“I wasn’t expecting to give this much up for Lent.”
When the 2020 season of Lent began in the United States, very few could have predicted what would become the new normal within the span of a few short weeks. What began as well-intentioned choices on the part of some to selectively forego some common pleasures—sweets, social media, television or other indulgences—during the days leading up to Holy Week, soon morphed into a new reality, heretofore unprecedented in our modern era. A reality in which much of which we had taken for granted—going to work or school, visiting with friends or family members, attending religious services, or even being able to leave our homes when we want—are no longer possible for the foreseeable future. Even items previously considered necessities— many foods, medicines and toilet paper (the scarcity of which still boggles the mind)—are now either in limited supply, or are not able to be found.
Yes. Our consumer-driven culture is now going without; and doing so not necessarily out of any personal choice, but because this unavoidable and unasked-for scenario has been forcibly thrust upon us.
People are scared; scared of the unknown, scared of the possibility of going without, scared for the health and well-being of themselves and loved ones. Scared for what the future holds. Scared that they might fall ill and not live to see that future.
Fear is now the currency of our culture.
But it does not have to be.
I have been reading through the book of Habakkuk, and have been especially encouraged by these verses (Habakkuk 3:17-18):
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Note that the author does not write that they will rejoice in the Lord because things are going well; nor do they state that they rejoice in the Lord because the things that they are going without are things that they are choosing to give up.
The things that are happening to the author—failure for fruit trees to blossom (which means no fruit), no production of fruit in vineyards, no olives or oil, no crops and no livestock—basically a scenario in which all provision has been stripped away, leaving the author without control and desolate, have not brought The author to despair.
Read that again.
As every single comfort and provision on which the author depended for survival was snatched away—not deliberately given up for a time, knowing that the return of those necessities were just an easy decision away, but were violently wrenched away, one after the other—the author did not choose to complain. Nor berate the God whom had promised to supply all of the needs of His children. Nor make a spectacle of themselves, showcasing their misery. Nor choose to do anything other than rejoice in God, knowing that in Him lies salvation.
So as this season of Lent continues, and if the days of uncertainty drag on longer than any of us would like, I urge you to not think of what you have given up, or what has been taken from you. Rather, look to the One who has never failed to meet the needs of His people.
The One who, with full understanding of what it would cost Him, chose to give everything up. To live in humility among humanity, be betrayed, and then suffer the agony of a brutal death, made so much more awful by the sin-wrought, complete separation from God. All of this, so that He could then redeem a flawed, selfish, and broken people; people who are so incredibly precious to their Creator God that His suffering gave us the right to be called His own children.
People are even more desperate right now for the peace which surpasses all human understanding to envelop them. A peace that each of us can only have, if we come to the realization that we never had control in the first place. And, in coming to that realization, choose to place our trust fully in God, knowing that, like the Scripture says, He is worthy of all praise, regardless of the circumstances. And that, regardless of what happens, we can trust that He remains in control.