Letting Go for Lent

Lent started this past Wednesday. This is the time on the Christian calendar when some Christians around the world and throughout history have begun their spiritual preparations for Holy Week and Easter. Of course, it is best known for people who observe the Lenten season giving something up during that time. This is sometimes referred to as “fasting”, even though the thing you give up doesn’t have to be something you eat or drink.

Even though I’m not Catholic or Anglican, a few years ago I decided to Observe Lent. Today, I’d like to spend a few moments reflecting on how this practice has helped me in my spiritual journey.

This year, I felt God nudging me to enter the season of Lent with my hands wide open. Pondering this over the last couple of weeks, I think there are three main reasons why God may have placed this directive on my heart.

First, Let Go for My Own Good

Here’s the thing: I think one of God’s top priorities for me, and all of us, is that we deepen our relationship with Him. The closer we are to Him, the more He can fill us with His blessings. And the more He can work in us–molding us like a Potter into better versions of ourselves–and He can work through us–helping others and bringing little hints of heaven into this broken world.

So, I don’t think God really cares if you give up chocolate or television or coffee, or even if you give up anything at all. I think what He cares about more is that we let go of anything that might come between us and Him.

Our enemy, the devil, knows our tendency to become obsessed with anything, so he uses that against us. Using this simple strategy, he urges us to take something good and make it bad. For example, going to church is a good thing–I believe God wants us to do it regularly so we can be intentional about worshipping Him and growing closer to Him. However, if going to church becomes an obligation, something you do to check a box so God will accept you, the enemy has taken that good thing and twisted it into something bad. Or if you get wrapped up in being so involved in church activities that you miss what’s happening in the world around you–and therefore, opportunities to shine God’s light into the darkness outside the church walls–you have allowed the evil one to distort something good into an idol that takes God’s place in your heart.

So for me, Lent this year is about prayerfully considering things I may be holding onto too tightly. I’m asking God to show me if there’s anything I need to let go of that might be standing in the way of growing closer to Him. And whatever that thing is (or those things are), I’m also praying for God’s help to put it (or them) into the proper place in my life. Do I need to eliminate it altogether? Or do I just need to loosen my grip on it so I can cling tighter to my God–my Hope and my Salvation?

That thing will become what I give up for Lent, out of gratitude for what Jesus will give up for me on Good Friday.

Second, Let Go for God’s Kingdom

Besides letting go of anything that might be disrupting my relationship with God, there’s another reason why God may want me (and all of us) to approach Holy Week and Easter with open hands: so He can use whatever we’re grasping for the good of His Kingdom and this world.

He might take that thing that’s so precious to us and multiply it so it benefits many people. There’s a story of Jesus feeding 5,000 men and their families (about 20,000 people). Besides the resurrection of Christ, this is the only other miracle that is described in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 14:13–21; Mark 6:31–44; Luke 9:12–17; John 6:1–14). Evidently, people were so excited about attending Jesus’s revival meeting that only one family out of the thousands of people thought to bring something to eat for dinner. When Jesus told the disciples to feed all of these people, they were baffled. They worked the crowd to find that one family who had brought five loaves of bread and two fish.

How do you think that family felt? They must have had at least a fleeting thought along the lines of, “Wait a minute. We brought enough for our family. If we give this up to feed 20,000 people, our family will get nothing but a few crumbs. That doesn’t seem right….” But they set those thoughts aside and let go of the loaves and fish.

And what did Jesus do with that meager offering? He multiplied it so many times that all 20,000 people ate as much as they wanted, and there were still 12 baskets full of leftovers!

I wonder if the family who had brought the five loaves and two fish got to keep any of those leftovers…. The lack of any information about that is a lesson in itself: we may be asked to release our material blessings for the good of others without any guarantee that we will receive equivalent blessings in return, at least not on this side of heaven. Jesus teaches an important lesson about the mindset of His kingdom:

Borrowed from YouVersion

He does promise that we will be rewarded for our generosity–He just doesn’t say when we will be rewarded. It might not be until we get to heaven.

Borrowed from YouVersion

On the other hand, there’s a story in the Old Testament (1 Kings 17) where the reward for letting go of material possessions is immediate and significant. Elijah approaches a widow at Zarephath during a famine. This woman is about to bake her last bit of food for one final meal for her and her son before they die. Elijah asks her to give him those final morsels, but he also assures her she will have enough food until the famine ends. In an incredible act of faith, she complies. She lets go of the last bit of sustenance she has. She is rewarded right away for her faith. Not only does she end up with enough food to still make a meal for her and her son, but she also ends up with a supply of flour and olive oil that does not run out until the famine ends.

That’s great, of course, but I can also picture Jesus telling us that we should not do anything for His kingdom expecting an immediate return on what we have given. He wants us to want to let go of things because we are so thankful for what he has given up for us, and because His Spirit is helping us to see the world the way He sees it.

This post is already longer than I had anticipated, so I’ll briefly mention (without going into a lot of detail) that this idea of committing things for the good of God’s Kingdom and making the world a better place applies to our skills and abilities as much as it does to our material possessions–maybe even more so. It has always struck me that the Parable of the Talents that Jesus tells in Matthew 25:14-30 has a bit of a double meaning. I know the term “talents” was used to refer to money in those days, but it’s remarkable that today the word refers to the abilities we could use to earn money.

We need to be willing to commit our resources and our abilities to God. No matter how much or how little we have to give, He will multiply our offerings as needed to care for His flock.

He may even ask us to use talents we didn’t even know we had. He asked Peter, a fisherman with no theological training (other than following Jesus around for three years!), to preach his first sermon in front of thousands of people. Apparently, it went well. 3,000 people were converted as a result, and the new church of Jesus Christ was born.

Finally, Open My Hands for What I Will Receive

I’ll be brief here. As I mentioned earlier, I should not be expecting God to give me material blessings in return for what I might be giving up. But here’s what I can expect to receive:

Borrowed from YouVersion

These are the blessings God will give me–and all of us–if we will receive them with hands wide open. As we remove obstacles to a deeper and deeper relationship with Him, He fills us with His Holy Spirit. In turn, we are blessed with things we all (and this broken world) could use more of–love joy, and peace, among other fruits.

This seems like a good exchange for whatever small thing God could be asking each of us to give up for the 40 days of Lent.

And now for something completely different–I’ve started a podcast in association with this blog. If you’d prefer to listen to the podcast for this post, here’s a link to the episode in Spotify. These episodes will also be available on your favorite podcast platform, so please search for “Master’s Canvas” there, or let me know which platform you prefer and I can provide the direct link. Happy listening!

About Writing & Photography by David K. Carpenter

Photographer of Light and Life, Writer of Life as it finds me
This entry was posted in Christian, Faith, Miracles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Letting Go for Lent

  1. Jerome says:

    That’s good! 🙏

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