Text: Hebrews 12:3-13
“Yet whatever else it may be, Lent should never be morose – an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. Instead, we ought to approach Lent as an opportunity, not a requirement. After all, it is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges.”
– the editors of Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
When we are called into a time of fasting – whether physical or spiritual – we are called into a time of nearness to the Lord. Yet, as romantic as it sounds, this drawing near can be difficult, even excruciating. Yes, the surpassing joy of the Lord is there, indeed. But pain is often there, too. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Reading this passage from Hebrews 12 in the context of Lent, I imagine the spiritual discipline of fasting as a literal loosening of our grip on sin. Long and slow, it is the painful opening of our heart and our hands so tightly wrapped around our sin and self-sufficiency.
If Lent means “springtime” and “renewal,” it must be in part because we come to it as barren trees at the end of winter, stripped down and empty, desperate hands reaching to the sky, searching for sun, searching for life.
In this moment of purest need we are exposed and utterly vulnerable, broken so that Christ may enter into the deepest heart of our hearts.
The enduring is hard work and yet holy. It hurts, but we carry on because we know God’s love is sure. We know His faithfulness is real. We know our most intense sufferings can’t compare with His. And we know that He endured those sufferings for the love of us.
He endured for the countless times we would come home, empty and broken.
He endured to turn the harsh winter into a promise.
He endured to bring springtime to our cold, dead hearts.
He endured so that we can endure, by His boundless grace.
Praise be to God.