Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. —Ecclesiastes 3:16-20
As we mark the beginning of this Lenten season with Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that our physical bodies “all go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” This is a sobering thought as we are faced with our mortality and what transpires after that. The season of Lent gives us opportunity to reflect on that and should cause us to cling all the more to our hope in Jesus our Savior.
There are numerous practices that accompany Lent, all of which are centered on drawing us closer to Christ, to identifying with His suffering as we look toward Easter. To help us, as a larger extended family, experience Lent together, there are some intentional ways we can engage in this season.
One of the ways is solitude and prayer. Henri Nouwen says that solitude is “the furnace of transformation.” Solitude can best be described as an intentional quieting of oneself for the purpose of hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit and responding in prayer. Charles Spurgeon used a similar analogy when he referred to the people praying before services in their church as “boiler rooms,” rooms that were hidden away, hot, dirty, but that powered everything.
Many people give something up during this season but let us consider doing what Jesus did: fasting food. Of fasting, N.T. Wright says, “We fast because, as those already caught up in Jesus’ kingdom-project, in God’s new world, we need to be sure that we are saying a firm goodbye to everything in us that still clings to the old.” Fasting is giving up food in order to reveal what really has a hold on our hearts. It can reveal our areas of idolatry and unbelief.
Let’s spend this season together in solitude, prayer, and fasting so that we can not only hear the voice of God, but respond to it in unison.
Let us Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. —Hebrews 12:1-2