The Comforting Joy of Lent

For many people who have come up in a liturgical Christian background in churches that follow closely to the church calendar, Lent might be more common and familiar; but for others from the broader evangelical circles, not so much.

In a very helpful article posted on The Gospel Coalition website several years ago, Chuck Colson explains this about the church calendar and an approach to Lent that is helpful for all Christian believers:

“the church’s liturgical calendar seeks to order time around the major events of our redemption in Christ. During these seasons, we encourage certain theological emphases, spiritual practices, and corresponding emotions to instruct and train the church in godliness. Of course, the calendar does not limit the celebration of a truth or the experience of a particular emotion to one season or day. For instance, observing Easter Sunday as a joyous and festive holy day does not deny that every Lord’s Day celebrates Jesus’ resurrection. Rather, a joyous Easter Sunday anchors and gives shape to all other Sundays throughout the year. So it is with the liturgical calendar.”

This last Sunday, Pastor Bob also shared some helpful thoughts regarding Lent:

Lent is a time of mourning and sober reflection on our sin, its devastation, and ultimately the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Jesus also said, “watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life.” Setting aside time as the body of Christ to practice Biblical mourning and to celebrate the hope found the Gospel of Christ is healthy.

A few more thoughts on how to approach Lent. Especially for those who have grown up in a Catholic background or another background where Lent may not have clear Biblical warrant, here are a few things first about what Lent is NOT.

  • Penance
  • Involuntary
  • Individualistic

Lent will not earn anyone anything with God. It is not a means of forgiveness. It is not forced or demanded. Lent is a voluntary celebration. However, it is done in fellowship and partnership with the Body of Christ; not alone.

So, here are a few thoughts to help guide you as you approach Lent this year:

  • Lent is the voluntary engagement of one’s soul and body in the congregational mourning of the Body.
  • Lent is the symbolic identification and participation with the godly sorrow of the righteous people of God.
  • Lent is the solemn assembling of repentant individuals in the holy calling of sharing in collective repentance.
  • Lent is an outward expression of inward realities that distinguish the holy from the unholy: we mourn the sins of the world, but we shall be comforted.
  • When we grieve we lose appetite for less important things because our values are prioritized. We voluntarily curb all less important interests to honor our highest value.

And finally, here are a few suggestions on how you might consider celebrating Lent:

  • Joyfully curb any excesses
  • Openly participate with the Church
  • Sacrificially comfort others.
  • Use times and time definitively for holy contemplation.

To help you further in your celebration, we would also recommend the resources from Sally Lloyd Jones, the author of the Jesus Storybook Bible. She has developed a Lent Guide to use  during this season as well as provided other activities and thoughts for families. You can find all that here.

We hope that you have a good and holy Lent season, and may your excitement and love for Jesus grow as we anticipate Resurrection Day!!