By Stephen G. Post
Lent reminds us of the pure and perfect love of Christ, his elicited betrayal, and that a love so large, that even in terrible suffering, it cannot reject anyone or be defeated. Lent is a time to remember the darkness that Jesus endured, however shadowy the scene. And it was God’s love that wrote the play, and forgiveness that was brought into the world at a new level, never seen before or since.
Oddly, I also welcome Lent because Christians set themselves apart from the consumerism and triviality that mark our culture. Christian joy is nurtured in these 40 days because we concentrate a little more intensely, than at other times in the year, on charity, giving, helping and contributing to the lives of others, especially the very neediest. It is a time of grateful simplicity. When we get back in touch with the simple gifts of God’s creation and stop pretending that we are happier by virtue of yet another expensive pair of designer jeans or some other material possession. It is a time of deep prayer and discernment, of getting in touch with one’s core spiritual commitments and values. Thus, we achieve greater wholeness or integrity in our hearts. Finally, it is a time to reflect on higher purposes in life, ones that God calls us all to.
The best research on joy suggests that these four things are key: self-giving love, simplicity-in-gratitude, spiritual and moral integrity, and nobility of purpose. Furthermore, the elevation in joy that such practices elicit takes about six weeks, or 40 days, to become clear and lasting. So paradoxically, in the giving of self lies the discovery of a deeper and more joyful self. Of course, the celebration comes with the beauty of resurrection on Easter and Christ’s ascension. However, the disciplines of Lent are the very things that allow us to live meaningfully and joyfully over the course of our lives. And 40 days is just about right!
Stephen G. Post is the author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping. For more information visit www.StephenGPost.com
This may be used with permission using proper credit line to Stephen G. Post/The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love ©