Lent is the forty days leading up to Easter, not including Sundays (during which we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection!). For the Church, this season is a time of reflection and repentance. Many followers of Jesus find it helpful to fast during Lent.
Fasting has been misunderstood in many ways. Fasting is not:
- Proving our spiritual worth by how much we can “suffer”
- Giving up sins or bad habits (we should be giving up those things anyways)
- Trying out a new diet (going on a low-carb diet is not the same thing as fasting).
John Piper’s words about fasting can be helpful in reminding us of its purpose: “Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God.” When we fast, we take a step back from a good gift of God (for example, food!) and seek the Giver of those gifts. When our stomachs growl from hunger, or we feel fidgety from a media fast, we are reminded that our greatest hunger should be Jesus Himself.
As Richard Foster writes:
Fasting must forever center on God. More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us.
Again, Piper writes, “We have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
Simply put, we fast so that we can make more room in our hearts for Jesus.
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As we withdraw for a time from some good gifts of God during this season, we also encourage you to draw near to the Giver through intentionally adding disciplines.
What better way to make room in our hearts for Christ than through Scripture? The YouVersion Bible App has several reading plans here, including #LentChallenge2015 from Margaret Feinberg (reading through the four Gospels in 40 days).
For families, you might find this Lenten practices calendar helpful. These simple acts of faith & devotion can help Christians of all ages make room in their hearts for Jesus (click on the image for a full-sized PDF).
One quick note: We encourage you to break your fast on Sundays. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus each Lord’s Day, and breaking the fast weekly reminds us that it’s not primarily about our self-discipline, but celebrating the Risen King of grace and life.