Here we are again. Lent — a season for Christians that often brings thoughts of despair, loneliness, and (sometimes unwilling) sacrifice. We focus on what we are going to give up — maybe it’s ice cream, maybe it’s Netflix, maybe it’s picking your nose in public — whatever “it” is, and I often go through Lent thinking about how horrible the rest of the season is going to be because I’m going to miss my daily dose of Netflix.
But I want this Lenten season to be different. I want to go through Lent with serious focus and attention while also preparing for His (and my) joyous rebirth. Here are 7 things I’m trying this year to find joy in Lent:
1. Take a break on Sundays
A great way to remember the joy that is coming after Lent is to celebrate it on Sundays. Every Sunday, no matter the liturgical season, is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. We celebrate His victory over sin and death, and we praise Him saying, “thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). We normally celebrate by going to Mass and taking a day of rest, but during Lent, we can have extra celebration and take a break from our Lenten fast.
Plus, there are two Solemnities that fall during Lent. These two days are treated as Sundays, so there is no need to fast: The Solemnity of Saint Joseph (celebrated on March 20th this year), and the Annunciation (March 25).
2. Give up and give of
Lent is a great time to give of ourselves, in remembrance of how Jesus gave of Himself for us. One great way to give of ourselves is to offer ourselves in service to God’s children. When Lent falls during a time that can contain the coldest months of the year, helping those without a home can be especially meaningful. When we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the ill, visit the imprisoned, we do these things to Christ (Matthew 25:40). To bring joy to those least brothers and sisters is to bring joy to Christ, and ultimately bring joy back to our hearts.
3. Make time for praise
Whenever I am feeling most tempted, I like to make time for God, especially through music. I take a little time out of my schedule to just be with Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). While I enjoy praise of the musical variety, there are many other ways to praise God. We can spend time in silent prayer, read Scripture, go to adoration, go to daily Mass, do an Lent-inspired dance or any number of other things that bring glory to God. When we find joy in Who God is, our hearts are filled with that same joy.
4. Read a book
I have a long list of books that I have been meaning to read for a while, but haven’t made the time to pick up recently. With the extra time I’ll have now during Lent, it will be harder to make the excuse that I don’t have the time to read. A couple books that I have read recently that brought me joy in realizing what a beautiful Church we are a part of were Rediscover Catholicism and Rome Sweet Home.
5. Challenge yourself
If you’re anything like me, you might tend to fall into a rut of giving up the same thing each Lent out of convenience. Well, I gave up soda last year and it wasn’t so bad, so… But if it “wasn’t so bad,” then maybe it’s time to step it up. Think about the last time you challenged yourself in some area. When you finished the challenge, you felt good, right? You had accomplished something that you weren’t sure that you could do, and it felt good to prove yourself wrong!
Challenging yourself during Lent can help you to both grow closer to God and bring more joy to your heart. Possible challenges: going to daily Mass more, going to adoration more, training for a race, committing to a longer period of daily prayer, etc.
6. Read the Gospel
A great way to hear God’s words for your life is to pick up His Word and read it. But don’t just take my word for it, here’s what Pope Francis had to say. Reading the Gospel every day reminds us of the joy that Christ offers and how we can experience it today. You could start with reading the Gospel according to Mark, or follow along with the daily readings, which can be found here or here.
7. Find joy in the little things
As much as doing more for God’s glory will help you grow closer to Him, a lot of what He does for us goes unnoticed. By praying for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes, we can find more reasons to praise Him and more reasons to find joy. Maybe it’s in the way the breeze feels against your skin, the friend you reconnected with, a cool opportunity that came your way, a good grade, a song you like, or anything else that brings you joy in your day—don’t forget to thank God for it. When we form a habit of gratitude, praise flows naturally and we see God’s blessings all over our lives.