What I Gave Up for Lent

“In the spring,” Mark Twain said, “I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.”

Twain lived in Hannibal, Missouri, but he must have spent at least one spring in the South to have penned such observant words. I saw a Facebook post he could have written several weeks ago. 

“South Carolina,” it read, “the only place where you can get frostbitten and sunburned in the same week.” 

The Farmers’ Almanac notwithstanding, I think spring has sprung in Columbia. I shared this conclusion enthusiastically with one of my dental patients recently. 

“It’s so beautiful outside,” I said. “The bushes and trees are starting to bud, the air smells delicious, and it’s finally WARM.” I resisted the urge to do a happy dance right there in the operatory. 

“Yeah,” he grumbled in response, “before you know it, it’ll be 90 degrees outside and miserable.” 

Gloomy Gus took Happy Dance and Joy by the hands and escorted them right off the dance floor as I stuck an x-ray holder into his mouth. 

In my quest to read through the Bible in a year, I’m traveling through the book of Numbers with Moses and his compatriots. Chapter 21 opens with an impressive victory against the Canaanites and ends with a resounding campaign against the Amorites. In between these two happy events, however, I think the great, great, great, great grandfather of my dental patient must have spread his wet blanket over the Israelites. 

“. . . and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way.”

"And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness (You look pretty healthy to me. Dying people don’t win usually win military battles.)? For there is no food (There is, too, God provides manna every day.) and no water (Liar, liar, pants on fire, God gave you water from a rock.), and our soul loathes this worthless bread (Hey, wait a minute, I thought there was no food.).” 

Complaining—it steals our joy, spreads discontent, and disheartens those who lead us. More than once, the Israelites' complaining caused Moses to throw himself down before the Lord and say, “I cannot lead these ungrateful wretches. I’d rather die than be stuck with this bunch of whiners” (my translation). 

I don’t often observe Lent, but I ’ve always appreciated the practice of preparing one’s heart for the Easter celebration. This year, however, I felt the Lord leading me to give up something during the 40-day prequel to Easter. 

Prepared to sacrifice sweets, Diet Coke, or some other indulgence, I was surprised at what the Lord told me: 
Stop complaining. 

 And don't just stop complaining, he impressed upon my heart, whenever you’re tempted to complain, speak a word of thanksgiving instead. 

 It’s a great concept, this stop and substitute approach, one I’ve often employed when trying to break sin patterns. First, I identify what I want to remove from my life, then I substitute its alter ego. I learned this from the famous “Put off and Put on” section of Ephesians 4. 

 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old (grumbling, complaining, pessimistic) self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the (positive, uplifting, optimistic) attitude of your minds; and to put on the new (joyful, hopeful, encouraging) self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:22-24). 

So this is my goal for this Lenten season—to bless instead of curse, affirm instead of criticize, and be grateful instead of grumbling. Negativity and complaining are hard habits to break. I really struggled during last week's cold, rainy, dreary days, but by putting off and putting on, I hope to win the victory day by day. 

I rest in the knowledge that every time I speak a positive word, I poke a tiny hole in the dark canopy of gloom that covers our world and allow a little ray of sunshine in. 

What about you? Will you grab your stickpin and join me in the light brigade? Why not leave a comment below and share something uplifting today, then go out and share it with someone else? 

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (v. 29). 

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  1. I understand this completely.... as the Lord showed me thru our James Bible study that I need to give up my bad attitude!!
    "I rest in the knowledge that every time I speak a positive word, I poke a tiny hole in the dark canopy of gloom that covers our world and allow a little ray of sunshine in. "
    I love that!

    1. Oh my, Piper, James will eviscerate us (in love, of course) and challenge us to make every word obedient and productive. I'm so glad God gives us such a powerful challenge to watch our words.

  2. Thank you for the good word! I am 'tuned in' and quick to rebuke when my husband or children complain, but seem to ignore my own complaining. I will join you with putting off and putting on. Thank you!

    1. Isn't it interesting, Jennifer, how that works. I am often selectively deaf to my own bad attitudes, but super aware of others'. We'll fight this battle together!

  3. I like this idea for lent. Last year I felt lead to give something up for lent. it was a unexpected blessing. This year I didnt feel led so I decided not to. But this is a very good idea to do daily regardless. :-)