For the majority of the world, the 46 days leading up to Easter are just like any other. For devout Christians and Catholics, however, the period is characterized by little indulgence and unwilling sacrifice. It is the period of Lent.
Though the Lenten season is supposed to be about reflection, self-examination and forgiveness, for many, it can feel like a period of despair, loneliness and wanting. This is especially the case when you decide to give up a true indulgence, such as Netflix, your morning gourmet coffee or a nightly glass of wine. While it’s easy to focus on what you will miss, doing so will only make the Lenten season as horrible as you anticipate it to be. This year, approach the 46 days with a different mindset — and a few tips — to make it more bearable and even joyful.
1. Give Yourself a Break on Sundays
Traditionally, followers are supposed to fast for the full 46 days, including Sundays. However, the Bible says Sundays are “non-prescribed” days, which is why the church refers to Lent as a 40-day period of fasting, and not the full 46 it actually is. The omitting of the six days may be intentional, as the Bible may not direct observers to fast on the Sundays during the Lenten season. This would make sense, as Sunday, no matter the season, is a day that followers celebrate the resurrection of Christ, go to Mass and take a day of rest. During Lent, “rest” may refer to taking a break from fasting.
2. Finally Do What You Always Put Off Until “Tomorrow”
Everyone has that one thing they’ve been meaning to do but that they never get around to. If your Lenten sacrifice frees up your time (for instance, you may choose to give up going out to dinner on Friday nights or partaking in Happy Hour on Monday evenings), use the time you gain to finally do what you always put off.
3. Challenge Yourself
If you’re anything like most people, you give up the same thing every Lenten season, either out of convenience or because of lack of creativity. Whatever the reason, when you sacrifice the same thing every year, you may find that Lent isn’t so bad. If this is how you feel, you’re missing the point of the season entirely, and it may be time to step up your game.
This year, challenge yourself by making a change you feel is necessary but that you may have been unwilling to make out of fear, inconvenience or some other reason. In doing so, you will grow closer to God and experience joy once you accomplish something you weren’t sure you could do.
Need some ideas to get started? Train for a marathon, make meditation a part of your daily routine, attend adoration more, or commit to longer periods of prayer every day.
4. Find the Joy in Everyday Things
One of the best ways you can honor God this season is to celebrate all He does for you, your community and the world. Commit to being mindful of everything you do and experience. Whether that means marveling at your child’s conviction as he throws a tantrum instead of bemoaning his stubbornness, admiring the snow-laden trees instead of complaining about the cold, or reveling in the scents of spring rather than focusing on the mud, find the good in the world around you. In forming a habit of gratitude, it will become easier to see God’s blessings in your everyday life.
Lent is not easy, but then again, it’s not supposed to be. However, you can make the season less arduous and more purposeful by giving yourself periodic breaks, using your free time wisely, challenging yourself and committing to being more mindful in everything you do.