Two weeks ago on the Christian calendar was Ash Wednesday, which begins the Lent season, the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. The practice, which has been going on for hundreds of years, is meant to signify a time of mourning for our sins to help us recognize the need for what Christ did for us on the cross and the significance of His resurrection. Most of us relate Lent to the practice of fasting, which is probably the biggest, most noticeable thing about Lent. But fasting is meant to be done for the simple practice of placing our need for sustainability on God and not on ourselves. Sometimes the idea of fasting seems rather silly, but the practice of depending on God is a very power, and honestly, probably underutilized and underappreciated discipline that stems back to ancient Judaism.
So, why is it important to practice dependence on God? Or, what you’re more likely thinking, how does fasting help me practice dependence on God? How does not eating chocolate or drinking soda help me become more dependent on God? Well, this are all really great questions, so good job you!
It honestly begins with your motivation. If you’re practicing Lent because you were told to or because you believe you have to, then you’re probably not going to get much out of it (other than some possible weight loss. Seriously, sugar is no joke. Trust me, I’m a diabetic). But if you have the right heart about it, you’re going to probably feel a much stronger connection with God.
Then we will begin to feel the Spirit of God working in our hearts again, because we’ve removed some of the distractions that prevent us from fully engaging in a relationship with him. Sometimes I find myself imagining how amazing it would have been to be the disciples and experiencing Jesus first hand. To be able to watch Him heal and hear Him speak. But the reality is that we are now able to experience God in a much more intimate and close relationship than the disciples could prior to His crucifixion and resurrection.
But what happens when we don’t feel that closeness. When it’s not so much that we doubt God, but He just doesn’t feel close or present? Well, encouragingly, every Christian struggles with this feeling at some point or another and often times over and over again throughout their life. But how do we reconnect with what we once felt was so close? Or how do we connect something that has never felt close. Unfortunately, there isn’t a blanket statement that will magically spark that fire. It actually starts with our own heart of desire to be closer to God, but it usually goes beyond that. If we do not remove the distractions that are driving a wedge between ourselves in God, we will never reconnect that severed relationship. And that’s what makes the season of Lent and the practice of fasting beneficial to our spiritual growth.
So, is practicing Lent a necessity to living a Godly Christian life? By no means. Does practicing Lent make you a better Christian? Not necessarily. But what it does do is remind us that God is a life-giving, life-sustaining, all-loving God. It redirects us to the end of the season, to the reason that Christ came in the first place, to the resurrection. Christ’s ultimate purpose on earth was not just to preach some sermons and tell rich people they were doing it wrong. No, it was to offer us relationship, connection, and a life full of His presence, His grace, and His life-sustaining faithfulness. But the question remains: are we willing to put that much trust in this God who has poured out His love for us?
“Happy are we if we put into practice what we hear and sing. For our hearing is a sowing of seed and our actions the fruit of that seed. Having said this, I would warn you against coming into church fruitlessly, having such good tidings but not producing good works.”—an Excerpt from a Sermon by St. Augustine.