Lent doesn’t get a lot of love in my corner of the evangelical (Baptist) world, but there is incredible value in voluntarily giving something up for a period of time to refocus your mind and heart on Jesus. Lent starts today and runs for 40 days through March 24. If you’re looking to give something up for Lent as a way to refocus your life on Jesus, here are 10 meaningful things you can give up for Lent this year. Now, as a disclaimer, understand that many of these will hurt you a little bit. They will cause discomfort. That’s the point: by depriving ourselves of what we crave, we remind ourselves that our ultimate satisfaction comes only from God. For it to be meaningful, it has to be a genuine sacrifice for you. Here are 10 meaning things:
1. Food – This is where many people end up for Lent. Is overeating an issue for you? Does your sweet tooth dominate your eating habits? Is there a comfort food that you’ve come to rely on too much? Maybe it’s a meal a day or a certain type of food, but food is a very common item to give up for Lent.
2. Social Media – Is social media the first thing you check in the morning and the last thing you check at night? How many times a day do you scroll through your social media news feed? Social media can become an addiction and a distraction like most anything else. Perhaps you need to give up social media for Lent.
3. Television – How many hours a day are you plopped down in the living room watching something when you should be up doing something? Has television come to dominate your time? Perhaps you need to give up your favorite television shows or television as a whole for Lent.
4. Internet – Perhaps you’re an internet junkie, constantly watching YouTube, scouring your favorite news sites or (if you’re honest) looking at pornography online. Is the internet bringing out the best in you? If not, unplugging from the internet for 40 days could revolutionize your relationship with God.
5. (Video) Games – Are you a gamer? Do you lose hours of sleep each night playing the latest Call of Duty? Are you constantly on your phone playing the latest iPhone game? If games have become a distraction to you, then this could be a very meaningful thing to give up for Lent.
6. Sex – This doesn’t apply to married people (I don’t want any hate mail from the husbands). But if you’re honest, perhaps you’re hitting the dating scene too hard, making too many compromises and ending up with too many regrets. Maybe a 40-day fast from anything sexual could be the first step towards getting your relationship with God right.
7. Alcohol – I know you say you only drink socially and that you can stop anytime you want. Can you? Can you really? Then why not give up alcohol for Lent? Why not give it up as a way to refocus your mind and your heart on Jesus, the One who gives ultimate satisfaction.8. Sleep – What if you were more responsible about when you went to bed and when you woke up? Is staying up past midnight and scrambling out of the door at the last minute the next morning making you the person you want to be? What if you covenanted to go to bed by 10 pm each night and set your alarm for 6 am every morning during Lent to spend time with Jesus before you left your house? That would definitely bring you closer to God.
9. Isolation – Perhaps you’re a homebody. Perhaps you’re perfectly content behind your door, behind your technology, behind your pets. Perhaps what God is calling you to give up for Lent is isolation, the emotional barriers you put up that keep you from doing life in community. Perhaps your resolution for Lent is to get out of the house, be at church as often as possible, to join a small group and start doing life together. Isolation could be an incredible thing to give up for Lent this year.
10. Income – Are you ready to follow the biblical example of tithing and give 10% of your income to God? Perhaps it’s a local church, perhaps it’s a Christian charity, or perhaps God is calling you to give it to someone in need, but what could God do in your life if you trust Him with 10% of your income for 40 days? That’s three paychecks. What difference could God make through your faithfulness? Here’s what God himself says in Malachi 3:10, “’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” Maybe Lent is when you take him up on his challenge to trust him with your finances.
If you made it this far, you might be overwhelmed with all the areas that you need to get right. Don’t try and do them all. Pick one, two at most. Focus on one area to bring into obedience to God. When you’re finished with these forty days, you can start again on your own and tackle another area. But use Lent as a springboard to renew and strengthen your faith in God.
Now here’s the critical part: to maximize the potential of Lent, it’s not enough just to give something up. You need to replace it with something beneficial. When you give up food or social media or alcohol, it’s going to create a deficiency, a hunger in your life. Instead of being miserable (and hungry), use that deficiency to drive you to God remind you that Jesus is your complete sufficiency.
Whatever you give up for Lent, replace it with beneficial things like: Bible reading, prayer, church involvement, an encouraging book, Christian music, exercise or community. Today begins Lent. Join millions of other Christians across the world and leverage this opportunity to grow closer to God. Good luck and God bless!