Lent feels like a long journey, and it is meant to feel that way. We often start in late February when winter still has a firm grip, and it seems like the promise of Easter and the coming of spring are a long time away. The very nature of Lent, with its emphasis on introspection, repentance and confession, can weigh upon us, especially in the early days.
Mark Roberts writes in his weblog about the popular concept of “giving up” certain things for Lent. He points out that since Lent is neither commanded nor prohibited in Scripture, we are free to follow certain traditions or not follow them as we wish. He talks about giving up certain things that may not in themselves be wrong, such as eating chocolate or watching TV. Roberts then offered his own comment about how difficult it was for him to give up something he enjoyed:
By giving up something I usually enjoy on a daily basis, I have sometimes found myself yearning for that thing. Frankly, I’ve been tempted to give up my Lenten fast at times. I could easily argue that it’s unnecessary (it is optional, after all) and certainly not taught in Scripture. But, though I don’t think my effort at fasting makes God love or bless me more, I do think it raises my awareness of how much I depend on other things in life rather than the Lord. I see how easy it is for me to set up all sorts of little idols in my life. Fasting, in some way, helps me surrender my idols to God.
It’s always good to learn about your idols, which usually turn out to be good things that have become too important to you.
Along that line, I ran across this quote from the famous Puritan Thomas Goodwin, speaking of what death means for the believer:
I am going to the three Persons with whom I have had communion: They have taken me, I did not take Them. I shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye; all my lusts and corruptions I shall be rid of, which I could not be here; those croaking toads will fall off in a moment.
We all have a lot of “croaking toads,” don’t we? They cling to us and croak merrily away, those “lusts and corruptions” that drag us down. If you feel discouraged about those croaking toads, I have bad news and good news.
The bad news is, we’ll never be fully rid of them in this life.
The good news is, we won’t have them forever.
Thank God, we’re heading for a “toad-free zone” where those things that drag us down will, as Goodwin says, fall away in a moment. Lent reveals our weakness and encourages us to long for a place where we will be free at last.
Sin can follow us anywhere–except to heaven.
thank you, Lord Jesus, that 2000 years ago you fought and won the
battle with sin. We long for the day when our battle will be over and
we will be like you at last. Reveal to us the hidden idols of the heart
so that we may cast them down and worship you alone. Amen.