“So, what are you giving up for Lent?” That might be a question someone has asked you as we begin the season preparing for Easter. Lent lasts 40 days (excluding Sundays) and is a time of prayer and fasting, which prepares us spiritually for the celebration of Easter.
Fasting is the intentional giving up of food for a period of time, usually a day. One can drink water during that time, but we usually do not eat during a fast. Since Lent lasts 40 days, we then pick out something that we like and do without it for that time.
Some people might give up coffee or tea or anything that has caffeine in it. Some people might give up meat. For my part, I am giving up fried liver and boiled okra! That won’t be much of a sacrifice, though since I hate both those things.
A fast is not a time when someone else makes you not eat. For example, some time back I had to have a test done, and I had to not eat for 24 hours. I did not like doing it, but I did without any food for that length of time. A fast is not when you forget to eat. Sometimes we are in a tense crisis and we might realize we have not eaten in quite some time. That is not a fast.
I know people for whom fasting is a regular spiritual discipline. They tell me that when they fast and spend much time in prayer that they draw closer to God, and that is a good thing. Preachers I know spend Fridays or Saturdays fasting so that they can spiritually prepare for preaching on Sundays.
So we come to Lent and think of something that we will give up. My daughter gave up chocolate one year, but for her birthday she wanted a Red Velvet cake. Guess what a Red Velvet cake has in it — cocoa! Her birthday was on March 1, right in the middle of Lent that year.
My problem with our giving up something for Lent is that we pick out something that we enjoy that we think might not be all that good for us, give it up for six weeks, but after Easter we go right back to it. If it is something we think we might ought to give up for our health and well-being, Lent can be a good time to start giving it up permanently.
I like to ask people to give up their favorite sin, you know, the sin that you say, “Lord, I need to ask you to forgive me for this sin, but you know I’m going to do it again.” We all have a favorite sin. A lady told me the other day, “I hadn’t thought about a favorite sin, but I do have them.”
When we fast, the idea is to draw closer to God, to rely more heavily on God’s strength in our lives. So, this season of Lent, look carefully at your life, and consider what stands in the way of your relationship with God. Give it up, not just for Lent, but for good.
Dr. Jay Hodges can be reached at Jayhodges610@yahoo.com.