Image by: Evan-Amos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
It was my moment of truth with a Snickers bar. I was deliberately tearing open the wrapper when that still, small voice in my head whispered, “What are you doing?”
Welcome to the season of Lent! A season that, in all honesty, I have often found hard to understand.
The whole self-denial experience often seemed a little tainted to me. Tainted by the expression of meaningless religious duty. Tainted by the pursuit of trying to bargain with God for something more strongly desired.
But my moment of truth with a Snickers bar suddenly brought the spiritual practice of self-denial into a clear and understandable view.
“What are you doing?” was a valid question as I was not the least bit hungry. In fact, the timing of my last meal was not on my mind at all as I was upset after having a heated discussion with my husband.
“What are you doing?” I’m going to eat a Snickers bar!
“Why would you want a Snickers bar?” Because I am upset!
“What will that Snickers bar do for you?” It will make me feel better, obviously. Besides, I deserve it!”
“How about if you drop that Snickers bar in the trash can and we go on over to the living room and sit on the green couch and talk about it....”
I’m happy to report that that prayer session on the green couch gave me a peace and a path forward that a Snickers bar never could have provided.
The very simple God-given prompt to self-denial opened up the possibility of getting what I really desired: peace and a path forward.
The Samaritan woman was focused on quenching her thirst with physical water (H20) when Jesus wanted to give her living water so she and others would never be spiritually parched again. (John 4)
The crowds sought out Jesus because they ate the loaves and had their fill of bread when Jesus wanted them to experience the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world so they would never be spiritually hungry again. (John 6).
In both of these cases, Jesus focused not on the quick fix, but on the provision that would bring peace and a path forward.
In the observance of Lent when we choose, for a time, to give up a pleasure (which in times of stress often becomes a quick fix), we open ourselves up to God working in our life to give us what we really want: peace and a path forward.
And in the celebration of Easter which is the culmination of the season of Lent, we recognize God’s gift of forgiveness that gives us what we really need: peace and a path forward.
Pleasure is, well, pleasurable and I like that! But peace and a path forward is something I desire even more. A moment or a season of self-denial may train us to desire and open the door to the provisions of the abundant life that we are promised.
Good Health for Good Works Challenge:
Where, in your life, has a pleasure silently become a quick fix when you are stressed?
Where, in your life, might a moment or a season of self-denial help you to focus on the One who can provide you what you really want and need: peace and a path forward?
About the author:
Ginger Hill is a Christian wellness speaker, coach and consultant and the founder of Good Health for Good Works where she helps the earnest, but often exhausted, workers in Christian organizations to take steps toward healthier living so they can fulfill their organization's mission with energy, excellence and endurance.
Psalm 92:12,14 (NLT)
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