When most Catholics ask “What should I give up for Lent,” they think of bad habits.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but it typically has one of three consequences:
- They default to what they did last year.
- They sail through something easy.
- They slog through something hard.
In any case, after Easter they fall back on their habits. Either they slip back into them, or they’re relieved to get back to them.
But there’s a better approach: You can ask the three questions I’m about to share with you.
When you do, you’ll dig under your surface habits and discover a deeper way to approach Lent this year. What’s more, you’ll have a stronger sense of purpose.
Lent isn’t so much about fixing bad habits – it’s about getting the things we love back in proper order.
We fast for Lent because we struggle to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut 6:5). God protects us, comforts us and provides for us! So why do we turn away from Him? Because we look for pleasure, comfort and security in things other than God. And not just bad things – sometimes, too much of a good thing.
To identify those things, ask these three questions. They’ll point to what you can give up for Lent.
1. What distracts me from God?
Maybe God simply wants your attention this Lent.
The distractors are obvious: phones, social media, endless hours watching movies or streaming shows. We can use these things to avoid facing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, especially by praying. Let’s be honest, sometimes prayer feels uncomfortable. It’s real time with God, yet we can struggle to be open and honest with Him. Lent is a perfect time to work on that.
2. Where do I turn for comfort instead of God?
Food, drink and entertainment are easy answers. But I dare you to dig deeper.
Do you find comfort in owning certain things? Getting comments on social media? Having things your way? Even good things are lesser goods compared to God. By giving up certain things (or actions) that bring us comfort, we learn to rely on God’s comfort, which ultimately satisfies us.
3. Where do I look for security instead of God?
God provides! It’s easy to say, but harder to believe.
We seek security in all kinds of ways. Having money. Owning things. Being liked. Looking good. Gaining (or keeping) status. Squeezing everything we can into a day to feel productive. Piling expectations on ourselves.
Do you seek security in any of these things, instead of God’s love and mercy? Answer this question honestly, and you can transform the way you give things up for Lent.
Why these questions work
They don’t make Lent about fixing a bad habit. They make Lent about healing your relationship with God. And this (forgive the cliche) is the “reason for the season.”
I’ll use these questions to decide what to give up for Lent this year. How about you? When you were reading through the questions, what thoughts came to mind? If you take them to prayer, you can approach Lent with a new sense of purpose.
And that sense of purpose will carry you all the way to Easter!