin the season of Lent. Lent is considered one of the most important seasons on the liturgical calendar, spanning from Wednesday, March 6 to April 21 this year. It’s a holy season of 40 days marked by repentance, fasting and prayer, causing us to reflect on Christ’s great love and identify vices in our life to re-surrender to Christ. Typically, Lent represents the 40 days that Jesus spent praying and fasting in the desert when he was tempted. The time culminates with the celebration of Easter.

Origins of Ash Wednesday and Lent

The tradition of Ash Wednesday stems from an ancient Jewish practice of wearing ashes on your head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us, and humbles us to remember our beginnings. They’re meant to help us discover a deeper spiritual maturity. Ash Wednesday and Lent are typically practiced by Catholics, although several Protestant denominations observe it as well. Lent starts the same day and represents a time of challenge followed by a time of blessing as we celebrate the resurrection at Easter. Regardless of how a person chooses to observe Lent, the practice is regarded as highly personal.

Surrender it to God

While the Catholic tradition highlights important aspects of Lent such as abstinence from meat, there are still deep spiritual insights for Christians in the modern practice of intentional reflection and self-examination. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to gain spiritual strength and serve an example to us. While we don’t have to escape to the wild in order to fast, there is tremendous power in giving up something dear to us.

By surrendering or giving something up–albeit for 40 days–we become capable of filling ourselves with Christ instead. This allows God to reveal in us hidden traits or things he’s pushing us toward. By delaying gratification and choosing self-sacrifice, we’re also practicing an age old tradition of spiritual discipline that God has been using to communicate to his people since the beginning of time. There’s so much power in that.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial. – 1 Corinthians 10:23

 

The blessings that God grants us allow us to bless others in return. But many times, we come to depend on our blessings and creature comforts, instead of God. During Lent, I’ve found that it’s helpful to refocus my attention on God and how he wants to use me. It can be a truly freeing experience. Some other ideas of distractions and comforts to surrender to God during Lent include:

  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest etc.)
  • Watching television
  • Indulging foods (sugar, fatty foods, etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Playing video games
  • Secular music
  • Complaining
  • Online shopping

Young Rwandan boy in Food for the Hungry's work area folds his hands in prayer

Grow Closer to God during Lent

I hope that you’ll take this time to really consider how God is asking you to draw closer to Him and can encounter Him in a new way!Download the free resource about Lent

In an effort to help you discover God in a deeper way through Lent, we’ve created a resource for you called 40 Ways to Grow Closer to God. 

In this free Food for the Hungry resource, you’ll discover:

  • 40 easy ideas for simplifying your life
  • Short devotions for growing closer to God
  • Ideas for changing the world with your prayers
  • Fun recipes for the time between now and Easter

If God leads you in this direction, you may also want to consider a sacrificial gift to help people in poverty where Food for the Hungry serves.