What Do I Need to Understand About Lent as a Christian?

Lent illustrates the reality of God’s presence in our lives. Three years ago, during Lent, I was given a choice to battle chronic and mental health. I held out for ten years without seeking medication and thought I was brilliantly battling on my own. However, I was walking in pride. I was prescribed medications I had promised myself I wouldn’t need. That season of Lent wasn’t a season of sacrificing something like sweets or social media, shopping, or spending. Rather, it was a season of picking up new, unwanted things. I had to set down my pride and insecurities.

Those medications never worked; in fact, they made things much worse, but that season taught me more about myself and God than any other season I have walked through. Even in the wilderness, God speaks.  

Lent is a time spent by Christians, or Christ followers, preparing our hearts for Easter. These 40 days connect us to the 40 days the Holy Spirit led Jesus to spend in the wilderness of the Judean Desert, which is in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. 

Fasting, Praying, and Giving Alms 

Jesus spent this time in the wilderness fasting and praying to the Father after his water baptism by John the Baptist. During this time, Jesus also found himself tempted by the devil in three ways but never conceded. Some say all of this happened on Mount Quarantania, and we know from Scripture that these things happened before Jesus started his public ministry around age 30.

Forty is significant because many important Biblical events happen over 40 days. Lent is when some Christians focus more on prayer, Bible reading, giving alms, and fasting. It is a season of grief for others. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends in some churches on Maundy Thursday and others on Holy Saturday

Christians follow the Biblical principle of fasting. Christians will sometimes fast the full number of days during Lent, while others may fast except for Sundays. If pregnant or sick, they would not eat fast food but could fast social media, TV, events, etc. Fasting isn’t a requirement or an obligation through Lent, but it is helpful to seek God intentionally. To say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to time with God. Others see fasting as a Biblical principle we should and must follow. If you choose to fast all 40 days, please do so with medical permission. A 40-day fast can be tough on the body, and it is best to do so under supervision. Please ensure you drink enough fluids and do not add caffeine and sugars to avoid an adverse effect on your body. Once the fast is complete, ensure you do not jump back into normal eating but build up gradually to ensure your fast is holy and healthy!

Pray for others, ourselves, and God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven. Sitting in God’s presence and listening for Him to speak is also essential to Lent. Prayer should never be only us speaking but also listening to the Father as Jesus did in the wilderness. Prayer is the fundamental way we hear from and talk to the Father. It is important to commune with God year-round, but there is a particular emphasis during Lent. 

Lastly, giving alms to the poor or needy is heavily emphasized in the church over Lent. There are several ways to honor the practice of giving alms:

  • Choose a charity to donate time or finances. 
  • Go into your neighborhood and help the homeless or donate to them directly. 
  • Open your home to a friend who is in need. 
  • Cook and share a meal, or be a listening ear. 

There are many ways to help others, which is what giving alms is all about. Living a life of service is precisely what it means to follow Jesus. 

Getting to Know God

Lent is an important part of the Christian calendar; the purpose is to grow closer to God, leaning into Him, and listening to what He says to and through us. Lent is not supposed to be a publicized event but a season between yourself and God, like all periods of fasting and prayer. 

Society seems to believe that Lent is a season of giving up. A few years ago, our eldest children, two girls, decided to sacrifice chocolate in our house. I wasn’t convinced it would last all 40 days, but I sure encouraged it. 

Lent is simply a season of reflection and preparation for Easter when we prepare our hearts and minds to remember Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday and His resurrection from the grave on Easter Sunday. Lent prepares us to remember and reflect on the ascension and Pentecost Sunday. Sometimes, we lose sight of these important, life-altering events amidst Easter egg hunts and family celebrations. 

Lent may not be a season of giving up this year but a season of beginning something new. Maturing in your prayer life may seem trivial, but it is the beginning of a new thing God is doing in your life. To take time to pray means watching TV, reading, painting, and socializing less. It may feel like a sacrifice, but you are instead choosing to set that time aside for a greater purpose. Sometimes, an eternal perspective is required. 

  • What if Lent is more about finding God than losing old habits? 
  • What if Lent is more about sacrificing self than sweeties? 
  • What if Lent is becoming more like Christ than more like a model? 
  • What if Lent is counting blessings and not counting calories? 
  • What if we have downgraded what should be a season of finding more of God, and instead, we have sought to live happily in less?

I hope and pray that Lent will be 40 days of picking up or putting down, preparing for Easter, and becoming a little more like Jesus. I pray our hearts will be ready to celebrate the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Our Savior, JESUS!

If you don’t know Jesus, please get in touch with a local church or a friend who would love to tell you all about Jesus. If you’re not brave enough for that yet, maybe this Lent, you could pick up a Bible and read about the greatest love story ever. Friend, Jesus loves you. No matter what state your life is in, whether you are blessed in abundance or broken in pieces, you are still loved! 

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/FREDERICA ABAN

Michelle Treacy is a Christian writer, a wife to Gerald, and a busy mother of three, Emily, Ava Rose, and Matthew. Finding time to write is not always easy. However, Michelle’s desire to write about Jesus, and passion to teach is what motivates her. Michelle writes on Instagram, Michelle_Treacy_, and WordPress at Thoughts From My Bible. If you meet her in person, you will likely find her with two things in hand, a good Christian book and a cup of tea!

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.

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