Create in me a clean heart, Oh God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. - Psalm 51:10
Today starts the season of Lent. For 40 days Jesus wandered in the wilderness, and for 40 days every year we are given a chance to strengthen our relationship with Him.
Many people will mark the day by getting ashes on their forehead. Others will take time to be more intentional in their devotion. However you observe it, is the way you as a believer observe it.
For years I didn't really understand what the ashes meant. All I knew was that I went to church and the priest put ashes on my forehead and said, "For you are dust and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19) I knew I had to give something up and I had to make sure I did it perfectly over the next 40 days or God was going to be mad at me. I realize today I was more focused on performance and less focused on what the season really means - getting closer to Him.
Today, I see it differently - only because I've learned more about what these 40 days are about from a Biblical perspective. When I read Matthew 4:1-11 NLT, I find that Jesus was hungry and the devil came to him in his time of weakness and promised him all the worldly things he could have if he'd just worship him. Verses 10 and 11 are the response:
"'Get out of here Satan, Jesus told him', "For the scriptures say, 'You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.' Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus."
There is a powerful message in that, especially as we all give something up. In doing so, we can see what it really means to worship the one true God because we're giving up those things we've made little gods in our lives.
It does often feel like we're in a wilderness. The cravings can be overwhelming. But we have to realize something.
In this reflective season, we are being given a chance to detach from our vices, come to Jesus. In so doing we get to create a bigger space in our hearts for Him to do the healing only He can do.
So when you get all frustrated in the next couple weeks because you can't have that thing you want that you gave up, just remember what you are getting - a chance to return to in that moment what truly satisfies you - knowing Jesus. I know it won't be easy - for you or for me. But I also know that with God's help I can do it. If He can do it, I can do it. If you struggle, I recommend you read Matthew 4 or listen to this song I posted below. For me, it made the most sense to kick off this season of Lent. It also gave me what I'm going to say every time I'm tempted:
"Lord - I seek you first."
"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." - Matthew 6:33 NLT