I was brought up in a church tradition that placed an importance on Lent, and during this time, we were encouraged to “give up” something to allow us to identify with the suffering of Jesus as He made his journey to the cross. Usually, we chose to give up things we had been over-indulging in, or things that had been distracting us from devotion to Christ. When Resurrection Sunday came, we celebrated our risen Lord and His victory over death with a big meal and went back to consuming what we’d given up for 40 days.
As I reflect on Christ and His crucifixion, it occurs to me that this approach to Lent missed something very important. Experiencing the resurrection means something has to die. I can’t truly connect to the sufferings of Christ unless death takes place. I am confronted with asking myself, “What in me needs to die in order for me to experience the resurrection power of Christ?”
What transformation will take place in my life if I give up those things I’ve been running to for comfort or to cope with the stresses of life if I run right back to them after Resurrection Sunday? Whether I’ve given up something that I’ve been misusing (maybe sweets, or meat, or alcohol) or I’ve given up something that is more obviously problematic (like sexually addictive behaviors or unholy attachments with others), if I return to them after Lent, I’ve done nothing more than declare a moratorium for a brief period on behavior that needs to die.
The thing is there’s no need for despair because for the believer death is good news! Some of these things will die a slow death, but death will come. Death means freedom, wholeness, and reconciliation. It means the things we’ve left in the grave stay in the grave. It means the lies the enemy has gotten us to believe about ourselves no longer ring true.
This Lenten season, I choose to remember that on the cross, Jesus conquered the things that get in the way of my ability to connect intimately with Him. My prayer is that when Resurrection Sunday comes, I’ll be hungry for a deeper relationship with my Savior, not for the things I gave up.
What needs to die in your life this Lenten season? Are you willing to trust that Jesus has the power to keep it in the grave and resurrect freedom, wholeness, and reconciliation? Let’s pray together that the Lord will fill our hearts with the hope of what He will do in our lives when Resurrection Sunday comes.