Wednesday, I said good-bye to chocolate until Easter morning as I observe Lent. Lent is the six and a half weeks leading up to Easter, the most significant celebration of the Christian faith. During Lent, Christ followers commemorate Jesus’s sacrifices: leaving heaven to come live simply on earth, His own 40 day fast, and His death. For six and a half weeks, devotees fast from pleasures of life such as sweets, alcohol, social media, etc. The GOAL: to answer the cravings for such things with prayer, self-control and an awareness of God’s presence.
Rules for Lenten fasts are not laid out in the Bible, and some folks refrain from doing so, just because of that. During lent, which is from the Mid-English word meaning “spring”, some people participate in some type of fast to have a spiritual spring of sorts. Just as spring is a time of renewal where the dead of winter gives way to the new life of spring, so too is the Lenten fast.
Prior to Jesus’s resurrection, He endured the most physical and heart-wrenching week of His life. Even though he was an innocent man, Jesus was brutalized and sleep deprived for 36 hours as He endured endless false accusations. He was given 39 lashes which had killed men before; He suffered cruel and humiliating ridicule and had a crown of thick thorns beaten onto His head. Exhausted, broken and bloody, Jesus was made to carry His own cross through town and to the hill where He was to die on this same Roman cross. However, Jesus was so very “One” with the Father that He was able to endure all of this until the end when He uttered the words, “It is finished.” Jesus knew that this suffering was necessary. Because He was sustained by His connection to the Father, He was able to endure it all for us. He took the punishment so that we didn’t have to.
Even though it is baffling to consider, Jesus set aside his deity to become fully man while he was on earth. Jesus started His ministry by strengthening His mind and spirit by going into the desert for 40 days and nights to fast and pray. (Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13) In his weakened state, the evil one tempted Jesus, telling Him to turn the stones into bread. Jesus instead chose to focus on the life sustaining power of God. Though Jesus’s physical body was weaker during His fast, His focus on God and desire to serve Him became stronger. This is the REWARD of Christian fasting: we draw closer to God and experience a renewal in our relationship with Him.
As I fast from chocolate, I will miss it (so I will be praying LOTS through the cravings), but I pray that during this Lenten season that we will all seek to have a spiritual spring that reminds us to crave a closer relationship with Jesus. He gave up EVERYTHING for me. I can certainly set aside Ghirardelli, Hershey’s and Nestle in exchange for a little extra of God’s sweet presence to minister to me during this Lenten season.