Essential Questions: Why Lent?

In certain Christian traditions, this is the season of Lent.  Lent is the 40 weekdays before Easter.  Lent officially ends on Holy Thursday, which is the day before Good Friday.  Good Friday is the day that we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

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What does the word “Lent” mean?  Lent comes from an Anglo-Saxon words meaning “Spring” (lenct) or “March” (lenctentid).  The season of Lent occurs most often in March, so it seemed appropriate.  However, there are some years, like this one, where it starts in early February.

Why 40 days?  The number 40 has always had spiritual significance in the bible.  There are many illustrations of the importance of 40.  For example:

  • Moses was with God for 40 days and 40 nights when receiving the 10 commandments (Exodus 34:38).
  • Israel wandered the desert for 40 years after being rescued from Egypt before entering the promised land (Numbers 14:33-34).
  • Jesus fasted  in the desert for 40 days and nights before beginning his public ministry (Matt. 4:2).

What is the purpose of Lent for a believer of Christ?  The purpose of Lent is for a believer to realize that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23).  Jesus’ death and resurrection repair our relationship with God.  However, sometimes we don’t realize our sin and so we don’t realize our need for God.  (1 John 1:8).  Lent puts the focus on our sin so we can truly celebrate come Easter because of the great gift we have received.

What do we do during Lent?  

  • Stop doing something.  You may hear people talking about “giving up” something for Lent.  Kids often talk about giving up candy or chocolate.  It is a start, but it doesn’t actually get at the real reason for giving something up.  What you are really supposed to do is to give up something that is taking you away from Jesus and the way that he calls his believers to life.  The goal is to turn away from a particular sinful habit and, by the end of Lent no longer have that sin in your life.  You stop the sin not only for Lent, but beyond.
  • Stop eating for periods of time.  Jesus expected his followers to fast as he gave instructions on it (Matthew 6:16-18).  It is a way of reminding ourselves of our spiritual hunger for God.  It also reminds us that we can do nothing apart from Him who provides us with all good things (1 Tim 6:17).  It is so easy for us to forget that everything we have comes from God.  Fasting is also used as a way to get closer to God. (Acts 13:2-3)
  • Start doing something.   Lent is often a time when people try to start or re-start a spiritual discipline, such as reading the bible every day.  Spiritual practices are an important way to keep ourselves connected with God.  It is hard to be in a relationship with God if we do not maintain the connection.  As Lent is 40 days long, chances are you will have developed a good spiritual habit by the end of the period.
  • Pray more.  Prayer is an important spiritual discipline.  It is the conversation that we have with God – not just our laundry list of requests, but also listening to Him.  The more we pray, the closer we become to God.  Prayer is important as we face all sorts of situations (Ephesians 6:18).  It becomes more necessary at Lent as we try to discern the sin we are giving up and then, in resisting temptation.
  • Give away more.  As we grow closer to God and realize that all good things come from Him.  We give out of gratitude that our God cares for us and looks after us. We want to share ourselves and our things with others so they too can recognize the role of God in providing for them.

This blog is just a brief overview of Lent.  If you are interested in more of the history of  Lent, you could check out this website.  If you want to take on one or more of the Lenten behaviours above, I would encourage you to do so.  It is not too late, even though we are partway through Lent.  God will honour your efforts.  Whatever you decide to do, take some time to examine your life so that you understand your great need of Jesus.  It will make Easter a more joyous time.

 

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