In her blog post, “The Joy of Lent” based on 1 Corinthians 8:10, Defining Beauty author Apple Jacs, makes it clear: “During Lent, the Lord calls us to mortify ourselves, and there are certainly some tough penances we can take on, and we should feel the difficulty, as Christ’s cross was not light…we are called to smile when we don’t feel like it, to give hugs and kisses to those we love, to perform our daily duties with the people we do them in mind, and do everything with the love and joy of Christ.”
I am often shaken by the extremism of following Jesus. If we are to obey Him, we must do things that are quite uncomfortable. But we don’t love our enemies just for kicks. There is an end result we strive for; to be the evidence people need to see Christ as the way to joy, even in the most dreadful of circumstances.
In the life of the church, Lent is the season designed to stretch us; so our hearts will be prepared to again meet Jesus on The Cross – in anticipation of the empty tomb. It is our sacrifice that leads to our greatest joy. While the world tells us to grab for more, we choose to step out of what is usual, and by doing so we are enabled to glimpse the unseen Kingdom of God.
Giving something up for Lent, particularly whatever might stand in the way of a deeper connection to The Lord is a good starting place. Fasting from something earthly, in order to attain a fuller measure of The Holy Spirit is our goal. However, it may also be helpful to add in an activity that will not only take your mind off the fast, but will also invite spiritual growth.
Here are a few simple ideas you could incorporate as part of your Lenten practice:
1. Memorizing a new Scripture verse every week.
2. Reading a book on spiritual discipline, such as The Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster
3. Meditation on one hour of the last 40 hours of Jesus’ life, each day.
4. Picking one Gospel to study.
5. A daily Prayer walk, see http://biblicalspirituality.org/walk.html.
6. Praying for an opportunity to meet a specific financial need of an individual, a ministry or your local church.
7. Finding one new person a day to demonstrate what “I love you” looks like.
8. Using a social media outlet to open a discussion about the importance of Lent and Easter.
9. Start a running list of how The Lord has blessed you and your family.
10. Committing to pray every day during Lent for one person in particular.
These are but a few ways to flex your spiritual muscles during Lent. Perhaps some of these are behaviors you would like cultivate as part of your regular spiritual journey. Lent is a perfect opportunity to practice.
However you choose to practice Lent, it may seem small in the short term. But in the long run, the season invites the manifest presence of God into our everyday lives and reveals the joy that makes living the Christian life worthwhile.