Why Do We Give Up Things for Lent?

If you weren’t raised in a Christian liturgical denomination, the idea of “giving up something” for the 40 day season of Lent may seem like a strange practice – and it may seem even stranger to your children, if it’s a new concept for them as well.  If you’re wondering why some of us take part in this season, I’d like to explain it a little further.

But before I go on, I want to address some of the concerns that were raised about Lent / Advent not being Biblical.  It’s true, neither of these seasons of reflection are required of Christians. We believe that Jesus’ sacrifice is perfect.  There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation…it is ours as a gift through the saving grace of Christ.  Praise God!  My goal is to lovingly explain how the principals of Lent are, indeed, Biblical: Fasting, prayer, service, etc.

The idea behind giving up something for Lent is based on Luke 9:23 “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”.  So, essentially it’s about self denial, carrying our cross and following Jesus.  It is something that’s done in a prayerful way, so that we can wholly renew ourselves in Christ. That’s an important part of the process for you as an individual, but also as a family. If your family or your children choose to participate in a Lenten fast, make sure that praying together and reading the Bible is part of the experience.

It’s all about conversion.

As a kid, I think the most widely used Lenten promise was to give up candy.  Yes, it was self denial, but come Easter morning– watch out little solid chocolate bunny!  So, yeah, there may have been a small disconnect in my complete understanding of Lent as a child.  The Lenten promise or “giving up” is about turning our lives over to Jesus, and giving up or turning away from sin.  A sin, or anything material that takes our focus off of Jesus, is a good thing to step away from–even for just 40 days.  In prayer, we can hope to grow in this time of conversion and be blessed with the realization that through Christ– NOT the fulfillment of the flesh–all things are possible.

I just have to say that giving up something like sugar for 40 days is really HARD.  I know it might seem laughable to some.  But for those of us who are emotional eaters, focusing on our need to come to the cross when we are hurting, as opposed to the box of Oreos, can be pretty significant in our walk of faith. Lent also serves as a wonderful opportunity to set an example for your children, who may or may not be giving something up themselves.

Many people make a Lenten promise to add something to their lives during this season. This can be done in conjunction with or in place of giving something up – and is another great way to worship as a family during the season. Maybe it’s reading the Bible daily with your children, doing a Lenten devotional, or choosing to do something within the community as a family for the poor, ill or elderly.

If you are looking for some devotionals to utilize with your family during this season, there are all sorts available in the Christian bookstores. This is an online resource that I’ve enjoyed using this year.  It’s a daily devotional that I can access wherever I’m at. Since we’re still unpacking our books from the move, this online resource really was my answer to a devotional this Lent. It’s easy and broken down into a daily guide.

Next week I’ll talk about the three pillars of Lent:  prayer, fasting and alms giving.  I’ll give you some church history and some applications that are still widely in place within the church today.

Do you feel you could benefit from a period of renewal or conversion prior to celebrating Easter?  How do you get ready to celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection? As an individual? As a family? Let’s discuss this here.

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