Lent: Why give something up?
Lent is traditionally a season of giving something up, from Ash Wednesday until Easter morning. But why?
Let me suggest two reasons why you may want to give something up for the next several weeks (if you have not already done so).
1: Giving something up for Lent is an opportunity for us to identify with Jesus and to take to heart what He did for us. He gave up His home in heaven to live with us on earth. He gave up His life to die for us. He gave up His pristine union with God to bear our sins, leaving Him crying from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” By giving up chocolate or desserts or video games or television or the casino, we have the chance to take to heart what Christ sacrificed for us. Every time we feel the pull for whatever we gave up, we can remember how much more Christ gave up for us, and we can thank Him for that.
2: Giving something up for Lent is an opportunity for us to create a bit of “emptiness” in ourselves. When we deprive ourselves of something we normally have and which we want, we create a bit of “emptiness” in ourselves. Where there is emptiness, there is opportunity for God to fill that empty place. The inverse of this is that when there is no emptiness in us, there is no tendency for us to give God room to fill any part of us.
Jesus begins the Beatitudes by stressing, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” It is our “poverty” or our “emptiness” that gives us opportunity to receive the kingdom of God, for it is our poverty or emptiness that leaves us open to be filled by God!
In his book, The PAPA Prayer, Larry Crabb points out, “I do not believe that we hear Papa’s voice [God’s intimate voice to us] until we discover an empty, desolate void within us that is teeming with passionate desires for fullness. Until we cut through all the legitimate happiness and pleasure in our lives, until we look beneath every sorrow and heartache that comes from living in this world, and until we enter the deepest space in our hearts that is painfully, horribly empty, we will not discover the beautiful sound of our Father’s voice. At least not as clearly as we want to.”
Giving up something for Lent gives us the opportunity to “discover an empty, desolate void” in our souls by setting aside for a while at least one of the things that covers up that “empty, desolate void” in us. Giving up something for Lent gives us an opportunity to “discover the beautiful sound of our Father’s voice.”
If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to give up something for the remaining weeks of Lent…and see what might happen in your soul.