We want it now.
Western culture promotes as universal law the unproven notion that “faster is better.” We either learned this as children or failed to unlearn it. Either way, in almost every area of life, we dive headlong into speeding up anything we can: shopping, getting fit, paying bills, falling asleep, getting where we’re going, finding love.
But human beings simply cannot live at lightening speed. We’re not designed to.
Our Christian forefathers and mothers understood this, especially when it comes to the mysteries of God.
Like the Crucifixion.
You and I cannot fast-forward our way to comprehending the essence and meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ. And more important than our ability to comprehend, we simply cannot take in or enter in to the mystery of the Crucifixion quickly.
We are in the midst of Lent. Historically, Christians have set apart this season to prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. They marked this season that we would move toward Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection with deliberation—humbly and penitently.
I’ve been rushing and hurried this Lent. (If I’ll see it, even this is evidence of my empty, hungry, and helpless state.)
Lent is incongruent to modern life. It grates against the pace and pressure of the everyday. It is meant to.
Looking through the Gospels, each one clearly depicts Jesus’ life moving toward the Cross. He knew where He was heading, deliberated it, predicted it, “set His face like flint” toward it.
Fasting during Lent is meant to help us join Him.
If you’re struggling to fast this Lent or if you’re thinking about it but haven’t begun, let me encourage you.
- Let your intentional emptiness remind you of your intentional rebellion and willful sin (James 4:8-10).
- Let your hunger pangs cue you to remember how empty you are on your own and for Whom you’re most hungry.
- Turn your longing into prayer: “I hunger and thirst for You, the living God” (Psalm 42:2, Psalm 84:2).
- Let your hunger increase your anticipation for the communion table’s “real food and real drink” (John 6:55) on Good Friday.
- Let your physical emptiness serve to draw you to Christ’s own emptiness and suffering on your behalf (Philippians 2:5-8).
- Trust God to use your unfulfilled cravings as spiritual and physical preparation for Jesus’ invitation to “Take, eat” (Matthew 26:26).
- Let the hungry ache in your body awaken it to participate in your faith. Meditate on the truth that Christ’s crucifixion has implications for every dimension of physical life imaginable.
I’d love to hear from you: What do you do (or not do) during Lent that helps you prepare for Good Friday and Easter?
I have been having trouble “giving something up” for lent this year. And it has caused me to try to hide from God because I do believe He has told me to participate in this preparatory time and I have been just letting the time pass. What struck a cord within me is the notion of realizing that what I really hunger for is the Lord Himself! All else is immediately satisfying but ultimately empty. This is what I shall meditate on today. I confess I am fearful as I begin the day. But “perfect love casts out fear”. So I shall begin again. There is no sacrifice greater than the sacrifice of Christ. I yearn for Him and for closeness to Him. Thank you.
When I was in high school, I had a friend who fasted regularly. I didn’t, but I have always remembered that he’d spend those hungry days praying, “I hunger and thirst for you, O God.” I learned this from him, and have remembered (and valued) this practice to this day.
I did not grow up in a church that practices Lent, and have always regarded it as another attempt at legalism (as in giving up something to please God). But now I see your practices are really geared toward heart preparation. Thanks! I needed that.
You’re welcome, Carey. I used to regard Lent similarly and can still slip into viewing fasting and other spiritual disciplines that way. Richard Foster writes (I’m paraphrasing) that the disciplines don’t earn God’s favor, but they set us in a place to be able to receive from God. Christopher West writes that our human longings–if we don’t rush to fill them with immediate satisfaction–can stretch our hearts to receive more of God’s infinite love. Or as you put it, they can help prepare our hearts for more of Christ. Thanks for sharing!