I grew up in a home and church that did not observe the Lent season. Easter was a fun and festive day of worship, a delicious meal, Easter egg hunting and family photos with my cousins in our new “Easter outfits,” but I honestly hadn’t given much thought to Lent until several years ago when our pastor introduced it as a season to be observed and celebrated. I didn’t have a context for what that season would mean or look like, other than occasionally spotting someone with an ash-marked forehead on Ash Wednesday or overhearing a comment about not being able to eat meat “because of Lent.”
I am a tradition-loving woman, who lives to create space in my heart and home for a season of celebration, so when our pastor introduced the meaning behind the Lent season—beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding Easter Sunday—I jumped in with both feet. However, let me be clear about one thing, as much as I love holiday seasons and traditions, observing Lent feels very different...and that’s not a bad thing.
Like the Advent season, the season of Lent is a time of anticipation. However, unlike Advent which is about waiting in wonder for the birth of our Savior, we solemnly anticipate His death during Lent. This might sound like a depressing way to spend forty days of our year, but my heart has found a groundedness and my faith in Jesus has been strengthened by taking time to meditate on this pinnacle moment in history. The truth about His death on the cross might unintentionally become less profound to us as time goes by. Yes, we know the end of the story (Jesus rose from the dead!), and there is plenty of room for celebration, but that doesn’t discount the brutal suffering He endured. For me personally, my heart has become even more grateful by setting aside time each year in remembrance.
Many believers choose to fast from something for the forty days leading up to Easter. For me, this has included everything from a type of food or an activity, to adding something to my daily calendar. What one chooses to give up or add isn’t the focal point, it’s the impact the fast has on our hearts that changes us. Each time we are faced with the decision to partake in or give up that thing, we are reminded of all our Savior gave up for us. Our small sacrifices might sound trite or silly in contrast with His, but I have found a fast to be a sweet time of closeness with the Lord, drawing me to Him each time I am reminded that my sacrifice pales in comparison to His.
Celebrating holidays has always been a highlight in my year. However, since observing the Lent season, I can honestly say Easter Sunday has taken on a whole new level of celebration in my heart. After spending forty days seeking to identify with Christ through fasting and taking time to read and meditate on His life and crucifixion, Easter Sunday has become a day bursting with celebration. And that’s exactly what our Sundays should be, right? Each time we gather together and worship, we celebrate the fact that our God is not dead! Our God is the only One who conquered death on our behalf, so that we might live free from the bondage of sin, forever with Him!
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
This year, Ash Wednesday is on March 6 and Easter Sunday is April 21. Between those dates, we observe the Lent season. I’d like to invite you to join in whatever way you feel comfortable.
Start by spending some time in prayer, asking the Lord if there’s anything He is calling you to give up or add this season to help you remember His sacrifice. This could be giving up one meal a day, a certain type of food, or a daily activity like social media. It could mean adding time for prayer and thanksgiving. The options are endless and should be personal to you, but they should be something that the loss or addition of will cause you to remember His sacrifice.
After you discern what it is you will give up or add to your daily calendar, look ahead at the next forty days and mentally make space for this fast. If your fast will require a change to your daily menu or schedule, go ahead and prepare for that. Remember, fasting is a practice meant to draw us closer to the heart of God, never something to check off of our list as a work that we ourselves have done. Each day of Lent holds multiple opportunities to remind our hearts of the truth of the gospel.
The weeks leading up to Lent are the perfect time to posture our hearts, hear from God, and embrace the season. Some years I have chronologically read passages in the New Testament detailing Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. Other seasons, I’ve read Old Testament prophecies paired with their New Testament fulfillments. Reading through the Psalms provides a special way of connecting with Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice, with worship-filled words.
If you haven’t read Pastor Rick’s Lent devotional called, The Way Of the Cross, I highly recommend it. Click here to purchase a hardbound copy or for a free Kindle download. Other books, studies and resources central to Easter and the Lent season are available at Christian bookstores - even books for children. You may also check out YouVersion and LifeWay Women for some great suggestions.
To learn more about the history and practice of Lent, see this article at LifeWay Women.
No matter what you fast from or add to your daily life, or which reading plan you choose, as you make room for God, He will meet you there and your heart will be forever changed.
I’d love to hear from you! What has the Lent season meant to you? How has this observation impacted your life? Do you have a reading plan or study you recommend?
Meet the Author!
Heather McAnear is a wife, mom, author and speaker with a passion for sharing God's truth to help women understand their uniquely beautiful design and how to use it for God's glory! In fact, Heather hosts the Uniquely Beautiful Stories podcast on iTunes in hopes do just that! She loves teaching young married couples with her husband, homeschooling their three children, traveling the world, enjoying good chocolate and long conversations in coffee shops. CRBC has been her church home for two decades and she is thrilled to be part of the Women's Ministry team, helping women connect with each other and grow in their walk with Jesus!