THE MEANING OF LENT
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 1st March from when Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert, before beginning his public ministry as a spiritual leader. To Christians the purpose of Lent is atonement, repentance, self-denial and the giving of charity. Although many people believe there is guilt and self-punishment in all of this, that’s not a constructive attitude
Giving up something for Lent has many positive meanings:
- It shows you have values above and beyond the material
- It shows empathy for people in the world who are less fortunate
- Doing without something you like is a sign of personal power and control
- It makes you appreciate all your gifts and be thankful
- It can be healthy to stop having certain things, hopefully enabling you to make permanent changes for the better
- Giving things up for Lent signals a fresh start, as you purge for spring
DEALING WITH LOSS
Loss is an inevitable part of life. We all lose things and people that we love and dealing with this is a major factor in personal growth.
Lent is a reminder of loss, and of the more painful realities of life. This isn’t about being gloomy but learning to cope with the inevitable. And although some loss is unavoidable, there is another side to the matter. Loss may feel bleak and empty for a while, but that isn’t the full story.
When we lose something or someone we find new strength within ourselves as a result. We also learn to move on, to see new meanings and opportunities. Connecting with our own sorrow can, in the end, be a pathway to joyfulness and freedom. Facing our fears head on brings comfort and release. This is why Lent is fittingly placed at the approach of Spring, not in the darkening days of Autumn, or the depth of Winter. Lent is the chance for a fresh start.
If you have suffered a major loss, maybe of someone you love, a job you valued or a friend you treasured, use Lent as a time for mourning and moving on. Each day, during Lent, commemorate your loss in some way, perhaps by reading a poem, buying some flowers, helping someone in need or simply sitting for half an hour and reflecting.
If tears flow, then let them. Make notes about how you feel, if that seems right. What are your fears and hopes for the future? How has your life changed? What is the worst thing about this time?
Lent is followed by Easter, which is a festival of re-birth. When Easter comes, let go of your mourning rituals. If your loss has been a great one of course it’s unlikely you’ll be able to let go completely, but you should find yourself in a brighter place.
In our world of abundance many people are used to having the material things they want pretty much when they want them. This can make it harder to cope when something is not on the table, such as a person, an opportunity, a job or similar. Others may struggle to meet their most basic needs and feel resentful at all the gifts that seem to be showered on others.
When you are deciding what to give up, remember the following points:
- What you give up should be valuable, so you actually feel the lack
- However, choose to give up something manageable. Don’t make it so hard for yourself that you find it impossible to maintain, cave in and feel bad about yourself
- Avoid involving others in what you give up. They should not be penalised, if they want to give something up too it is their choice, not yours
- Keep quiet about your sacrifice. If you chat and whinge it takes away some of the sacredness of what you are doing
- So much the better if giving something up means that someone else benefits. For instance, if you give up chocolate, spend the money you save on items for a food bank
- If you are truly disadvantaged there is no need to make life harder than it is. So why not resolve to give up looking on the black side? During Lent do not let one complaint pass your lips, and see if you feel better!
HOW WE CAN HELP
In this article we have looked at the meaning of Lent, dealing with loss and giving up something for Lent. There are several ways in which the season of Lent can benefit your state of mind. You can also give yourself a wonderful boost by contacting one of our expert Readers, who can guide you through any loss and enable you to feel hopeful once again. So put in a call today and feel uplifted and inspired.
PUBLISHED: 01 March 2017