BY Diana Stone
Text: Isaiah 58:1-14
Last year was my first time observing Lent, a season I’d known next to nothing about prior to that. I was caught up in the whirlwind of its beauty, especially online. It seemed everyone was giving up something they leaned on in day to day life. Coffee and chocolate were especially mourned, but I decided that without coffee I may not make it through Lent at all.
Beautiful journals, study guides, books, and prints filled my social media. I was blown away by the fervor for this time in the life of the Church, yet in each purchase and choice that I made, something felt wrong.
Why did Lent seem like it was all about me?
Maybe you’re feeling the same things this year. Maybe you decided not to do anything because your ideas felt shallow compared to the Easter story we’re preparing for. Maybe, like me, your heart needs to be reminded that this season is not about our holy acts or intentions, but the love and mercy of our Holy God.
Part of walking deeper in our journey with Christ is learning to turn our inward focus outward—taking our gaze off ourselves and onto Christ, and onto others for the sake of Christ. Let’s take a moment today to explore what “giving up something for Lent” might look like in light of God’s Word and the “chosen fast” He calls us to in Isaiah 58.
What if we thought about:
Giving up evil practices (Judges 2:19).
Giving up violence and oppression (Ezekiel 45:9).
Giving up religious compromise (Daniel 3:28).
Giving up possessions (Luke 14:33).
Giving up words that tear others down (Ephesians 4:29).
I want to encourage you to read these Scriptures—and others!— and listen to the Holy Spirit. Where is He nudging your heart this Lent season and beyond—to shift your gaze outward onto Christ and His Church?
Would you give up your Instagram feed being solely dedicated to your life to include causes that burden your heart? Would you give up a grudge or ill-thoughts toward a friend and devote time to praying for her each day? Would you be willing to give up complacency and take a stand for your faith in a place you may not be comfortable, whether online or off, for the sake of the lost and the glory of God? Where can you extend God’s mercy to others right here where He has placed you?
Whatever this Lent season looks like for you—from devoting time to writing in a journal, to reading your children a Bible story each night—let’s allow the season to reflect the heart of the Father, the reason we prepare our souls for the sacrifice and celebration to come. We can never come close to what Jesus gave up for us, but we can draw ourselves close to Him.
Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’
– Isaiah 58:6-9a, HCSB