How is it with your soul? Christians around the world will be challenged to wrestle with this question during the season of Lent. Lent, from the Anglo-Saxon word for spring, is the 40-day period (excluding Sundays) preceding Easter Sunday. It is a time of personal reflection and devotion, in which we examine our relationship with God as we anticipate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. In 2012, Lent will last from February 22 – April 7.
Lent follows in the Jewish tradition of having a period of preparation before major religious observances. The 40 day length reflects the biblical examples of forty days of fasting from food that were a common part of close encounters with God in the Bible. Moses fasted for 40 days on Mount Sinai before receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28). Elijah fasted for 40 days on the journey to Horeb (1 Kings 19:8). Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, fasted for 40 days before being tempted by the devil in the wilderness and then starting His public ministry (Matthew 4:2).
Many Christians choose to abstain from certain activities during Lent, specifically something that will be a sacrifice for them. While not always true biblical fasting from food, it is a reminder of the 40 day fasts of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus who lived on a reduced diet during their period of personal reflection and devotion. In our abstinence, we are to spend our freed up time with God. When we crave what we gave up, we can remember what Jesus gave up for us. We also are to examine the barriers that come between us and God and each other, and how we might permanently get rid of them with help from the Holy Spirit.
Part of the Lenten tradition is to be more intentional in spiritual practices such as reading the Bible, praying, doing mission work, et cetera.
How is it with your soul?