What Is Lent and Why Is It Important?
Have you ever wondered what people are talking about when they say they’re giving something up for Lent? Do you feel like you understand what Lent is and how it relates to Easter?
Lent is the 40 days (not including Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Easter. Lent is often referred to as a time of preparation and an opportunity to go deeper with God. This means that it’s a time for personal reflection that prepares people’s hearts and minds for Good Friday and Easter.
What Are the Key Days During Lent?
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. You may have noticed people with a smudged, black cross on their foreheads. Those are ashes from the Ash Wednesday service. Ashes symbolize grief for the things we’ve done wrong and the resulting division of imperfect people from a perfect God.
Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday. It commemorates the night before Jesus died when He shared the Passover meal with His closest friends and followers.
Good Friday is the day Christians remember Jesus’ death. The “Good” reflects how Jesus’ death was a sacrifice on our behalf so we can receive God’s forgiveness for our wrongs or sins.
Easter Sunday is the joyful celebration of Jesus rising from the dead to give us the opportunity of eternal life. While people still die, Jesus made the way for people to have a relationship with God in this life and to spend eternity with Him in heaven.
What Happens During Lent and Why?
The three main things people focus on during Lent are prayer, fasting (abstaining from something to reduce distractions and focus more on God) and giving or charity.
Prayer during Lent focuses on our need for God’s forgiveness. It’s also about repenting, or turning away from our sins, and receiving God’s mercy and love.
Fasting, or giving something up, is a very common thing people talk about during Lent. The idea is that giving up something that’s a regular part of life, like eating dessert or scrolling through Facebook, can be a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice. That time can also be replaced with more time connecting with God.
Giving money or doing something good for others is a way to respond to God’s grace, generosity, and love. For example, people may spend time volunteering or donate money they would normally use to buy something, like their morning coffee.
It’s important to note that doing these things can never make us earn or deserve Jesus’ sacrifice or a relationship with God. People are flawed and will never be good enough for a perfect God. Only Jesus has the power to rescue us from ourselves.
Jesus sacrificed Himself on Good Friday to bear the punishment of all our wrongdoings and offer us forgiveness. He was raised from the dead on Easter Sunday to give us an opportunity to have a relationship with God for eternity.
Spending time during Lent praying, fasting and giving can make Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter even more meaningful.
Whether you observe Lent in a small or major way, you’ll be amazed at what happens when you devote a part of each day to reflecting on Jesus Christ and God’s Word.
“Even now,” declares the Lord “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heartand not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.” Joel 2:12-14