Lent – What is it Really About?

by Pam Blankenship
I often think of Lent as the Christian’s New Year’s resolution. Like a New Year’s resolution, giving up something for Lent seems like a great idea – a perfect time to renew and set new goals for our Christian life. Certainly, 40 days of Lent sounds much more achievable than 365 days of a New Year’s resolution. And, if you can maintain the sacrifice for 40 days, you’ve probably set the record over those who attempted a New Year’s resolution.


As someone who didn’t grow up in the Lutheran faith, who didn’t grow up celebrating Lent each year, I have never really bought into the idea of giving something up for Lent. It puzzles my mind that I should give something up when Jesus Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice. He gave up his life, so that I could be free from sin and sacrifice.


As you may have guessed by now, there are many times I give up nothing for Lent. Because of that I get a fair amount of ribbing from other Christians, my husband included, saying that I’m just taking the easy way out. Some years I have given up something, and I feel I lost what should have been my focus. A sweet dessert has never sounded so good as when I gave dessert up for 40 days of Lent. And, I can’t wait for Easter to arrive – not because it’s an amazing time of celebration to remember He Has Risen! – but because I can’t stop thinking about that yummy dessert. I want my focus to be elsewhere.


While I still don’t buy into the idea of giving up something for Lent, through the years I have gained a better understanding of what Lent means in the Christian faith. With the season of Lent upon us, I wanted to gain some further perspective, so I turned to the ever handy Google. My search turned up “about 150,000,000 results”. As you can imagine there was a vast range of topics. Some were focused on what to give up for Lent – even the mention of a secular lent, where non-Christians like the idea of self-reflection and sacrifice to better themselves. My 5th Grader backed up this idea today by telling me how her school friends are giving up things and adding in a punishment if they can’t stick with it. This secular version loses the real focus of what Lent means.


I was pleased to note there were many Christian definitions that capture the meaning of Lent. LCMS.org says, “Lent serves not only as a time to meditate on the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf but also as an opportunity to reflect upon our own Baptism and what it means to live as a child of God.” Catholic.com states that Lent is “a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.” UMC.org says, “Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter.” Concordia Publishing House provides a video (https://youtu.be/RkqHQGdPwMo) that explains “Lent is a solemn season clearly set apart to contrast powerfully with Easter Sunday, when our alleluias return, loud and clear, in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the new life we have in Him!” Proverbs 31 Ministries’ video (https://youtu.be/ED73UwfiDgU) offers information for those less familiar with Lent, answering, “have you ever really thought about why Lent matters? And how does Jesus fit into all this?”


So, with all the ranging views of Lent – what is it really about? As we know Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. Though the first thought for many is, “what will I give up for Lent” that’s not what it’s really about. It is about sacrifice – the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It is a time for us to meditate on our sin and His extraordinary is gift of forgiveness when we don’t deserve it. It is an opportunity for us to focus on our relationship with God. It is a time to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.


As we head into this Lenten season, I’m already getting questioned from my kids about what I’ll give up this year. Whether I give something up or not isn’t the point – where I put my focus is. For this season of Lent, I choose to place my focus on the cross – spending time in God’s Word, praying and remembering Jesus’ gift to me. I challenge you to use these next 40 days for intentional reflection and preparation for Easter, whether that means spending more time in God’s Word, more time in prayer, more time in worship, or giving up something. And, I’ll add to that challenge, don’t let it end in 40 days. Take time all year long to remember the sacrifice Jesus made, spend time in His Word, in prayer and grow in Christ.