This time of year you may be asking the questions, What is Lent? and/or Should our family observe Lent?
If you are asking these questions, you probably already know all about Easter. Easter is a time to remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. It’s a time to thank him and celebrate the new life we enjoy when we accept his gift of salvation.
What Is Lent?
Lent is a time set aside to help us prepare our hearts for Easter through prayer, repentance, sharing and sacrifice (fasting). The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. When not counting Sundays, this equals 40 days. The 40 days of Lent represent the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent – the 40 days of prayer and fasting that represent Jesus’ time in the desert prior to his public ministry. Its name comes from the practice of placing ashes on the forehead as a sign that we need God and of the sacrifice Jesus would become on our behalf.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is the sacrifice of something (usually food or drink) for a period of time (a meal, a day, a week) in order to focus more on God. When we try to give up something we enjoy, it can be really hard. But it’s an opportunity to become closer to God as we pray and rely on him for strength. Growing closer to God is about more than being strong enough to give something up for him. So besides just fasting our favorite food or drink, we can observe Lent by giving up something we enjoy (treats, video games, TV shows) or adding a new habit (a devotion like this one, prayer, or serving others) to change our life and grow with God. This is how Jesus prepared himself for his biggest test. And it’s a good way for us to grow in faith as well.
Should Our Family Observe Lent?
Fasting is a very personal act between you and God. You should never feel pressure to participate to a certain degree but rather trust God to lead you and your family in how best to observe the Lenten season (if at all) and prepare your hearts to remember his sacrifice.
Gather as a family and pray about whether or not you feel led to observe this sacred season. Discuss what you could add or subtract in your daily lives during this time as a way to focus more on God. Ideas for addition might include: a family devotion (like this one), an act of service or a daily practice of gratitude. Ideas for subtraction might include: a favorite food, toy, TV show or electronic device. You can also add or subtract something different on a weekly basis throughout Lent. It’s not about how much you add or give up. It’s about the willingness to alter your life in an effort to grow with God.
A few other ideas to engage your family in the Lent/Easter season:
- Share a Family Passover Meal
- Invite kids to journey through the traditional Scriptural Way of the Cross.
- Listen to this Lent/Easter season Podcast with 5 minute audio devotions you can do on the go!
- Focus on God’s love as you discuss Easter with your littlest ones. Use a book like God Loves You, Little One to remind your child how beloved he/she is!
However you feel led to participate in the Lent and Easter season as a family, remember that this season is an opportunity to experience God’s great love in fresh, new ways as we consider the gift of salvation he offers through Jesus.
I pray you’ll feel the power of Jesus at work in your lives and the growth that comes with being connected to him!
Does your family observe Lent? What traditions do you practice?