That season where we all try and emulate a first century Palestinian by giving up Mars Bars for 6 weeks. A second chance for those failed New Years Resolutions.
Got to be honest, if it was just about the Mars Bars, Lent could take a powder. I’m sure that it might be helpful for people to give up Mars Bars, and it might even make the family GP happy, but if you want to lose weight, try Slim Fast.
Lent’s a bit counter-cultural really. I mean, in an age where we like to make life faster and easier for ourselves, deliberately making things harder by giving up something we love for 6 weeks – and not just for the aforementioned weight loss reasons – seems a bit bizarre. What the heck is the point of making life deliberately more difficult?
But actually, that’s the point. Lent is a time where we choose to run into the pain instead of running away from it. To identify with the starving man in the desert and to embrace the pain of being human. Because let’s be honest, life can suck sometimes, right?
People die. Get sick. Struggle with depression and other mental health issues. Lose jobs. Become bankrupt. Experience relationship breakdown. GO through the heartbreak of infertility. Whatever it is – sometimes life is just awful.
And actually, that’s what lent is about. Ok, giving up the Mars Bars might not be the height of suffering (Galaxy, on the other hand…) But, as humans, we’re wired with a sense that suffering is not right. These things that hurt us, that oppress us – this is not how life should be.
Jesus and his 40 day nomination for Worst Vacation Ever reminds us that this is exactly right. Suffering and pain and heartache and sadness – this is not how it’s meant to be. It’s awful, and, unfortunuately, being human, it’s something we have to deal with.
But Lent shows us that we aren’t dealing with a God who doesn’t get it. He’s not sitting up there impassively in the sky, watching us get on with it as best we can. He’s in it with us, in Jesus – the nitty gritty of a profound period of starvation, temptation and severe heartache as He wrestled a call that would eventually lead to an agonising death on an instrument of torture.
We do the world a severe disservice when we present Christianity as peachy, pie-in-the-sky-when-we-die, I found Jesus but lost my common sense, religion for the logically impaired. It’s not. It’s gritty and painful and difficult and agonising, just like life itself. But in the process of lent, whether we’re giving something up, taking something on, or standing back and trying to work out what the fuss is about, we’re reminded of a powerful truth. Life sucks. But we’re not in it alone. He who loves us dearly is in heaven interceeding for us – not from a position of removal but from a position of knowing intimately what it is to suffer. Lent hurts. It’s meant to. But Easter’s coming.