Forty Days

A Fast Way to Become a Better Person

by Patrick G Howard

Joel 2: 12 – This is what the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping and mourning.

The Book of Joel is a small one – just two chapters. It is Joel’s message of God’s judgement and salvation. In it, he recounts the devastating plague of locusts that consume everything in the land of Judah. It is a warning to the people of Jerusalem of the consequences if they continue along their sinful path, and a promise of redemption if they turn away.

You often hear this verse on or near Ash Wednesday, and for good reason. The forty days of Lent is a great time to turn away from the things in your life you know you shouldn’t be doing and re-dedicate your lives to God. Of course, if you’re like me you are probably thinking, “Why does it have to be fasting?”

I think fasting is frequently misunderstood. Many people think of it as giving up food or drink. And while that is a perfectly good way to fast, there are many other ways to observe the Lenten season.

I once heard it said that, “Lent is a good excuse to become a better person.” I really like that. While Lent is a special time of prayer, confession and self-denial for many, it can also be a time for self-improvement … A time where we eliminate something that we shouldn’t do or add something that we should. And when you think about it, if you do something for six weeks, it tends to be habit forming.

What if, during Lent, you decided to …

GIVE UP complaining about the things you don’t like or don’t have and replace it with giving thanks for things that you do have. My family started a tradition during Lent a few years ago. We make it a point to frequently find something that we are thankful for in our lives, write a brief note about it and place it in our “gratitude jar.” At the end of the year, we read them all and remember the many blessings in our lives.

You can (and should) turn the bad things in your life into something to be thankful for.

• Instead of mourning over the loss of a loved one, thank God that He placed that person in your life.
• Instead of being angry over the loss of a job (or client), thank God that He closed that door so that another can be opened.

GIVE UP a few minutes of your time to spend in prayer or meditation with God. Resolve to spend 15 minutes with no distractions – no phone … no TV … no radio … NO FACEBOOK! Just be in the presence of God for that time. And I know that it’s hard to find 15 minutes to do anything, but you can do it if you really want to.

GIVE UP one evening a week. Use that time to visit with somebody. It can be somebody that you know and haven’t talked to in a while, or it can be a complete stranger in a senior assisted living home. Maybe you could visit somebody from your church that is shut in and rarely has visitors.  Whomever it may be, give somebody else the best gift you have – your time.

This is a very short list. And since none of us are perfect, we can all find something to give up and replace it with something more Christ like. This Lent, let us all focus on becoming a better person.