Yesterday marked the beginning of the Lenten season. Until recently, whenever anyone asked me what I was giving up for Lent, I joked that I was giving up Lent up for Lent. Last night a friend mentioned that he didn’t see the point in Lent and that got me thinking: what is the point of Lent?

This is what I came up with.

To me, Lent resembles fasting. The way I view it, fasting isn’t about abstaining from food or skipping meals or ignoring hunger; it’s about acknowledging my physical hunger for food and replacing it with a hunger for God. So, I set aside mealtimes as intentional God timeĀ and use hunger pangs like biological alarms. Instead of focusing on the ache, I use the grumbling as a physical reminder to focus my thoughts on God, relying on Him for sustenance instead of food.

Likewise, Lent challenges us to give up something we have given far too much importance in our lives in order to spend more intentional time focused on God. Whenever we think of that special thing, we are reminded to think of Him instead. For instance, when I gave up coffee I used caffeine cravings as a trigger for prayer. This year, I decided to add a little task to each day that requires me to intentionally give up time to focus on Him. After all, no matter how you decide to participate, the true sacrifice of Lent is that of man’s most valuable and limited resource: time.

By actively sacrificing our precious time, by choosing to intentionally devote it to investing in a relationship with God rather than the millions of other things we have allowed to overrun our lives, the Lenten season prepares our hearts, minds, and spirits to celebrate the greatest sacrifice the world has or will ever know. What’s more, sacrifice requires purpose and God’s purpose in sacrificing His Son was to give us life. The purpose of giving something up for Lent isn’t to make our lives miserable in its absence. No, we practice Lent because, in the naming and relenting of our deadly devotions, we are, ourselves, drawn by the Author and Finisher of our faith closer to Himself; the only One who frees us to truly live.