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Lent: Why I Give Something Up

We are in this beautiful season of time called Lent. Lent is the (approximate) six week season that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Tradition has it that it is a time to reflect and prepare for the the risen Jesus.

Last week, I shared how Ash Wednesday impacted me so deeply. I still have a lot to learn about Lent, but over the past few years I've come to a greater understanding of why it can help deepen our faith.

Perhaps the most common thing people associate with Lent is giving something up. In fact, "what you gave up for Lent" is becoming the hot conversation topic in church right after "where are we going to lunch". I think it's great that Lent is starting to get more attention, but the Sunday casualness of it leads to the loss of the meaning and understanding behind why we are giving something up. I thought I would share why I choose to give something up in hopes of creating a greater understanding of this practice.


Traditionally speaking, the main components of Lent have been prayer, fasting, repentance, and acts of sacrifice. All these acts are intended to draw us out of ourselves and point us to Christ. 

Giving up something for Lent is seen as an act of sacrifice. However, this act of sacrifice cannot and should not be viewed as an act of self reliance and willpower. The danger in giving up something for Lent is it becomes all about us- what we are giving up and how well we are doing with our sacrifice. Instead, our framework of sacrifice should be complete and total surrender to the God who graciously grants our very breath. We surrender our own desires forcing us to rely upon God and not upon ourselves. 

Giving something up at Lent is a tangible reminder of my ultimate dependence on God. My sacrifice is a daily reminder that, without Him, I can do nothing, but through Him I can do everything. 

What I give up for Lent is something that I want to be difficult. Not so that I can prove to myself and the world that I'm so strong and self-controlled. I want it to be hard so that I have to rely on Jesus to carry me through. 

Giving up something for Lent is also seen as part of a fast that lasts the entire 40 days. There is Scripture upon Scripture that talks about fasting in the Bible, but Matthew 6:16-18 is the verse that first comes to mind for me: 

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (ESV)
First of all, fasting is not seen as an option in this verse. No translation says "If you this"- all translations say "when you this". This means that we are called to fast.

Second, when we fast, we are to do so quietly. I don't think there's anything wrong with sharing your fast with a few friends, especially for accountability purposes. But when Sunday morning comes and we are trying to out-fast each other by bragging about what things we're giving up for Lent, we're missing the point. Are you telling everyone that you're giving up coffee or Facebook to hear a "Woah, I'm impressed"? I know I've done it. Again, we're missing the point. A fast is done quietly because the Lord is really the only one that needs to know about it.

Third, fasting is intended to draw us closer to God. I want whatever I give up for Lent to be something that draws me closer to Jesus. A lack of something that draws you closer to Jesus may look completely different than what my lack of something looks like. I draw closer to Jesus by spending more time in His word and in prayer. Things that threaten this closeness are certain hobbies and habits that eat at my time- therefore what I often give up is an unnecessary hobby or habit that is taking up valuable time in my day.

I give up something for Lent so I can draw closer to Jesus. 


If you are interested in giving something up for Lent (it's never too late!), I would first begin by encouraging you to pray about it. Pray that the Lord would bring to mind the things that distract you from Him. Think about how you draw closer to Jesus. What threatens that closeness? What is something that, when removed, would remind you daily of your dependence on God? What is something that, when removed, would give you the time and resources you need to draw closer to Him?

I find that when I pray about this, the answer is often brought clearly to mind. It's often an answer I don't want to hear, and an answer that I try to ignore for a little while. If you pray about something to give up during this season and God brings to mind something that would be challenging to sacrifice, I encourage you to go through with it. Often, the more difficult and personal the sacrifice is, the more reliance upon God we learn.

I hope and pray that you all are drawing near to Jesus in this season and every season of life.

Have you/are you giving up something for Lent? What are your thoughts on fasting and giving things up?

{Linking up with Oak + Oats & Sweet Little Ones Tuesday Talk}

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  1. I had not stopped to think about how giving up something for Lent has become much more talked about than when I was little. I have given up things in the past and I have shared with my close friends and family but have never made it public on social media. Sometimes it can feel like a bit of competition. I haven't given anything up this year but as we have a few weeks left, I am thinking I may make some changes.

  2. Sarah what an encouraging post! I have done stuff in the past, but didn't do anything this year. Such a good time to give us something for HIM though!!! Happy Friday friend!

  3. I'm really glad you shared this perspective on lent. I think, like you said, that the Bible is pretty clear on fasting. It isn't optional and it isn't to be bragged about. I should fast more. I haven't been good at it for ... a long time now.

    I have three more opinions / thoughts:

    1. I'm glad people are starting to participate more in fasting. I think it is good for their relationship with The Lord.
    2. Lent in general, isn't that a Catholic tradition? I ask because whenever I hear of Lent I associate it with Catholics and I know not all of them, but many believe that the good works are what gets you into heaven. Hence, lent is a big 'good deed' for them.
    3. I think we as Christians should fast more than just during the Easter season. And I'm preaching to myself! I don't know why I don't take more time to do that because it really is a time to renew and refocus our walk with Christ.

  4. I loved this encouragement. I was just reflecting a little on how my lent was going and thinking it hasn't been my best. I have been too distracted by the things going on in my life that I am forgetting to draw closer to God in my struggle, to trust Him to take care of it all for me. I think I need to refocus me Lent!

  5. I would be the first to say that I need to be better about fasting too. I know that the Bible speaks clearly about fasting specifically from food too and I've only ever done that once and I think it's something I need to do again. I completely agree- we need to fast more than just around Easter time. I am glad though that this season highlights it because I think we/me sometimes need that extra push/motivation.
    Lent is traditionally a Catholic thing but I know that it's also been a practice in Lutheran and Anglican churches as well. I can't speak to how Lutherans and Anglicans view it but I would agree that in some cases it's just seen as a good work. That's part of why I mentioned giving up something can be a little dangerous if you start relying on yourself to do it instead of using it to rely on Jesus. Giving things up/fasting can be a beautiful thing but it can also go a little south too if we're not careful and prayerful about it.
    Thanks always for your thoughtful comments! :)

  6. I totally agree that it can feel like a competition and that makes me sad because it's not how it's supposed to be. It's never too late to make a change! :)

  7. Exactly! To give up something for HIM teaches us so much about surrender and reliance on him. Happy weekend to you!

  8. Ahhhh girl I totally hear you- I myself get distracted way more easily than I should be things and struggles of this world. Prayers for you that you can rely and focus on him through your struggles!

  9. Beautifully written with grace & encouragement!

  10. Thank you so much! I will keep you in my prayers as well.

  11. Great post. What a wonderful way to reflect as the lenten season as it has reached its halfway mark! This year I've embarked on the spiritual fast called the Daniel Fast ( It's been a really good way for me to grow deeper in my faith, but sometime that can be done throughout the year. I encourage you to check it out. Jentezen Franklin, also writes a book "Fasting" that has some pretty powerful stuff.

  12. What a strong post filled with so much truth. Fasting is very important to me and my relationship with the Lord however my body does not take to it too well. I have learned to fast in other ways that still draw me closer to Jesus and further from my daily wants and temptations.

  13. I am totally with you on that. I've struggled to do food as well but have found other ways to fast. Amazing how the practice helps us draw closer to Jesus! :)

  14. I've heard of the Daniel Fast- my roommate did it in college but I haven't explored it much myself. Thanks for the link and the book name- I'm definitely going to check both of them out! :)

  15. Your posts on Lent this year have been amazing! I have also given something up, but I'm also doing some things too (mostly to improve my prayer life). Not until recent years did I realize that giving something up during Lent isn't about my willpower. You worded it perfectly above...but that is what I've learned recently. Thank you do much for this and all of your awesome posts...and for linking up with us for Tuesday Talk! - Jess

  16. Thanks so much Jess, I'm glad you liked the post! All I'm learning about Lent has been more recent too and im really thankful for the extra understanding of it :) thanks for hosting another great linkup!


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