If you’ve ever dabbled in photography (as it appears most of us have with our smartphones) or been the one with three cameras and a bag draped around your neck at a sporting event, you understand a photographer’s quest to capture the perfect snapshot. The shot that brings life into crystal clear focus while also telling a larger story that will evoke emotions for years to come. Whether it is a wide-angle landscape or telephoto view of soft lines on an aging face, snapshots tell bigger stories of life.
The same is true of Lent.
Lent is the wide-angle lens that allows us to zoom in on Jesus. Lent helps us repurpose, reset and refocus our hearts and minds on Christ.
Friend, if you are currently observing Lent by observing the spiritual discipline of fasting, be encouraged. Not unlike your faith walk, Lent is a journey. One that prepares you to kneel, once again, at the foot of the cross in humble submission to the only One who has the power in His blood to wash us white as snow.
Lent is an opportunity to capture the perfect snapshot of the bigger picture of faith.
Just as a believer’s walk of faith is marked by milestones of victory and moments of transforming grace, the spiritual practice of fasting, especially during the season of Lent, is marked by stages of revelation culminating in the transforming power of a Resurrected Life.
Letting go leads to leaning in. Conviction conforms to the mind of Christ. Fasting turns to feasting. In the transforming power of grace, Lent becomes the perfect snapshot of the Christian journey of faith.
Just as a believer’s journey is not about checking all the boxes, observing Lent is not a formula to freedom. Lent is every believer’s opportunity to enter into stages of personal transformation in the name of Jesus.
Fasting becomes an open threshold to surrender.
Regardless of what we feel led to fast, or do without for a time, this spiritual discipline is born of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit tends the garden of our minds and plants the seeds of conviction in our hearts. This conviction to fast is a wooing of the Spirit to draw near to the Son—an internal conversation of your spirit with His. Spiritual seeds need the Son in order to grow closer to God.
The sowing of conviction then gives birth to covenant relationship. The decision to fast, or even to follow Jesus, is a personal decision of the will. It is you and me saying “I do” to the great “I Am”.
However, every decision in life has consequences. Fasting requires letting go, living without, and then realizing and enduring the consequences, good or bad.
Covenant always creates consequence.
While some may think this is the most difficult stage of fasting, the real work is yet to come. Realizing consequences is the stage where we must answer the questions, “Is Jesus enough?” and “Am I willing to do the work to find out?”
The next stage is where the hard work begins. Cravings—better known spiritually as longings. We all have them, cravings and longings. However, when we fast, Satan will use our cravings to distract us from our God-given, deeper longings. The devil knows that if we never identify our deeper longings, we will continue to live on the superficial level of human desires.
Perhaps Oswald Chambers expressed it best when he wrote, “Beware of counterfeiting the love of God by following your own natural human emotions, sympathies, or understandings.”
Fasting allows you to surrender your human cravings for a deeper acknowledgment and understanding of the longings that can only be satisfied in Christ.
This is the heart of Lent—teaching, training, trusting, and, like Jesus, digging deep and praying hard in the garden.
If you are fasting food, especially sugar, you are teaching your body, created by God, how to function efficiently, the way it was designed. If you are fasting negative thoughts or a toxic relationship, you are training your mind to undo the programmed default patterns of the world and reset your affections on the One who will never leave you or forsake you. If you are fasting a specific behavior or activity, you are trusting that your identity is not found in anything or anyone, but Christ.
Our surrender of cravings bleeds into the next stage of considering Christ in all things. When we experientially know that only Christ can fulfill our deepest longings, we begin to consider others in a way that only Jesus can reveal. This is the calling to which fasting will lead; patience and long-suffering as we learn the joy in other-centered living and less is more thinking.
What most describe in the latter days of fasting, after the long, arduous trek through the cravings and considering wilderness, is a contentment in all circumstances.
Paul describes this revelation from a prison cell, “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”(Philippians 4:11-12 ESV)
Then, as we enter Holy Week and retrace His path to the cross, there will be a quiet acceptance and perfect peace that compel us forward. A time when the former things seem to pass away, fasting becomes as unconscious as breathing, and all we can imagine is running toward an empty tomb.
That compelling force is Christ, the Love of God personified.
Christ is the reward for fasting. For to fast is to learn to feast on Christ.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Matthew 4:4 ESV
Jesus is the Word, the manna, the Bread of Life who feeds our hungry souls, fulfills our deepest longings, and prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
As we fast our way from conviction to covenant to consequence to cravings to considering to contentment to Christ, we begin to see the bigger picture of faith of which Lent is but a snapshot.
In the midst of Lent, and in the midst of life, fasting to feasting is the promise for every faithful believer.
My fellow sojourner, keep walking in faith knowing that milestones of victory lie ahead and moments of transforming grace sprout from the seeds of conviction.
On Easter Day, when you reach the empty tomb, look up! Jesus is setting the table for the feast of a lifetime.
“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
Revelation 19:9 ESV
Live out the blessing in your daily walk. Extend the invitation to others. Let your life be a snapshot of Jesus.