We’ve just finished a season of fasting as a church body, and you may be thinking about continuing to fast through Lent this year. While our three weeks of corporate prayer and fasting during Depend have been meaningful as we seek God’s will for the growth of our church and ministry, Lent can be a deeply personal season, inviting us to “set our face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:53) as we look towards the cross and Resurrection Sunday.
If you’re contemplating what Lent could look like this year, here are four ways to integrate the practice in your home:
Take Something Away
When Lent is mentioned, most people think about the practice of fasting. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a common conversation among fellow believers as we approach Ash Wednesday. Fasting at Lent is tied to the forty days that Jesus spent wandering in the desert, fasting and praying before his ministry began. We choose to fast during this time to identify with Christ in the wilderness.
As you think through fasting, ask yourself these questions:
- What will help me identify with Christ’s suffering?
- Are there things in my life that I’m unwilling to give up for Lent?
- What needs to be stripped away so that I can, like Jesus, make time to be alone with the Father?
- What comforts in my life could I give up that will help me deny myself over the next forty days?
- What is distracting me most from worshiping God?
We often think of Lenten fasting as giving up sweets or social media, but the temptation to only give up something we know we can “handle” can, in fact, rob us of a deeper opportunity to identify with Christ during Lent. Challenge yourself to fast sacrificially this year. As you spend forty days without, you’ll be sowing seeds to reap greater joy when Easter comes.
Add Something On
Perhaps instead of (or in addition to) fasting, the Lord is calling you to take something on. Creating opportunities to refocus our attention throughout the day draws us closer to Christ by giving us more time in his presence. This could be time set aside for prayer or reading Scripture, playing worship music each day during your commute, or serving in a place you don’t normally serve during the year.
One of the reasons so many people love the Christmas season is because of the anticipation leading up to December 25. Many people put up an Advent calendar in their homes, but it’s much less common to spend the forty days of Lent counting down to Easter.
For many years, our family has used a wooden spiral calendar to mark the days of both Advent and Lent. An object like this or even something as simple as marking check boxes on a paper you keep in your Bible can build anticipation as you see the finish line approaching. In moments when fasting feels hard, having a resource that builds anticipation can help us feel our daily sacrifices building toward something bigger. Arriving at Easter morning after forty days of sacrifice makes our joy on Easter that much sweeter.
Mark the Days
Lent is a season in its own right, but it also contains several celebrations with their own unique traditions and rhythms. Create memories for yourself or your family by doing a little research and choosing some of these traditions to begin practicing each year. Have a King Cake for Mardi Gras or make pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. Attend special church services for Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. Reenact Palm Sunday. Lent has been observed for thousands of years by cultures all over the world, and joining with some of these traditions is a beautiful way to link arms with our diverse Church family. You’ll create memories around this beautiful season as you come back to it year after year.
Another way to observe the holidays associated with Lent is by observing the feast days. The forty days of Lent are actually forty-six days, building in each of the six Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday for a feast day. These days, when properly celebrated, become a foretaste of the joy we get to experience on Easter. Don’t go into feast days with a “cheat day” mentality like you might with a diet. Neither should you overindulge and become gluttonous. Enjoy the feast day for what it is meant to be, and press on in your fasting as you continue this season of identifying with Christ.
These Lenten holidays and feasts are charged with meaning—we encourage you to study and learn their design and significance as you observe Lent this year.
Whatever the season of Lent looks like for you, there is joy to be had at Easter as we come through the other side. As we set our faces toward Jerusalem, we see the suffering that comes before glory. As we allow the light to turn down and give space to sit in the darkness of the days leading up to Good Friday, Easter appears brighter and more glorious as we behold the resurrected Christ.