by Linda Veath Cox

I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. ~ Job 42:5-6 NKJV

Many churches held special worship services this past Wednesday. Ash Wednesday. Pastors used the ashes of palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday services to make the sign of the cross on the foreheads of the worshippers.

The 40 days of Lent (not counting Sundays) are a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter. It is set apart in the church year for reflection on Jesus Christ—His suffering; His sacrifice; His life, death, burial and resurrection.

Traditional practices during Lent are prayer, fasting, and “almsgiving.” Churches forego the Gloria in Excelsis and Alleluias from their services. And many people choose to “give something up for Lent.” All of these things are designed to help us see our need of God’s forgiveness and draw us closer to Him.

And that is the key to a meaningful Lent—growing closer to God as we prepare for Easter.

If we choose to fast, be it giving up food or a TV program, it’s not so we have more time to run errands or finish extra chores. It’s to allow us to have more time to focus on our Lord. If our Lenten activities don’t do that, then why are we doing them anyway?

As we search our hearts during Lent, as we ponder Christ’s journey to the cross, as we are saddened by our sin that brought about His suffering and death, our lives are also brightened with the joy of His resurrection and victory over sin—our sin!—and the grave.

Yes, Lent is a somber time, too somber for some people. But underneath the somberness of the observances lies the brightness of Easter Sunday. That’s why some have called Lent “The Season of Bright Sadness.” I like that and pray that however you choose to observe Lent this year, it will be a “season of bright sadness” that allows you to see more clearly what Jesus Christ did for you.