Lent is often seen as a time for giving up. A time to test ourselves: can we really live without caffeine or chocolate or alcohol or Facebook for 40 days? But one can’t help wondering, what is the point of giving up for 40 days only to come to Easter Sunday, pig out again and carry on where we left off?
Sacrifice and discipline are not popular concepts in today’s gluttonous culture. Yet there is an increasing awareness among people that indulgence is not what life is all about. One recent example is the story in the news a couple of weeks ago of a former Lottery winner who, at the age of 17, won £1million and is now, at the age of 21, suing Camelot (who organise the National Lottery) for making her life a misery (she claims that she was too young to be able to cope with the pressure of winning and the age limit should be raised to 18… although it is questionable whether at the age of 18 she would have been any better equipped!).
But it is not just Lottery winners who realise there’s more to life than simply more. Interestingly, Lent is becoming popular among Millennials (both religious and non-religious) as an opportunity to either give up a vice or adopt a simpler lifestyle.
As a season it reminds us of the timeless virtues of sacrifice and discipline and in particular the practices of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. While giving something up can be a good way of exercising discipline, there are many other ways you can mark the season of Lent this year.
A renewed focus on bible study and prayer is a wonderful way to mark Lent. Another idea is to sign up to 40acts. 40acts is the generosity challenge for Lent, created by UK Christian charity, Stewardship. It is based on the concept of using lent as a way of impacting people and local communities with acts of generosity – one act a day. Over the years, Stewardship has seen more than 100,000 people sign up to their challenge of 40acts. If you want to find out more you can visit: https://40acts.org.uk.
In all these ways, Lent can be an opportunity to rethink how we shape our lives, what really matters and how we grow in our relationship with God. And the sign of a successful lent is not that we last until Easter Sunday, but that we fundamentally change the way we live so that, in the words of Jesus, we “go and bear fruit, fruit, that will last” (John 15:16).