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Bright Sadness

Updated: Feb 20



a cross etched in black with the words Ash Wednesday and Daniel 9:3 scripture

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a new acquaintance about why I wasn’t eating in a baking class for the second week in a row. I was in the final week of a church-wide fast that traditionally occurs in January. Food doesn’t normally have a stronghold in my life and having had a good experience previously, I felt the need to jump in and participate.


To say I struggled this time is an understatement. All I thought about was eating, and signing up for a baking class did not help my cause. When this new acquaintance started asking questions about why I would do such a tormenting thing, I struggled to find the right words for her rapid-fire curiosity. My simplified response was that I longed to deepen my spiritual relationship with Jesus and to focus on prayer, and I prayed for A LOT for sufficient grace. I could already tell she was religiously jaded and explained that the details didn’t matter much, only elaborating that everyone was free to sacrifice according to their choosing. She asked how long and I let her know that it was my final week of three. She was visibly shocked a human could go that long without eating. I giggled and let her know I was drinking plenty of supplemental liquids, then I soberly pondered about Jesus in the wilderness. I now have a greater appreciation for those who will intentionally decide to practice Lent.


As Lent begins today, many Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and some nondenominational Christians will observe the six weeks of Lent leading up to Holy Week (Easter). These 46 days (minus Sundays) are a time focused on fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and sometimes abstinence. Whatever the tradition, sacrifice, or length of time, the point isn’t to qualify ourselves but to orient our hearts and minds to the ultimate sacrificial love of our Lord and Savior. Beyond a joyless custom, Lent is a season to journey with Jesus in his passion, to survey the cross, and to take measure of Christ's love in his suffering death. I think it’s beautiful that the start of Lent this year happens to fall on Valentine’s Day - a day devoted to celebrating love. I can think of no greater love and sacrifice than that of our Messiah for the reconciliation of our eternal souls. A greater outpouring of our love to a hurt and broken world will cost us at minimum a sacrifice of time and effort in self-denial.


Fasting isn’t a core concept taught in our courses, but the idea of concerted, united, and sustained prayer is foundational. It gives me much hope for 2024 knowing that the global church is collectively covering the earth in repentant prayer for the first quarter of the year and nothing is impossible for a God who is eager and faithful to respond to his people. His Spirit looks beyond our frail human weakness, jaded hearts, denominational lines, cultural barriers, and misplaced efforts to whisper his plans and purposes. I believe the more we focus on Him and his word in this time of "bright sadness" set to die to ourselves, this will naturally result in nations praying for nations and people moving to accomplish his mission.


After this experience, I decided I wanted to incorporate fasting as a regular practice throughout the year in smaller intervals of time. Is there something you can give up to help you focus on prayer and find ways to be a blessing to others?

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