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Breaking Lent (with Coffee)

Vanessa Luu

Contributing Writer
Updated Mar 19, 2024
Breaking Lent (with Coffee)

As Christians, it's important to know what we are doing and why we are doing it. God wants our whole hearts.

I broke my Lent today and got my favorite drink from a little kiosk called the GrindHouse. The owner makes the most delicious blend of drinks. Some of her employees aren't as consistent with their barista skills, so my coffee is not the cup of perfection I was hoping for, and all I can do is laugh. God says, "Sure, you can have the coffee, but it won't satisfy." And as always, He was right.

As Christians, it's important to know what we are doing and why we are doing it. God wants our whole hearts. He doesn't care about routine sacrifices and ritualistic practices, and I don't say that lightly. 

God gave the Israelites many rules, ordinances, and specificities regarding all of their religious practices. Still, when you examine the rules and the scriptures themselves, you can see a strongly unified theme. All rules given by God were meant to draw the individual to God Himself by reminding him or her of what God has done and who He is.

I've learned from practicing Lent this year that I really enjoy going out for coffee, maybe even more than I thought. Abstaining from my coffee trips has indeed been a sacrifice. I know that the point of Lent is to sacrifice and draw closer to God, but I realized it wasn't bringing me closer to Him, which prompted me to learn more about Lent.

One of my personal reasons for fasting from something has always had an element of relying on God even more than I already do. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days and nights and was tempted by Satan during this time. Jesus' time in the wilderness is where Lent comes from. 

Understanding Lent

I asked myself why Jesus did this but did not command it. What purpose did it serve? I learned that He did it because the Holy Spirit called Him to do it and that His resistance to the devil's temptation further proves that He never sinned.

In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, which says, “‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” As I read these words, I know how true they are without a shadow of a doubt. Without the Word of God, none of us would have drawn breath today. Without God, we wouldn’t exist.

I know that I don’t need coffee; I only need Jesus, yet my coffee desire remains. And it’s not the substance itself; it’s the act. It’s leaving my house and pulling up to order. It gives me a sense of freedom.

I also enjoy bringing a treat coffee to work. There is a positive mental connection between working and sipping a delicious iced latte. It's a simple reminder that though life is hard, it is also sweet, and I'll make it through another day.

I know that coffee has not and will never bring life to my day; only Jesus does that, and while I know this to be true and have experienced it numerous times, I still want the coffee. Maybe you're shocked by my confession, or maybe you know exactly what I mean.

I know that life on earth is temporary and nothing here can fill me, but I still have to live here. Coffee treats make life a little sweeter (except when they don't).

Today's coffee did not satisfy. The espresso must have been a tad burnt, and my pallet did not enjoy the drink I had been craving.

Craving Jesus will always satisfy. His Word always delivers satisfaction. It teaches, corrects, comforts, and encourages me as it should.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says virtually the same thing: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

Practicing Legalism with Lent

Realizing that I go out for coffee too often is a good thing, and I will continue to address it with God. I know He will be faithful in guiding me through this earthly journey, but I also realized today that my practice of Lent this year was legalistic and, therefore, futile. These discoveries don't mean I'm against Lent, but knowing that God never commanded us to observe Lent is important. Knowing this causes me to pause and dig deeper.

Man created the practice of Lent. According to "The Beginning of Lent" (from ChristianityToday.com): "Early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200) wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days, not the 40 observed today."

You won't find any reference to Lent in the Bible. There are several passages on fasting and prayer, but not Lent or a season of Lent.

I share my discoveries to add more perspective to your Lent this year and in the following years, not to discourage you from Lent altogether.

The purpose of Lent is to draw closer to God. It's to weed out things that may have been pulling you away from Him and ensure you live in alignment with your Creator. We should do this more than once a year. 

My daily goal is to draw closer to God, and I know that I do and that He draws near to me (as promised in James 4:8).

What does it say for our daily witness as followers of Christ if we are waiting for the Lenten season to give ourselves an alignment check?

Participating in Sacrifice Year-Round

Participating in the season of Lent is the same as participating in Christmas and Easter. All three of these seasons were created by man. While they have biblically solid inspirations: the birth of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the fasting Jesus did in the wilderness, they are part of our religion, not a command of God.

God never commanded us to practice Lent, and even though Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and nights, it wasn't anything He asked of His apostles or even taught in the Gospels.

Lent season should be a lifelong practice. We may not always be called to fast along the way, but our heart's daily surrender is the Lenten season's true spirit.

Jesus fully submitted His life to the Father daily and withstood severe temptation from the devil. We all have the power to resist the temptations of the devil and evil as a whole through the same power that Jesus did; we just don't typically execute it as well as Him.

God knows we aren't perfect like Jesus, so He walks with us in this journey we call life. God consistently provides all we need. He gave His only Son to us as a model and the perfect sacrifice so that we could live with Him forever.

If you are practicing Lent this season, I pray that it will be a fruitful time for your spiritual growth in the Lord. Don't feel bad if you are not participating in Lent this year. Know that you can give your heart to God daily and let Him direct your steps. I believe the outcome will be the same because, with God, it all comes down to the heart.

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13 (NASB)

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Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Wipada Wipawin

Vanessa Luu is a wife, mother, and faith-based writer. She speaks and writes to believers to encourage them to live authentically with God.