Whether you’ve been observing Lent every year or you’re just learning about it for the first time, the invitation is the same: come.
By Christine McParland
As we enter Holy Week, we near the end of our Lenten journey and approach the climax of the cross and the empty tomb. But with the “finish line” of Easter in sight, you might be wondering how Lenten practices have helped prepare you to remember Christ’s death and celebrate his resurrection. Or maybe you still have questions about Lent and wonder why some Christians observe it at all.
Wherever you find yourself this Holy Week, here are some final thoughts on which to reflect as we transition from the season of Lent to Easter.
Lent makes room for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.
If you made a Lenten commitment this year, it probably felt more like hard work than the rewarding experience you were hoping for. This sometimes discourages Christians from observing Lent, both from a material standpoint as well as a spiritual one. Why practice fasting or self-denial for forty days without an immediate spiritual benefit? Doesn’t this emphasize our works over Christ’s finished work on the cross?
But what if we asked a different question: what if the real work and reward of Lent isn’t found in our own efforts but in the work of the Holy Spirit as he sanctifies us through these disciplines? A Lenten commitment like giving up sweets or Netflix doesn’t automatically equate to greater spiritual maturity. But stepping away from things that demand our time, attention, or affection gives the Holy Spirit more room to work in our hearts, both during Lent and throughout our lives.
Even when we don’t see the fruits of our efforts, we can trust that God will honor the commitments we freely offer to him in gratitude for his gift of salvation to us.
Lent reminds us of our need for a Savior.
If you’re like most Christians who observe Lent, you probably feel like you’ve failed at some point with your Lenten commitment. You forgot to set your alarm earlier to make time for prayer (or you remembered but hit the snooze button anyways). You meant to take a break from your daily coffee runs and give the money to charity, but you really needed the caffeine boost (especially after hitting snooze too many times). Even if you don’t observe Lent, you can probably relate to similar experiences on your faith journey.
The point of Lent—or any spiritual practice—isn’t to set ourselves up for failure. But the “failures” remind us how much we need a Savior. Any personal effort to grow in our faith is simply a response to, and a cooperation with, God’s free gift of grace working in our lives. When our best intentions fall short, we remember that God will complete the work he started in us and his grace will give us the strength we need to follow Jesus (see Philippians 1:6 and 2 Corinthians 12:9).
Lent prepares our hearts to receive the gift of Easter.
Even if you’ve successfully kept a Lenten practice, remember that anything we do doesn’t make us “more worthy” to celebrate Easter. The beauty of Lenten practices (and any spiritual discipline) is that they help prepare our hearts and expand our capacity to receive the gift of Easter with gratitude and joy.
And if you missed the opportunity to observe Lent for whatever reason, you don’t need to feel left out. God showers his grace generously on any heart that’s open to receiving it. So whether you’ve been observing Lent every year or you’re just learning about it for the first time, the invitation is the same: come. Come to the cross. Come to the empty tomb. Then go out and share the good news.
Curious about Lent? Read more in our Lent Demystified series!
Find books about prayer for this Lenten season here.