Lent to Repent

One of the purposes of Lent is to help us steer away from our tendency to pursue superficial change and find what we need most.

Have you ever fasted during Lent season from ice cream, TV, Facebook, shopping, some negative behavior or even a relationship? Do you remember what kind of results that brought about? Did it bring any kind of real change or was it just something superficial? Did it draw you closer to God? Did it increase your devotion, trust and love for God?  Be honest. What did it produce? We can agree that not every fast during Lent has led to true repentance (change) in our lives. I can think of times when I got tricked into thinking that my fast was something good and that God should look at it with acceptable eyes. Almost as if I was designing a new way to be "righteous" before God. Fasting or any good practice during Lent is not designed to substitute the true righteousness provided for us in Jesus!

The kind of repentance (change) we are encouraged to pursue is clearly described by the Old Testament prophet Joel: "rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;" (2:13). Repentance is a matter of the heart, not any externals. Furthermore, repentance is not so much about saying "no" to something, but it is about "returning to the Lord". Fasting can help us make space for true repentance--returning to the Lord. But if fasting during Lent does not help us return to the Lord, we may be wasting our well-intended efforts.

In what ways are you distant from the Lord? In what ways are you distant because of your attitudes or personal choices? Where are you resisting His love, His mercy or His will? Perhaps it is not resistance that you experience but avoidance of Him. 

Whether you have walked with God for a long time or you are estranged from Him, we all are in need of returning to Him! Ask yourself the question: "What do I tend to do in the face of either weakness or pain in my life?" Trace what you do in the face of either, and you will know if you are returning to the Lord or leaning on personal efforts or vain strategies to give you a sense of life-is-working-for-me! 

If you are fasting during Lent, make sure it is helping you return to the Lord. If you are not, I encourage you to consider what is keeping you distant from Him. Everyone who returns to Him will find grace, mercy, a God who is slow to anger and who abounds in steadfast love!

The Lord is truly what we need most!