It’s not too late to ‘do’ Lent–to invite the Holy Spirit to lead you in making these sacred days a time of spiritual renewal. If you’ve been avoiding it–maybe that’s because you’ve been thinking about it all wrong…
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery—Galatians 5:1
Let’s be honest, Lent is not a time most of us look forward to. 40 days of denying myself, picking up my cross, laying down my life—yeah, sign me up for that! Daily life is hard enough as it is—does God really want us to make ourselves more miserable to prove that we love Jesus? If the simple things like a cup of coffee, a good steak or a piece of chocolate bring me pleasure—why does God want me to give that up?
Well—I’m not sure God does. I think we’ve gotten confused about what it means to surrender our lives to God. When God talks to us about practicing denial—I don’t think he’s asking us to give up our candy and beer. He’s not asking us to let go of what is good for us—he’s asking us to let go of the things that are destroying us.
For me, right now, that’s worry. That’s the practice that’s killing my spirit and alienating me from God—my habit of making myself sick with regret over the mistakes I’ve made, the places I’ve failed and the problems I can’t solve. And the crazy thing is—even I know that I’m doing what I can do. Even I recognize that some things are out of my control and well beyond my sphere of influence. But for me, if doing something isn’t an option—the next best thing is worrying about it. If I can’t fix it, at least I can make myself feel really terrible. It’s how I prove to myself and God that I truly care. I know Jesus commanded us disciples not to worry and to cast our anxieties on him—and I will, just as soon as I feel that I’ve earned it!
I know it sounds crazy, but I’m finding that it’s much harder to give up something I hate than something I love. In the past, I’ve let go of chocolate and coffee and shopping without a backwards glance. It was hard, but it made me feel so wonderfully holy and virtuous. But accepting that God really loves me, in spite of my limits and failures—that life with Jesus is not about trying harder and harder until I get it perfectly in my own strength, it’s rocking my world.
Denying myself means basing my spiritual peace with God in what Christ has done for me and not in what I have done for Christ. Letting go of the worry and anxiety that’s crushing my spirit—that means accepting that my relationship with God really, really, really isn’t about me at all, it’s about Jesus.
That’s the bright side of Lent—it’s not a season of denial and existential despair—it’s a time to walk in Christian freedom. So, what if God isn’t calling you to step away from something you love this season? What if God is asking you to surrender what’s causing you pain? Can you trust God enough to be set free?
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