What should you give up for Lent this year?
What Should you Give up for Lent?
Do you feel like Lent is approaching like a speeding train that you are not prepared for? You see it rumbling down the tracks toward you and you know it will stop in front of you, screeching it’s brakes as it comes to an abrupt halt. Are you ready for Lent this year? Have you decided what should you give up for Lent? Are all the questions you have about what you can give up for Lent swirling around in your mind?
It is okay. Jesus is not going to step off a train and ask you if you are prepared for Lent, staring you down with a stern look on His face. Jesus will invite you to travel with Him. He will hold out to you a ticket with your name engraved on it. It is a special, personal invitation just for you to join Him on a Lenten journey.
Will you accept His invitation?
Why do you give up something for Lent?
As a Church, we give up meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent. We also fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, giving up large meals, extra meals, and snacks on these days a sacrifice. These are called days of fasting and abstinence. (The US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website has more specific information about these. Fasting applies to those in good health who are between the ages fo 18-59 who are not pregnant or nursing.)
Other than these observances, you do not have to give up anything for Lent. It is an option. So, then, should you give up something for Lent? Jesus gave His very life for you. He suffered, was crucified, and died on the cross for you, to redeem you from your sins. He spent 40 days in the desert before His public ministry began. When you give something up for Lent, in a small way you are sharing in Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice.
Remember when Jesus was in agony in the garden on Good Thursday before He was arrested? He asked His disciples to stay with Him and pray, but they kept falling asleep. Lent is your opportunity to wait with Jesus in the garden and to walk with Him during the time of preparation before His passion, death, and Resurrection.
Interesting fact: Lenten sacrifices have long been a part of our Catholic history, documented as far back as 300’s. If you want to read more, the Catholic Education Resource Center has an article about Lent in the 300’s, 400’s, and 600’s.
What does "give up for Lent" mean to you?
Giving up something for Lent needs to mean something to you. If you give up sodas because you were planning on giving them up anyway, that is not a true sacrifice. Looking at the other extreme, if you give up something that will cause a hardship for you and feelings of resentment, that will draw you away from the true purpose of sacrificing for Lent: to draw you closer to Christ.
Find something to give up that will remind you of Jesus every time you would have done it. If you chose to give up sweets or television, every time you find yourself wanting a cookie or reaching for the remote, you will remember why you have given it up: your love for Jesus is greater than your love for sweets or television.
Some ideas on what to give up for Lent
Chocolate is a popular item that people give up for Lent. Giving up soda, coffee, junk food, sweets, television, and social media are other popular ideas as well.
Gossip, bad company, saying negative comments to family members, yelling, overspending on frivolous items, and fast food are also things people fast from.
But the question is, what should YOU give up for Lent? You should give up for Lent something that currently pulls you away from God in your daily life. Do you yell at your kids? Do you eat too much? Do you stay up too late watching TV? Do you neglect time for daily prayer?
Think of your life right now: what things do you do or say (to yourself or to others) that take you away from a closer relationship with God? This is what you need to give up, to fast from, during Lent. Spend time thinking about this and discerning what you should give up. If you are unsure what to give up, pray about it, too. God will lead you to the right sacrifice for you.
What to do during Lent instead
When you give something up for Lent, it can be helpful to find something to replace it with. For example, if you give up yelling at your kids, you may want to say a prayer for patience and help every time you are tempted to yell at your kids. If you give up watching television before going to bed, decide what you can do with this time instead, like spend time with your spouse, read the Bible, pray a Rosary, exercise, or simply go to bed early and get a good night's rest.
It can be easier to give something up when you replace it with a positive behavior that can become a good habit.
If you are unsure about what you can replace what you give up with, think back. Have you ever said, "one day I will..." about growing in your faith or working to improve yourself? That may be the right thing to add to your Lent this year; this Lent may be your "one day."
Resources about what to give up for Lent
Here are some resources for you if you are looking for more help and ideas about what to give up for Lent:
Resources you can use to replace what you give up for Lent
Here are two are free resources you can sign up for via e-mail. They are short, daily reflections you can use to help you learn about and grow in your faith. The third resource is filled with spiritual books to help you grow in your faith during Lent.
What will you give up for Lent this year?
Leave a comment below! We can learn from support each other this Lent.