Busyness has a way of stealing our joy and distracting us from the important, lasting things of life. Over the years, I have found this to be increasingly true during big holidays like Easter. Amidst the lists of to-dos, wrangling of little people, and partaking in the big day, I do little to prepare my heart to soak in the reality of what we celebrate. I then find myself surprised when the day goes by in a blur of eggs, chocolate, dresses, and ham. I have missed the significance of the day and the opportunity to embrace the depth of Jesus’s sacrifice.
This year I aim to change that. I want to properly prepare myself to receive the grace that came at great cost to our Lord and Savior. I know I am not alone in needing and wanting a season of preparation. For centuries the Church has practiced the season of Lent, setting aside the forty days prior to Easter as a time for repentance and reflection, a time of fasting in anticipation for the joyous feast of Easter, a time to plumb the depths of the gift of grace.
In wrestling with how to prepare for Easter and engage with the season of Lent, I keep coming back to the practice of fasting. Today many who partake in the season of Lent do so by fasting from a particular thing, what we often hear as “giving something up for Lent.” I must admit my early attempts to participate in Lent were in vain. One of my first Lenten fasts was to give up coffee, something still far too essential in my life. I struggled for weeks attempting to “just get through it.” I longed for coffee to assist in my late nights and early mornings. I realize now this was my error: I longed for coffee. I stopped my longings at the desire to feel more awake and better able to manage my daily life. I missed the point and purpose of “giving something up.” I did not allow my “need” for coffee to lead me to my true need: my Savior. I did not allow my lack of coffee to point to what was truly lacking: more of Jesus. This type of fasting leaves us wanting and does little to prepare us for Easter. When we long only for what does not truly satisfy, we will not be satisfied.
This year, I desire a richer fast, one that leads me to Jesus. John Piper has described fasting as a “longing for the not yet of the kingdom.” He explains that fasting is a way for us to physically express our desire for more of Jesus. “Fasting is a physical exclamation point at the end of the sentences: ‘I need you! I want you! I long for you!’…The heart of [fasting] is longing [for Jesus]. We are putting our stomach where our heart is to give added intensity and expressiveness to our ache for Jesus” (What is the Purpose of Fasting by John Piper).
This year, I crave that extra exclamation point. I need that physical reminder of longing to point me back to that deeper longing of my heart. We all know what it is to long for more of Jesus. We want to see Him reigning in our world, in our communities, in our families, and in our lives. We long for Jesus’s power to make wars and conflict cease, for those who live in fear to be comforted, for those who hunger to be fed, for those in pain to be healed. We long for relationships to be healed and our families to be whole. We long for the sin we wrestle with to be completely silenced. We long for more of Jesus.
During Lent this year, I pray we would create space to more fully feel the weight of our need for Jesus’s power and presence, to physically feel a lack in our stomachs to mirror the ache in our hearts for the Kingdom to come and Jesus to reign. Let us spend the season of Lent longing for more of Jesus and celebrate more fully the redemptive work of Easter. Let our longing for Jesus lead us into a greater realization of our sin and brokenness, so on Easter we can rejoice in the costly magnitude of what Jesus has done. Whether you choose to fast from food or a particular thing during Lent this year, I pray its lack would lead us to Jesus.
Here are some passages to consider praying through as we long for Jesus to reign in our world, in our communities, in our families, and in our lives:
In our world: Praying for the chains of injustice to be loosened, for the oppressed to be set free, for the hungry to be fed, for the lost to be sheltered and clothed. Dwell on Isaiah 58 and ask that the Lord would answer our prayers and longings.
In our communities: Praying for our neighbors, friends, and coworkers to see Jesus’s power and presence redeem and restore their lives. Pray for those the Lord lays on our mind while dwelling 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2.
In our families: Praying as Paul prayed for our loved ones to know Him. Pray through Ephesians 1:17-19 and 3:14-19 for our families to know Jesus, be strengthened by the Spirit, and rooted in love.
In our lives: Confess our sin and our need for His unfailing love. Pray through Psalms 32, 116, and 130.