Have you ever had a great conversation with friends about what they’ve given up for Lent, all while hoping they don’t ask you the same? Or cringed in the awkward silence when they do ask, and you’re forced to admit you’ll still be consuming processed sugar and/or social media all through Easter? Have you ever wondered if your friends or church leaders secretly judge you as a heathen for not fasting? I have done all of these things―because I didn’t give up anything for Lent.
To be completely honest, Lent caught me by surprise this year. After a few days of berating myself and brainstorming options for fasting that suspiciously started to resemble self-improvement tactics under the guise of spiritual discipline, I ultimately decided against it.
The story easily could have ended there: the forgetful Christian neglects to prepare for the most important season of the faith, feels guilty, and then walks away questioning the legitimacy of their faith and their love for God. It’s certainly a practice that I often find myself slipping into easily. But thank God for grace―for while our sins and imperfections are unending, Jesus does not walk away from us; his love for us is never in question. God accepts us not because of our ability to complete the “to-do list” of being believers, but because of His loving mercy and grace.
It’s a fundamental concept that I struggle to accept on a daily basis, but God has been using this Lenten season to help me relearn this truth and deepen my understanding of His grace. He assures me that my salvation is not dependent on my ability to give up bubble tea for 40 days (though don’t get me wrong—fasting is a meaningful discipline that I still aspire to practice). He reminds me that His limitless grace enables me to offer the same to others, no matter how many times or how severe I feel the grievance may be. He also convicts me of my pride when I only consider the instances where I’m in the position to extend grace, because I most certainly need it from others more often than I can likely imagine.
In a song that has become somewhat of our Easter anthem (if you guessed “Forever (We Sing Hallelujah)” by Kari Jobe, you are correct!), a clear celebration of victory comes through in the chorus as we jubilantly sing, “Forever He is glorified, forever He is lifted high.” But this season, I am reassured and encouraged by the quieter bridge: “We sing ‘hallelujah,’ the Lamb has overcome.” Jesus has overcome death on the cross for every sin that we have and will continue to commit. He has overcome our doubts and overwhelms us with His love and ceaseless grace. He has overcome every obstacle that might keep us from Him, and He gives us hope.
Prayer, from Psalm 103
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.