Don’t Know What to Do for Lent? 11 Ways to Focus on Jesus
Inside: Have you been wondering what to do for Lent? Discover 11 ideas for what you can give up, replace, or add to your life to honor this special season.
I had been feeling a little unsettled, so I decided to do a word study on troubled heart during my morning quiet time. The second hit on my Bible app stunned me. I had always thought Jesus’ sacrifice ended at the cross, where he suffered in anguish as payment for all of our sins.
Was I ever wrong.
At the end of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus appeared to his disciples to comfort them and encourage them to wait for the Holy Spirit. Notice his physical features as you read this:
38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:38-43 ESV)
Before the creation of the world, Jesus existed in spirit form, being one with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. We know he sacrificed that existence by humbling himself to be born in human flesh, live a perfect life, and offer himself as the spotless lamb on the crude, rough-hewn cross.
But his sacrifice did not end there! Even as the risen Lord, he returned to heaven forever carrying flesh and bones, a digestive tract, and all that comes with a human body, in glorified, eternal form. If that is too much to take in, at the very least he retained his bodily form, such that we will recognize him in heaven (Rev 19:11-16, 21:3-4, 22:4). His sacrifice of taking on bodily form still goes on, even today!
So as we enter the season of Lent, we seek ways to humble ourselves as well, reminding ourselves of repentance, not as a way to earn any favor, but to honor and worship our Savior, “Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary: and was made man” (the Nicene Creed).
This year Lent begins on Wednesday, February 14. How very cool that the season commemorating Jesus’ sacrificial love for us starts on Valentine’s Day!
Lent actually spans the 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but if you subtract the Sundays, you get 40 days, so most people consider Lent as having 40 days.
Do you wonder what to do for Lent?
Many people observe Lent by giving up something, with the idea that in going without a favorite food or habit, they will focus on their need for repentance and on Jesus’ sacrifice. But you can also replace something or add something to your life to honor the season. Find the approach that will help you focus on repentance and your relationship with Jesus.
What to Do for Lent: Give Up Something
If you choose to give up something during Lent, each time you want to reach for that item, instead confess a sin, remind yourself of a Bible verse, or spend 5 minutes thinking on all the ways God has blessed you!
1. Give up a food. This is where the Catholic practice of fish on Fridays came from: Catholics often give up red meat on Fridays, a tradition begun long ago. But you might give up a favorite sweet, a soft drink, coffee (gasp), or another favorite food item.
You might also participate in a true biblical fast. Fasting and praying go hand-in-hand in the Bible. Consider the outcome for the Jewish people in the book of Esther, or Jesus’ fast in the wilderness before he started his earthly ministry.
2. Give up a media: You might choose to give up a favorite TV show, a phone or video game, a social networking platform, or a particular kind of music for 40 days.
3. Give up a habit. The idea here is that you would give up a habit that distracts you from the Lord. This ties with #2, but may I go harder places? If you need to rid yourself of a defeating habit, seek the Lord’s help in making this difficult change. Examples of these types of habits could include viewing pornography, swearing, taking the Lord’s name in vain, incessant nagging, seeking sex outside of the covenant of marriage, overusing a drug or alcohol, or a food addiction. Be brave to seek professional help if needed. This could be your best year yet! Imagine living free of this addiction! Wouldn’t it be amazing to mark this Lent as the year you were able, with God’s help and that of a professional, to kick this habit to the curb?
4. Participate in the Lent Closet Purge. This is one of my favorite ideas! For each of the 40 days of Lent, remove a clothing item from your closet and bag up the clothing to give away. You could get creative with this one: Instead of clothing, what other item would be hard for you to part with? Books? DVDs? Dishware? Collectibles? Make this your own: For example, you could use a 20/20 plan and give away 20 books and 20 items from your kitchen.
What to do for Lent: Add Something New
5. Add a daily devotion time. Many devotionals are written for this purpose. You might consider one of these. I am going to order Alicia Britt Chole’s 40 Days of Decrease! Each daily reading includes a devotion, a question for reflection, a reading from the book of John, and space for journaling.
6. Memorize scripture. Spend time each day hiding God’s Word in your heart by memorizing scripture. Get your free One-Year Bible Memory Plan here! I have been surprised at how meaningful this practice has been for me. I can’t wait to have mastered verses from Genesis to Revelation!
7. Be an encourager! Write one encouragement note a day for the 40 days of Lent (each day except the Sundays). You could post these to people on social media, write and mail cards, or call people by phone, whatever seems best to you.
8. Start or renew a gratitude journal. Every day write three down three things you are thankful for! You will boost your mood in the process! Remember who is the Giver of every good thing.
9. Add physical activity, with a faith focus! I am part of an online women’s fitness group, in which many people pray as they walk, run, or otherwise work out. This can be a special kind of “fast”: Use the time while working out to focus your thoughts on the Lord!
What to Do for Lent: Replace Something
10. In place of social media, a TV show, or computer time, read an edifying book. I should write a whole post on why you would want to read these books. They have been game changers for me.
- In Be the Miracle, I watched an ordinary woman from Wisconsin open herself to be used in extraordinary ways for the Lord. If she can do it, I can do it!
- With Dream Big, Think Small, I learned to use my ordinary days to their fullest. This book helped me revitalize my quiet time with a grace-based structure I could grow in.
- I bought Anonymous after watching an interview with the author. A die-hard atheist, she was loved to Christ by a group of faithful friends and a powerful encounter with God in a small, ordinary church. This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. It will really help you appreciate the times in your life when you feel like nothing is happening, and you will gain a deep understanding of the significance of those times.
- Finally, if you are longing for a more raw, vulnerable, powerful relationship with Jesus, I recommend one of the following books. I couldn’t put them down! God is doing a marvelous work in the Middle East and elsewhere, drawing people close to him. Talk about sold-out faith! You will think differently about who Jesus is and what he can do in your life after reading these books.
11. Replace a secular pastime with a Christian one. You might take a 40-day challenge to listen to Christian music or Christian podcasts in place of secular ones. Or replace secular TV with a broadcast from a trusted pastor.
Above All, Remember Grace!
There is not a biblical mandate to give something up for Lent, and we do not observe Lent in order to earn anything.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
Yet many people find it a meaningful time to grow in their relationship with Jesus. If you are feeling led to observe the season in this way, what will you do during Lent to focus on Jesus?
I praise you for being my rock and my redeemer. Please forgive me for ____________. Thank you for taking my sins upon your shoulders and cleansing me with your blood on the cross. I ask you to help me to grow closer to you this lenten season. Show me the way I should go, and thank you for loving me.
In Your name I pray,