By Rachel Sinclair
Until last year, I had never participated in Lent. The church where I grew up hadn’t placed an emphasis on the season, and while I was aware of the concept, I brushed past Lent by saying, “I don’t really do that.”
My mindset changed when I felt God calling me to celebrate the Easter season in a new way, and more specifically, to engage in Lent through prayer and fasting.
This experience allowed me to deepen my walk with God and discover the following truths in a new, tangible light:
1. Recognizing the gravity of sin allows us to better understand Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the joy of salvation.
In an era of instant gratification, it seems counterintuitive to voluntarily participate in suffering or to focus on a somber subject.
However, the season of Lent invites believers to humble themselves before God, recognize the consequences of natural depravity, and strengthen dependence on God through fasting.
Last year I attended an Ash Wednesday service at an evangelical church, and I was struck by my reaction to the unfamiliar service.
As we read Scriptures about repentance, mourning, and sin, I was acutely aware of how easy it is for me to quickly dismiss those subjects and jump to grace and mercy.
The joy of God’s grace is always worthy of celebration but understanding the consequences of sin allows us to better celebrate and understand His love.
While meditating on these less glamorous theological truths, I also found a deeper appreciation for God’s sovereignty and His plan to redeem humanity through Christ.
Yes, there is sorrow and suffering in this world. Yes, death is a reality for all people.
However, God is greater than our failures and greater than our understanding. Best of all, He made a way for men to be right with Him.
2. Pain and suffering are temporary—both in an earthly context and an eternal context.
Last Lent season, I chose to fast from caffeine.
I understand that this is not the true biblical form of fasting, but I viewed this modified fast as an exercise of withholding physical pleasure to increase dependence on God.
As an avid coffee drinker, I thought this test would be a challenge. I was correct.
There were moments when I thought, If only I could have a cup of coffee, I would find relief. Perhaps most frustrating was the fact that I knew a solution to my problem existed, but at the moment, it was out of reach.
In these tough moments, I persevered because I knew the pain and discomfort would come to an end. This season would not last forever.
I realize caffeine is extremely trivial in the grand scheme of things, but this small example helped me understand a bigger truth: Suffering is temporary but hope in Christ is eternal.
I think of Psalm 27:13, which says, “I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.”
God will sustain us and give us strength in this current age, but even greater than that is the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, an eternity where pain and suffering are no more.
This hope is only possible because of Christ.
3. There is power in participating in a tradition that believers in the broader Church have practiced for centuries.
A small takeaway from Lent was recognizing I’m part of the Church, part of God’s people, who for centuries have been celebrating Christ our Savior and sharing the news of His gospel.
Obviously, this revelation isn’t news to me, but I felt I was able to relate to and appreciate the global church in a new way.
To know that believers across the world were going through the same experience at this exact same time was inspiring to me.
4. We can share the gospel by talking with others about our personal walk with the Lord.
While the primary focus of Lent is introspective, participating in Lent can provide opportunities to share with others about your faith.
When I received ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday, or when I turned down a cup of coffee to a friend’s surprise, I was able to tell people why I chose to participate in Lent and what I was learning along the way.
Since Lent is a journey, or a process, I found it easier to share about the challenges and blessings I received as a participant. Conversations were surprisingly natural, as I spoke of what God was teaching me through the unique experience.
5. There is goodness to be found in waiting and suffering.
During my fast from caffeine, I often thought, I wish it was Easter or I’m ready for this season to be over. However, I soon realized that this wasn’t completely true.
While I was in this period of waiting, there were still many things to look forward to and enjoy.
Yes, I was ready for the day I could resume my morning coffee routine, but I also didn’t want to rush through the joys of everyday life.
Fasting taught me that suffering or waiting in one area of life doesn’t take away from joy in other areas.
In fact, God often showed up with surprise blessings in that particular season of waiting. By being less self-reliant, I was able to see His strength and providence in new ways.
While participating in Lent is certainly not a requirement, it can be a challenging and healthy experience for believers.
If you’ve never been a part of Lent, I recommend that you prayerfully consider how God might use this season to draw you near to Him.