Lent is not meant to be a gloomy season, but one where we deepen our relationship with Christ.
Lent is notoriously looked down upon by many Christians and seen as a painful season to endure. It can be tempting to think of it as a season where we are “forced” to give up something that we enjoy. However, this misses the fact that Lent is meant to be a time of spiritual renewal and we are challenged to approach it with joy.
Instead of approaching Lent in a negative way, we are invited to view it in the positive, as a season where we can deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ and accompany him on his fateful journey to Jerusalem.
If we truly love Jesus, shouldn’t this be exciting? Typically we are overjoyed when we can spend more time with our spouse or loved one. Shouldn’t we have the same feeling about Jesus?
Christian writer Frederick Charles Woodhouse wrote in his book A Manual for Lent (published in 1883) a similar view of Lent that we should learn from and consider.
Once again Lent has come; once again let us welcome it; let us thank God for it; let us enter upon it with zest and expectation, as upon a season of blessing, a season most fit for us…Many shrink from Lent as a dreary, painful, forbidding season, and so lose half its blessing and all its sweetness. Away with this! Let us take up the Cross with a smile; let us look up to God, and around at our fellow Christians, and inward at our own hearts, and say as our watchword and motto, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem;” Jerusalem, the city of peace; the city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God; our very home, where all good things are, and all dear ones; where all we want, and have wanted so long, will at last be ours. “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem.”
It is true that this pathway to Jerusalem is often filled with difficulties and suffering, but these privations are only stepping-stones to reach a place of serenity and peace.
The way is long, and sometimes hard and dreary; but as we go we forget it all, and break forth into singing. It is hard to give up and leave behind what nature so dearly loves, but lo sacrifice brings more delight than indulgence. We lay hold of the crown of thorns, pale with terror; our hands tremble as we raise it to our heads. In that little space we have many times resolved to throw it away; but somehow we place it shuddering upon our heads; and lo! its thorns are gone, and there are flowers there instead. We try to have fellowship with Christ in His Passion; we take up the Cross; we court pain, in loving sympathy with Him; but lo! He is always beforehand with us. He has borne all pain Himself; He has taken away the sting of it; He has drained out the power of all; these mortifications do but give us joy and peace.
Jesus similarly told his disciples to not let fasting impact them in a negative way, but to approach it in a spirit of joy.
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
In the end, Lent is a beautiful time for the soul and opens-up a pathway to spiritual renewal. Our experience of Lent will greatly depend on the way we look at it. If we see it as a time of privation, we will likely not last the whole of Lent. However, if we see it as a way to draw closer to Jesus, any sacrifice we do will be worth it and we will approach it with joy.
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