Now that we are already a couple of weeks into Lent, I invite you to take a moment to ask yourself the following questions: “How am I doing with my relationship with God?” and “How can I improve in my relationship with Him over Lent?” This season of fasting and prayer is probably new for some of you. As someone who attended a Catholic school for 14 years, it is second nature to “give something up” over Lent. In my 7 plus years with the Protestant faith, Redemption is the first church who has taken on this tradition before Easter. Over my years participating in Lent, I have given up different things such as ice cream and Facebook, but I did so out of social pressures, rather than to improve my relationship with God. The act of Jesus dying on a cross for our sins should not be taken lightly, and I urge you to use this time of preparation before Easter as an opportunity to come closer to God. I have gained some insight in regards to Lent over my lifetime that I would like to share with you.
Lent is more than fasting.
Despite all of my attempts at giving up something I like for Lent, that alone did not benefit my relationship with Christ. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that involves removing something from your life (i.e. a meal) to allow space for God to move. Fasting during this period can be beneficial, and one strategy that I have found helpful in regards to giving something up for Lent is to pray every time you are tempted. If you are giving up speeding as Kasey Kimball suggested in a previous blog post, when you catch your foot getting heavy on the gas pedal and you are getting irritated with the person in front of you, pray. You could also be more deliberate about listening to God during these intentional times with Him. Prayer is a dialogue, not monologue. God does not speak to me through an audible voice, he speaks to me in other ways. But you might want to be open to hearing God speak to you in the ways that he chooses to. This can be a powerful way to help change your heart and strengthen your relationship with God.
You will be pressured.
Have you ever heard the saying that if you are a Christian without any hardships in your life, you might be walking on the wrong path? I have been comforted by this thought through many struggles. If you are truly connecting with God, and drawing nearer to Him, there will be opposition from a certain fallen angel named Satan. He takes it upon himself to make our lives miserable. The closer I get to my heavenly Father, the more I see Satan setting up snares in my path. During this season, you will most likely experience some drawbacks. You might get discouraged, have negative feelings, or think that you are not doing enough work. If these things happen to you, know that they are normal, and probably a good sign that you are on the right path. This is my encouragement to you that when things get tough, and you are tempted and maybe even fail, God is right there with you ready to pick you back up, dust you off and continue this journey with you.
The best defence is a good offence.
Sports players probably understand better than anyone the phrase “the best defence is a good offence.” Or maybe you are the kind of person to eat healthy and take vitamins to strengthen your body against sicknesses. If you think of the healthy food and vitamins as the offence and your immune system as the defence there are two layers of protection for your body against illness. Do you have this much protection for your soul/spirit? Have you read about the armour of God found in Ephesians 6:10-18? During this time of Lent I like to emphasize verse 18 where is says “praying at all times in the spirit”. Prayer is one of your best defences throughout all of life, but especially during this time of seeking a closer relationship with God. Other practical ways to boost your offence are if you are fasting from a certain food like chocolate, then do not keep chocolate in your home. That is what Fat Tuesday is for - for clearing out the cupboards and eating all of your chocolate then, to help you to fast now. If you are trying to avoid speeding, leave 10 minutes earlier than you normally do and listen to calm music to help you to relax. Find ways to help protect your net (soul/spirit). God will help us when we fall, but preparing for some potential attacks from the opposing team can be a game changer.
Despite our human weaknesses, the saving grace of God will continue to lead and guide us towards Him. He has paid the highest price by giving us the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ – his one and only Son. We are privileged to know him, and we are privileged to have Lent, a specific time set aside during the year to intentionally come into the presence of YAHWEH. Remembering that the season of Lent is for more than fasting, being aware of our opposition, and strengthening our defences with a good offence will hopefully help us to answer the questions “How am I doing with my relationship with God?” and “How can I improve this area over Lent?” with more confidence.
Katrina Wilhelm was born and raised in Northern Ontario with the expectations of staying in her little French community, but God had other plans. She lived in Southern Ontario for 3 years, graduated from Emmanuel Bible College with a degree in counselling, married Josh Wilhelm, and drove across Canada in an overloaded Dodge Caravan to eventually settle in Vancouver (for Josh to pursue studies at Regent College). Besides John and Mandy Lippert’s home (our host family for one week provided through Regent), Redemption Church was the first place Josh and Katrina went in Vancouver, and they never left!