During the six-weeks before Easter Sunday, many Christians choose to use this period of time as a way to spiritually prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. During this season, you’ll likely hear of people choosing to give up a variety of things—typically foods and bad habits—as an act of self-sacrifice and a way of remember and reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
While these are meaningful and worthwhile practices, our acts of self-denial often find their beginning and end in ourselves. Yes, we’re giving something up, but to what end? They tend only to focus on relegating something with the intention of improving oneself, but what could we do with the space made by giving something up?
I was challenged last year by a friend who decided that instead of giving something up, she would take something on that would more likely become a prolonged habit, enriching her spiritual life even after this season was over. Our job as Christians is not simply to avoid or discourage our own bad behaviors; it’s more than that. We’re called to do good and to bless the world around us.
Here are a few ways you could choose to renew some of these common practices of self-sacrifice:
Fast from food and provide a meal for someone else.
If you choose to fast from food, take on the practice of giving at the same time by either donating the money you would have spent on food or give food to a local food bank.
Give up television and pick up your Bible.
Giving up watching television will quickly free up some of your time. Fill this time by reading your Bible, journaling, and praying for others.
Quit social media and connect with real people .
The average person spends hours a day on social media, so you’ll immediately find open space in your day to intentionally dig deeper into relationships with Christians and non-Christians.
Stop a bad habit and create a habit of volunteering.
Maybe you’re abstaining from shopping or from daily snoozing your alarm. Utilize the new time you have to explore volunteer opportunities in the church or the community.
Give up complaining and take on thanksgiving.
You’d be surprised how many times a complaint comes across your lips until you try to stop. Fill the space you’ve made in your mind and your conversations with praise for God’s goodness and encouragement towards others.
The purpose of this seasonal discipline for many people is to find renewed spiritual focus as we move towards Easter. We aren’t working to earn something from God, but to pursue the ways he might want to speak to us and transform us so that he can use us to love others towards him.