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5 Things to Try Giving Up for Lent This Year

5 Things to Try Giving Up for Lent This Year

5 Things to Try Giving Up for Lent This Year

Lent is a season of the year on the Church calendar that Christians have been celebrating for hundreds of years. It is a roughly six-week period that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter when we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection. Lent has traditionally been a time of reflection on sin in order to repent and turn to God in gratitude for what he did on the cross at Easter. 

Many Christians, like myself, who grew up in a liturgical church (you can read more about liturgical churches in this Crosswalk article) are likely familiar with the Lenten season and what it means. But for those who are not, here is a little background:

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<strong>Lent: The Season of Rebirth</strong>

Lent: The Season of Rebirth

The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word “lencten,” which means “spring season.” Lent comes at a time of year when we are not only looking forward to the rebirth of nature with new growth, flowers budding, leaves greening, and birds chirping, but to the spiritual rebirth we are offered through Christ’s sacrifice. God promises that our hearts of stone can be made hearts of flesh if we put our faith in him (Ezekiel 36:26). 

Since Lent is the season leading up to the celebration of Easter, many Christians use this time to fast from something. Growing up, I remember giving up chocolate or other sweets. The idea is that depriving ourselves of something enjoyable for a period of time will draw our focus more to the Lord and away from temporal things.

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The Symbolism of Lent

The Symbolism of Lent

God created us as both spiritual and physical beings, and often, it takes physical representations to remind us of a spiritual truth. The physical act of giving something up during the Lenten season is a perfect example of a physical manifestation bearing witness to a spiritual truth: that we have nothing apart from God’s goodness to begin with. 

Lent looks forward to Easter when we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death, but Lent also reminds us to slow down and dwell on the brokenness of our sin that Jesus had to endure through the cross and the everyday pains and trials of living a human life.

The 40 days of Lent are also significant. In Scripture, Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai in God’s presence, God sent 40 days of rain on the earth in the story of Noah and the Ark, Jonah’s prophecy to Nineveh gave the Ninevites 40 days to repent, and Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness facing temptation. Jesus’ 40 days in the desert are perhaps especially poignant when considering the season of Lent. However, remember that Scripture does not tell us that Jesus spent this time in the wilderness in order to deprive himself, but in order to prepare himself for the ministry God gave him to accomplish (Matthew 4:1-17).

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How Will You Observe Lent This Year?

How Will You Observe Lent This Year?

So after reflecting on all of this, do you find yourself wanting to use the spiritual discipline of fasting or giving something up this season of Lent? 

I intend to observe Lent this year by giving something up, and I encourage you to do the same. But before you settle on something to give up, it’s helpful to remember why we are doing this to begin with. After all, giving something up has little value if it doesn’t draw you nearer to God and allow you to be more attuned to the needs of others. 

When I would give up sweets as a child I attempted to do so (most times failing) out of sheer willpower. My motivation was on what I could do in my own power, not on doing it because I desired to deepen my relationship with the Lord.

This perspective is essential. Instead of giving up something material, it may be more beneficial to cultivate a deeper spiritual practice by giving up things that distract you from God so you will have more space in your life to draw near to him. 

Let’s keep that in mind as we explore five things you may want to try giving up for Lent. 

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5 Things to Try Giving Up for Lent This Year

5 Things to Try Giving Up for Lent This Year

1. Social Media

You knew this would come up, right? Many pastors and commentators talk about the harmfulness of social media in our world today. I won’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say that it is simply too easy to lose time scrolling, and it is likely that time would be more grace-filled and more uplifting when spent with family, friends, or in Scripture. You don’t even have to fast from it altogether. One thing I’ve implemented recently is to use an analog alarm clock instead of my phone. My phone now charges in another room while I’m sleeping and I don’t look at it first thing in the morning. I’ve found it’s much easier to turn my thoughts to the Lord when my phone is not within arm’s reach in the morning.

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2. Criticizing Others

2. Criticizing Others

Ouch. I know this one is tough. It’s just so easy to complain. It’s even easy to use prayer requests to complain! But I encourage you to be conscious of having a critical spirit this season of Lent. Every time you want to criticize someone else and what they said or how they do things, say a quick prayer for that person instead. 

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3. TV Time

3. TV Time

TV can be very educational and there are many great shows out there, but like social media, it’s too easy to spend hours in front of it and to neglect the joy and connection we could have if we take even small steps to spend time with others, to serve in our communities, or to have dinner around the kitchen table. Again, the point is not to quit cold turkey, but perhaps you could designate a couple nights a week when the TV is off limits and plan another activity like volunteering at church, going on a walk outside, having a family game night, or praying for one another. 

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4. Your Car

4. Your Car

This one may not be possible for everyone, and that’s okay. There are still smaller steps you can take in this direction. I put this one on the list because cars tend to be very important parts of our lives. We often take them for granted, yet they are often expensive, and the majority of people in the world do not own one. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with owning a car--they allow us to get to work, take the kids to school, and visit friends far away. 

However, I’ve noticed that when I’m driving I pay much less close attention to my surroundings compared to when I am biking or walking. Seeing your neighborhood on a bike or a walk is a very different view than in a car. You’ll notice who is always out on their porch, who may need help with their lawn, or who loves to grill out. Our world is so fast-paced, so choosing to walk to the store or other errands can be a great way to slow down if you live close enough to do so.

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5. Shopping Corporate

5. Shopping Corporate

It’s no secret that Target is essential. I get it--it’s an easy, one-stop place for so many things. But like our discussion of cars, shopping only at corporate retailers often disconnects us from our actual neighbors and those in our community who are passionate about what they do. Are there any local mom and pop restaurants nearby you could go to instead of frequenting a chain restaurant? Is there a local grocery store where you could buy produce? Or, even better, perhaps a farmer’s market where you can get to know the growers of the food you and your family will eat for dinner? 

Most of the things I’ve listed above really have to do with connection vs. disconnection, intention vs. distraction. If you view the season of Lent as a gift to usher in new habits to your life that will increase joy, connection, thankfulness, and grace, the idea of giving something up can be turned on its head. And even if you do choose to fast from something more material, there are great ways to make it more about drawing nearer to God and those he has created in his image. For example, you could use the money you would have spent on a latte to donate to a charity or whenever you’re tempted to eat that piece of chocolate, let it be a prompt to pray for someone specific.

What do you plan to give up during this season of Lent? Ask God to let it be a way for you to draw nearer to him.


Veronica Neffinger wrote her first poem at age seven and went on to study English in college, focusing on 18th century literature. When she is not listening to baseball games, enjoying the outdoors, or reading, she can be found mostly in Richmond, VA writing primarily about nature, nostalgia, faith, family, and Jane Austen.

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