The season of Lent is almost upon us and although Easter is seven weeks away, stores are already displaying their Easter goodies.
Recently a friend divulged her embarrassing (her words, not mine) addiction to Easter candy and Little Debbie Cakes in the shape of bunnies. She said that ever since stores started putting out these seasonal treats she has been indulging in her favorite ones more than she ought to. However, she realized that she had put on a few pounds and needed to cut out the sweets altogether for the sake of her waistline, so she asked her daughter to hide them from her so she wouldn’t be tempted.
Giving up things that are not good for us is hard isn’t it? Often during Lent we talk about giving up something and joke about giving up things we don’t particularly enjoy like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and such. That way it’s not so hard! One year I decided to give up sugar and sugary treats for Lent. At that time, my coffee addiction required cream and two heaping teaspoons of sugar. I could not bear to drink my coffee without sugar so I got the bright idea to use vanilla creamer instead. I told myself that this was an acceptable substitute because it wasn’t actual sugar. Once the Lenten season passed, I went right back to indulging in sugary sweets but now I had an addiction to vanilla creamer!
Giving up something just for the sake of giving it up, whether temporarily or with the intention of breaking a habit, and not replacing it with a better habit is a useless endeavor. Anyone who has ever dieted knows that when you quit dieting you usually gain back more weight than you lost. Likewise, giving up or fasting something for Lent without replacing it with a good habit like spending more time in the Scriptures and in prayer, and drawing closer to the Lord, really serves no purpose. When the designated time is up you just go back to your old behavior. In Luke 11 Jesus speaks of an unclean spirit leaving a person, the house being swept clean, and the spirit returning with 7 other spirits worse than the original. Of course, the spiritual application is that if we clean up our lives in order to be “good” people, (or even “church people”) but do not enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit living in us, we will end up being worse off than before. We will always revert to our old ways.
There is a practical application to Jesus’s teaching that is relevant in every area of our lives. Anytime we want to give up a bad habit in our life we must replace it with a good habit or risk falling back into that bad habit in a worse way! When I wanted to give up my addiction to diet Pepsi, I not only had to stop buying diet Pepsi, but I had to replace it with a healthier beverage. It wasn’t easy but I had help. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit as our “helper”.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…” (John 14:16)
So if you’re trying to break an old habit or develop a new habit, spiritual or otherwise, at Lent or any other time, do what you need to do to clean out the bad habit and replace it with a good habit and know that help is just a prayer away. And if you give up, or give in, the Spirit’s help will still be available for as long as it takes. Just keep asking for help and God will show up. Every. Single. Time. After all, He loves you and wants good things for you even more than you do. (Matthew 7:11)
Today I am thankful for the “Helper” who lives in me and is always available to help me do better whenever I ask.
Grace and peace,