What is Lent for?
Christians use Lent as a time of spiritual discovery and growth.
Giving up for Lent
The idea of giving up something for Lent has its roots in the spiritual discipline of fasting. It’s a practice shared by many religions of the world, but for Christians based on the example of Jesus who fasted in the desert at the start of his public ministry.
There are different ways and types of fasting. Nothing should be done which is harmful to health. If you want your fasting to be a purely Lenten discipline it needs to be other than giving up unhealthy habits, like smoking or excessive drinking, which you could be giving up in any case for other good reasons.
Even so, this Lent could just be your time to make that positive change of lifestyle you need which will last for the rest of your life not just until Easter Day. With an increased focus on the need for lifestyle changes because of the climate emergency, Lent could be the opportunity to try out those lifestyle changes you want to make for the sake of the planet.
Giving to charity or church
Another traditional spiritual discipline for Lent is the practice of giving money to charity. This can be linked to fasting. The money you save by giving up something during Lent can be donated to a charitable cause. Again, to make a real difference this needs to be over and above what you give already because of your love for God and neighbour.
This Lent could be the time you review your overall giving to God’s work and decide to move permanently to a new level of generosity. It could also be a time for a spring clear-out of stuff you don’t need anymore, which could be sent to a local charity shop or charity recycling scheme.
Getting to know Jesus better
A third good way for Christians to use Lent is to get to know Jesus better, by prayer and by the study of his life and teaching. The other Lenten disciplines are also about deepening our awareness and knowledge of God’s goodness and love all around us, which was embodied in Jesus. Jesus is the model and also the source of our life, and so, what better use of Lent is there than to take extra time to know Jesus better? This will need discipline but it is not a harsh regime; it’s a brilliant “luxury” to make for ourselves because it will be enjoyable, in the true sense of bringing joy.