Lenten Discipline

An excellent proposal by JoHannah Reardon:

I am not part of a church that regularly practices Lent, but the last few years I thought it would be good for me to give up something for 40 days, helping me to see my addictions and dependencies. In our indulgent, instant-gratification society, I saw the value of voluntarily depriving myself of something in order to focus more on who God is and how much I need him.

When I first started practicing Lent, I followed everyone else’s suggestions and gave up a certain food or media. Those experiences were fairly useful in showing me deep-seated habits and thus made me more aware of my need for my Savior as a result.

But last year I took time to pray about what I should give up for Lent. I asked God to show me a dependency that truly was hindering my relationship with him. I thought about foods, but I’m a fairly disciplined eater, so that didn’t seem to be a problem area for me. I’m also not a big media junky, so I didn’t feel compelled to go that route again. As I continued to ponder it before God, I had the strong impression that I was to give up worry for 40 days.

When I told my husband my decision, he looked at me skeptically. “Aren’t you supposed to give up something you enjoy for Lent?” He had a good point, but since I wasn’t tied to any church tradition anyway, I felt I could practice Lent any way I wanted. And once the idea of giving up worry for 40 days began to take hold, I felt stronger and stronger that was the course for me.

The funny thing was that if you’d asked me if I was a worrier, I would have said no. I have a pretty laissez faire attitude toward difficulties. I’ve usually faced the big things in life with trust rather than panic. So I could understand my husband’s attitude about me giving up worry.What’s the big deal about that? But I felt the nudge as strongly as I’ve felt anything, so I went with it.

Although I felt this conviction pretty strongly, nothing prepared me for the next 40 days, which turned out to be some of the most amazing, faith-filled days of my life. And to my surprise, I found out that worry has been one of my most deep-seated, tenacious sins.


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  • Kel

    Really gets at the heart!

    “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the field and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD. I will take joy in the God of my salvation” Habakkuk 3:17-18.

  • TriciaM

    Over the years I’ve given up coffee(hard!), wine(total failure) and other comestibles, but the best and most blessed Lent ever was when I gave up guilt. Thanks, JoHannah for the reminder to look beyond the kitchen for a Lenten sacrifice.

  • This year I’ve given up cynicism for Lent. Hope it’s for good.

  • TriciaM

    Forgot to add, this year I’m giving up “Car Crash Christianity” – avoiding all blog posts which mention certain controversial leaders and inevitably get a huge number of comments.

  • DAK

    I usually target dependencies as well; generally physical things things I like. However, sometimes I target emotional dependencies and personality traits that I “like”, but which are destructive to my life in Jesus; e.g., anger at others (particularly when it is dwelt on and enjoyed), feelings of superiority and pride toward others, envy, etc. Those Lenten seasons have been some of the most blessed (and painful) as I “give up” those traits and thoughts which can control me and instead attempt to focus on our Lord and King and what he gave up. Shalom.

  • Isn’t worry something we should give up all the year round. Isn’t it sinful – a lack of faith. Not that I approve of liturgical calendars and lent. Or better, not that the Bible approves.

  • TriciaM

    John, I’m interested in your wording: “not that the Bible approves”.

    The Bible doesn’t approve of blogs, Christmas or cat ownership either. Is there any explicit disapproval of liturgical calendars and Lent in the Bible that would cause you also to disapprove? I’m not stirring – just curious as to what made you say that. Apologies if I’m just being dim.

  • Tim

    Thanks for all these posts.
    Using several as sermon illustrations.

    Re the liturgical year — what does Jesus do?
    He observes the church (synagogue) calendar year most of the time — three passovers in John 2,6, 11-19, Booths/Sukkoth (John 7), Dedication/Hanukah (John 10) and another un-named festival (John 5). Our practice of last supper is based on his practice of Passover.
    Fulfilling each to be sure, but I am not convinced this means doing away with the basics of each…
    Paul appears to keep the Passover too…(Acts)

    Johanna’s post and those that follow seem to me to be very much in harmony with Jesus’ approach to the liturgical calendar — doing it, fulfilling it, putting his mark on it, transforming it, but also in some sense sustaining…

  • #7 TriciaM and others.

    Firstly, I do take the view that in terms of church activities it is better to err on the side of ‘what is not commanded is forbidden’ than ‘what is not forbidden is acceptable. I do not make an absolute rule out of this but it is a safe principle. If religious calendars and the trappings of various rituals and rites is so helpful then why doesn’t the NT urge them on the church?

    Secondly, and more importantly, I do think the NT disapproves. This I think is Paul’s point in Col 2/3. ThL
    Paul specifically says that special festivals, diets, ascetic practices etc are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

    These are methods of ‘holiness’ that belong to the old age (under law). They are mere shadows. They are ‘elemental’ and primitive. His point is that holiness and godliness is not through any of these fleshly religious ways but through recognising by faith that we have died and risen with Christ. Christians grow in holiness by setting their mind and affections on things above. As we allow our minds and hearts to focus on Christ in glory and the coming Kingdom this enables us to put to death the flesh and live for God. Every other method is a waste of time and ultimately will become a form of bondage.

    I urge a close reading of Colossians 2/3 and reflecting on these chapters.

  • #8 Tim

    Jesus was a Jew living under Law. He kept all these regulations as a submissive Jew. We are not united with Christ on earth but Christ in heaven. In resurrection Christ ascended to heaven and is no longer under law. As those united to Christ we too are to consider ourselves dead to this world and these religious methods.

    We are to live by faith in what is invisible and intangible and not by the inferior methods of the Old covenant (buildings, incense, festivals, diets, ascetic practices etc). All these are Judaistic not Christian.

  • TriciaM

    Thanks for your answer, John. I’m not sure if I hear an undertone of anti-Catholicism in your message but I do understand your concerns about misplaced worship. However, the liturgical calendar isn’t specific to the Roman Catholic Church. It can be held to very lightly and second to the Bible and, in that role, be helpful to one’s spiritual life.

    It’s certainly possible to worship the trappings of a church tradition just as it is possible to worship the Bible rather than Jesus. I completely agree if that’s your concern.

  • Hi TriciaM

    No, I can assure you it was not intentionally an attack on RCC. I sort of assumed those who were writing were evangelicals. It is principally the drift of evangelicals into what I believe to be sub-biblical ways that concern me. However, I do believe that the RCC has been deeply compromised by Judaistic religion. Unfortunately it seems to me some areas of modern evangelicalism are too.

    In all of this, I may add my opposition is to beliefs and not people. I endeavour by God’s grace to love people while disagreeing with their beliefs.