09 Mar Is Lent About Suffering?
If I’ve heard it said once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: Lent is wonderful; it is so spiritually enriching; it is such a blessing to real discipleship; it is one of the best times to grow closer to God… Let me just say this as clearly as possible: I do not like Ash Wednesday. It is right up there with Good Friday…they are the perfect bookends for Lent: We begin in ashes and end in suffering and death. See what I mean?!
Ash Wednesday begins the lenten journey with reflection on our sinfulness and, in many liturgical/traditional churches, smearing ashes on foreheads. The Ash Wednesday service is somber and somewhat like a funeral. While it does serve an important purpose, it is not designed to be enjoyable.
You know who likes to suffer? (It’s not a riddle or a joke.) Masochists like to suffer. It is not normal for us to want to hurt. God did not intend for us to hurt our bodies or our minds, and that is not what Lent is about.
Lent was a time for followers of Jesus to prepare to become members of the Church. They would take 40 days, beginning with Ash Wednesday and moving through the next six weeks (ignoring Sundays) to reflect on their sin and their need for a savior. Lent ends when Easter—Resurrection Day—arrives. Disciples go without, making room for God, which is always a good thing.
Lent allows us to reestablish our priorities. Many of us have something in our life that needs to be removed—a habit; a vice; a distraction; or the thing you are thinking about right now. Jesus needs more space to do the good thing He has planned. This is the time to make that space. LENT IS NOT ABOUT SUFFERING; IT IS ABOUT REMOVING THE THINGS THAT CAUSE THE SUFFERING OR BARRIERS TO JESUS.
If we decide that our lenten journey is about suffering, we will probably hit that target. But if we can think about Jesus as the goal…knowing more about Jesus…becoming more like Him, something amazing can happen during Lent.
Come to think of it, a lenten journey of discovery is exactly what I need. Life was not designed to be centered on what we find enjoyable but on what Jesus knows will lead to our joy and peace in Him. Instead of putting suffering as our focus, you and I should decide today our goal is to know Jesus better when Easter arrives.
If we can let God create in us anew during Lent, we will find a new appreciation for Jesus and His victory of sin and death…and, yes, suffering. Maybe then, you and I can say: Lent is wonderful; it is so spiritually enriching; it is such a blessing to real discipleship; and it is one of the best times to grow closer to God.
Blessings to you,