It’s traditional during Lent to give up (or ‘fast from’) something(s) that we do a lot of and that we find pleasure in.

This giving up or fasting is done as a discipline for learning self-control and to free our minds from chasing after material things. It can also be done by recognizing and repenting of our sin and wrongdoing, and to help us identify with Christ’s suffering, death and crucifixion.

The most common thing is to fast from some kind of food for Lent. For example, we might give up pizza, fast food, Diet Coke or snacks – if we can. Food fasts are the most common way to observe Lent. They’re also the simplest to do, since we all eat every day. But we have to be careful, of course, not to do anything that will harm our health.

If giving up food isn’t a sacrifice, we may choose something else that will require us to make a more serious effort to give up – such as 40 days without television, impulse shopping, working too hard or watching too much hockey. The idea is to identify something that presents a challenge to our living a Christ-like life and give it up for 40 days. Giving something up for Lent should also cause us to become more aware of the sinful behaviour, thoughts and attitudes that are holding us back in our growth toward becoming like Jesus.

Jesus is not looking for self-torture, self-hatred, or 40-day of starvation. So there is no reason not to enjoy good times with family, March Madness (that’s a college basketball thing), laughter with friends or the joy of the Lord during worship or prayer.

In fact, Lent is not just about giving things up. It’s also about adding good things to our lives, the kind of good things that come with doing what Jesus asks us to do. So we might want to try adding some things like:

  • Reconcile with someone from whom we have become alienated.
  • Do intentional acts of random kindness for people.
  • Pray, study and meditate on God’s Word every day.
  • Attend worship service every Sunday and the special events of Holy Week.

What we may find is that “giving up for Lent” is far more rewarding than we can imagine.