I have never participated in Lent before. In my eyes, the “sacrifices” made by those around me (which would have only been high schoolers) were not sincere. I saw many people give up sweets or soda, not so that they could purify their bodies, a temple of God, or so that they could focus that temptation on growing closer to God, but simply so that they could lose some weight or kick start a diet. Almost everyone gave up social media, which is an awesome thing to sacrifice IF you instead spend that time growing closer to God. But really, who doesn’t want a break from social media every once in a while? Now I am not judging these people. I myself didn’t even try to sacrifice anything so I had no room to judge how they participated in Lent. These selfish motives or the idea of lent as a time of self improvement were mere observations that any onlooker could notice. And it made me not want to participate.
But, this year, I have decided to participate in my own, not so traditional form of Lent. Not because I need an extra boost of accountability to change or because everyone else is doing it, but because I want to. I have been thinking about it a lot. I believe that all Christians need to continue growing and to continue working towards purity and holiness. With this in mind, I decided on what to “give up” for lent- complaining.
Many of you probably think that doesn’t really make sense or that something abstract isn’t traditional. Well like I said, I’m participating a little differently. Instead of picking some random object to give up for 40 days, I truly evaluated my life and what aspects are not pleasing to God. It was quickly apparent that my thoughts have been consumed with negativity and grumbling. While juggling 18 credit hours, sorority life, several organizations, fundraising for my mission trip, and multiple bible studies/ church services, it is easy to say that I am stressed to the max. However, the way I have been complaining and not working as if for the Lord is truly unacceptable. I have a passion for everything I’m involved in, but if I am always dreading it, I will not be able to use my time on this campus as a witness to the Kingdom of God. All of my complaints are distancing me from God and are casting a shadow on what should be encouraging and uplifting words flowing from my lips. The main Bible verse I have chosen to focus on for Lent is Philippians 2:14-15:
Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.
I want to shine like a star in this world as a child of God. Not so that others see me, but so that they see Him. I want to give up complaining and instead refocus that attention on thanksgiving and praises to God for the many blessings and opportunities He has given me. Instead of complaining to others, I want to share with them what I’ve been blessed with and how all glory is to God.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing… Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:11&18
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. -Ephesians 4:29
I want to stop complaining. I want to start focusing my thoughts and words on how blessed I am to have such an amazingly loving and merciful God and what a privilege it is to be working towards His will for my life. These 40 days aren’t going to be perfect. It’s almost guaranteed that I will complain or grumble at least once. But, growing is a process. I don’t want to give up complaining until Easter, but for the rest of my life, because honestly all it does it cause self pity and negativity. I want to try to set myself apart in Christ’s name. Because if He is truly all I need, what do I have to complain about?
So maybe what I’m doing isn’t really Lent at all. Maybe the only correlation is that the timing of Lent caused me to reevaluate my life, but that’s okay. I want to hand over the complaints and everything that comes with it- negativity, selfishness, conceitedness, stress, distrust, etc. I want to be ever thankful and praising God because I have all I need in Him.
(If you’ve given up something for lent, I challenge you to truly evaluate your motives and to sincerely use this time to grow closer to God.)