The Lenten season has begun. For many Christian denominations the tradition of Lent marks 40 days (excluding Sundays) until Easter. It’s a time for reflection, repentance and remembering what Jesus did for us as He made His way toward the cross, culminating with Easter Sunday and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.
As a child I was fascinated as my friends would come back to school after religion class with ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. It was a tradition we didn’t follow in my Baptist denomination and I was curious. The ashes symbolize purification and sorrow for our sins. Each of my friends also gave something up for Lent. It was usually candy, pizza, soda or some other food sacrifice. I remember it wasn’t easy for them to carry this out for 6 weeks but admired them for the effort.
In the days leading up to Ash Wednesday this year conversations at work and among friends turned to Lent and who would give up something they enjoy during the 6 weeks of Lent. It got me to thinking about what, if anything, I should give up. I considered giving up chocolate, but that was quickly dismissed. Other considerations were candy, all sweets, or “junk” food. I even considered giving up social media. All were things I enjoy a great deal and often struggle with overdoing. Any would be a good choice and may help change some bad habits.
Somehow any choice I came up with seemed like it wasn’t enough. I feared it would become about me and not the sacrifice Jesus made for me. Would I think of Him each time I turned away from a temptation or would I simply be proud of myself for each little success? My desire is to go deeper and give up something that would impact not only myself but my little corner of the world.
I prayed and pondered, coming up with almost more than I bargained for as God showed me things He’d like me to give up for Him. Here are five of them:
Wouldn’t you think jealousy would have left us in our teen years? In reality it follows many of us into adulthood. It amazes me sometimes how often I wonder if someone likes another friend more than me or I catch a glimpse into another’s life and wish it was mine (not taking into account that I don’t see the whole picture, just one small slice)
I know many of my jealous tendencies come from insecurity. Maybe yours do too. At times when I am not confident enough in who I am in Christ or grounded enough in His love I become discontent and jealous. I focus too much on what the world thinks instead of keeping my focus on Jesus.
One of the Ten Commandments instructs us not to envy others or covet what God has given them either materially or through our gifts and talents. When we do we are sinning.
Wow. So if it’s not enough that jealousy and insecurity makes us feel miserable, it’s sinning against God and making Him very unhappy as well.
How would my life be different if for the next 6 weeks I focused internally on God’s desire for my life instead of externally on what everyone else has/does? How would yours?
2. Being Quick to Speak
Do you have someone in your life who always has something to say? When you’re with them you feel like they’re not listening to you but rather trying to figure out what to say next. It can be very frustrating to spend time with them, especially if you need someone to really listen and care.
I know sometimes I am quick to have something to say and will sometimes offer my opinion when it’s unwanted. Is this you too?
Scripture has something to say about this as well:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19
I am sometimes also quick to speak when it comes to prayer. I have so much to say or ask for that I don’t take the time to listen. In doing so I shut out the wisdom, peace and joy God wants to share with me and possibly through me. If I don’t listen to Him how can I offer others the thing they need most – the love and joy of the Lord.
How would my life be different if for the next 6 weeks I spent more time listening to others and to the Lord and less time talking? How would yours?
AAAAAGGGggghhhhhh!! This is such a challenge for me! From chocolate to snacks and even with social media once I get started it can be difficult, sometimes impossible to stop!
Unfortunately along with overindulgence comes an unhealthy lifestyle. Eating too many sweets, snacks and fatty foods adds pounds and leads us down the road to likely early death. Too much time on social media and surfing the internet wastes time and possibly skews our way of thinking. Also it potentially opens us up to experience things we’d rather not and exposes us to things we’d rather not see or focus on.
When we eat ourselves into a food coma or immerse ourselves in social media we have less time for time in scripture, prayer or fellowshipping with friends and family members. We find our time and focus has been sucked away – time we’ll never get back.
Are there areas of your life where you struggle with overindulgence?
Scripture also warns against overindulgence.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12
How would my life be different if for the next 6 weeks I set more limits on myself in areas I overindulge? How would yours?
This all seems like a tall order and more than I am capable of. Even one seems like a big challenge that would take much longer than 6 weeks to achieve. I’m really not sure that was God’s intention but instead to draw my focus more to Him and less on myself and my desires.
Over the next 6 weeks I’m going to try to give up more of my heart to God. I’m going to try to listen to Him more, waste less time that could be spent with Him, and allow Him to speak to me about my life and listen less to the world around me. I’m excited to see how my life will be different through the process.
Will you join me in the next 6 weeks to consider what God would have you give up as we remember what He gave up for us on the cross?
I’ll be praying for you!
blessings and peace,