Growing up Lutheran, Ash Wednesday was a somber day on which we went to church and had ashes in the shape of a cross painted on our foreheads, and we faithfully attended a Lenten service every Wednesday night. Now my husband and I attend an evangelical church, and there is not nearly the emphasis on Lent as there is in liturgical churches. That’s a shame, for I have grown out of the habit of rehabilitating my soul.
Lent is a time to reflect on what Jesus has done for us, to restore, renew, and repair our relationship with God. The commonly recommended practices for such restoration are prayer, fasting, and giving to charity with a focus on experiencing a bit of what Jesus sacrificed for our sake.
Jesus, our Creator and King, came to earth as a poor baby, worked as a carpenter, and before he began his ministry, went into the desert for forty days and was tempted by Satan. First, he was tempted with bread, which would have been exceedingly enticing after a forty day fast. Yet Jesus refused. Satan then tempted him with a tremendous story to throw himself down from the top of the temple and be saved by angels, but Jesus resisted again. Finally, Satan tempted Jesus with immense worldly power if he would bow down to Satan. Jesus rejected the temptation and sent Satan away. Jesus wouldn’t depend on the world’s concepts of self-fulfillment, astonishing stories, or unlimited power, which are some of the temptations we face at work.
These temptations reveal the worldly temptations Jesus resisted, and based on them, I’d like to spotlight a few unusual Lenten practices to use in your working life with Jesus’s sacrifices in mind.
1. Intentionally Sacrifice Something You Desperately Want at Work
Like Jesus longing for bread after a long fast, what is it that you ache for at work? It’s a clarifying exercise to ask yourself that question and then purposefully deny yourself progress toward what you desire. This will take a bit of thought, first to work out the area of sacrifice and then to decide what, exactly, that sacrifice will look like, while still maintaining integrity as a worker.
Take small sacrificial steps in the aspect of your job upon which you are most focused. Are you determined to succeed, no matter what? Sacrifice some of your time at work and spend that time with Jesus instead. Do you crave recognition? Intentionally recognize coworkers for their contributions, minimizing your own.
2. Intentionally Sacrifice Your Story
Everyone has a story of suffering, trauma, or a health problem and God’s steadfast love and presence throughout the difficulty. As a writer, I get it. Stories of God coming through in a miraculous way, saving you from a bad place, or providing success on the job are hopeful and encouraging, but it’s possible to depend on the stories instead of depending on Jesus.
There is a time to share our stories, absolutely, but during lent this year, don’t depend on them. Intentionally resist the urge to speak of your stories. Instead, have a silent conversation with Jesus. Thank him. Ask him for the wisdom to know when and how to share your story to glorify God.
3. Intentionally Sacrifice Some of Your Power
Ask yourself what kind of power you have at work, and then ask yourself how you might sacrifice some of it for the benefit of others and for the glory of God.
Perhaps there is someone who works for you who would grow through more opportunity. Go ahead, sacrifice some of your power. Perhaps you have the power to say “no” when asked to work extra hours, cover for a coworker, or take on more responsibility. Talk to Jesus and try blessing another by saying “yes” during Lent. Do you have power over your schedule? Open it up and let Jesus plan your days.
Let Jesus Take the Lead
Setting aside our desires, stories, and power will not be easy. They are good gifts from God and meant to be used for his glory, our good, and for the flourishing of others, so you might ask, “Why should we sacrifice them?” For me, it will be an opportunity to let Jesus take the lead, to check my level of dependence on him, and to watch what he will do. I will remember what Jesus sacrificed for me.
Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:17-18).
Jesus operates in a way that is counter to what we see around us every day. If we believe what Jesus says, if we are willing to secretly let go of our deepest desires, the stories we’ve lived, and the power we’ve been given, we can trust that the Father will reward us. He may reward us at work or in some other way, it may be soon or much later, but we can count on it.
Jesus & Lent
The world emphasizes self-fulfillment, impressive stories, and power, among other things, but if we fast from those desires and concentrate on Jesus during Lent, we will understand better what he sacrificed for us and will grow closer to Him.
Our ultimate reward comes from knowing and following Jesus.