Radiant Lent

The lenten spirit in the Church is one of splendor and delight.
It breathes with the exhilaration of those girding up to ‘fight the good fight’
for the One who loves them and has given Himself to them
for the sake of their salvation.

hopko, The Lenten spring, 9

We have these forty days to follow Jesus into the desert. He invites us, calls us, and privileges us to fight for Him in a spiritual adventure. It is a spiritual achievement, one that takes great courage, skill and strength that we have only by His Spirit. In Lent we follow Christ on the radiant path that He has cleared before us.

We fight for Jesus, cultivating the character and lifestyle that honors Him. We fight against the devil and against our sin nature, refusing the lure of self-protection, self-serving, self-satisfaction, and self-aggrandizement. We fight for the good of our brother and sister, beloved enemy and stranger alike. We’ve been given some powerful and effective weapons that we practice wielding in this season: fasting; immersion in scripture and prayer; openly confessing sin to one another; giving of our personal resources to satisfy the needs of others; and actively loving those who offend or dishonor us.

Repentance and joy,
compunction and consolation,
godly grief and spiritual rejoicing
are joined together in perfect union in the person who fights for the Lord.

HOPKO, THE LENTEN SPRING, 15

Sometimes we follow the wrong guide into the desert, and these distortions of Lent can numb our desire to engage the season. On the one hand, we can turn it into self-improvement therapy, fasting to gain health benefits or changing a bad habit so we like ourselves more. On the other hand, we can punish ourselves with sentimental sorrow and misery as though this self-inflicted pain has some purifying power in itself. Both of these errors drop our gaze to ourselves when the real meaning of Lent comes from the horizon of eternity where glory awaits us.

I consider that our present sufferings
are not worth comparing
with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18 NIV

My heart sees truth in Rivière’s painting. Following Jesus to the desert requires humble resolve and a steadiness of will that can only come from Him. It is a rugged place with deep shadows, and we face a real and transforming battle there. Oh, what glory will soon dawn for those who remain with Him!

Painting: Briton Rivière, 1898, The Temptation in the Wilderness