So during this time of giving up, I find myself asking, What am I reaching for?
When Lent began, there wasn’t anything I chose to fast from. I asked God if there was anything I should give up to participate in Lent, but I didn’t sense anything impressed on my heart.
But I think He helped me to participate in a different way.
No, not by sending a global pandemic.
But by helping me be more aware of what I grab hold of when I’m feeling empty, lonely, anxious, bored, weary, discouraged, or insecure.
What do you reach for?
The things we reach for aren’t necessarily bad or wrong in and of themselves. It’s more the why we reach for them that can make them unhealthy.
Are we reaching for them in dependence, addiction, impulse, indulgence, looking to them for approval, comfort, a sense of security, happiness? Are we looking to them to do what only God can do?
In Genesis 3, Eve reached for a piece of fruit - fruit God had commanded her and Adam not to eat, because it would bring death.
When the enemy said that this fruit would make them like God, “the woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it.” (v. 6)
It may not be a piece of fruit we reach for, but we can still reach for things that promise god-like-status.
We are warned in 1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”
Do these qualities of what the world offers sound familiar?
Craving for physical pleasure… the fruit looked delicious
Craving for everything we see… the tree was beautiful
Pride in achievements and possessions… the wisdom (to become like God) it would give
Eve reached for a piece of fruit.
But I reach for my phone. Or food. Or daydreaming about my someday life.
Again, these things aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves, but if I’m turning to them in indulgence and dependence, instead of turning to Jesus, they aren’t good for me.
What are you reaching for?
These are questions we can ask ourselves to take inventory - to identity the things we’re giving time, attention, energy, thoughts, and yes, even worship to.
As we identity those things we’re turning to in indulgence and dependence, here are some steps we can take to turn to Jesus instead:
Confess + Repent of the things we’re reaching for - acknowledging our sin, declaring our need for Jesus, and choosing to make a change.
Take a break from those things that distract and consume our time. Maybe even do this periodically, once a week or once a month.
Set boundaries for how and when you will engage with something. Boundaries help us practice self-control and protect us from something completely taking over our lives.
Worship by putting new practices in place that focus on Jesus and the holy life He calls us to live. When I was working to break the habit of looking at social media first thing every morning, I put the devotional book My Utmost for His Highest by my bed, so in the morning I could instead look at something that pointed me to Jesus rather than at my phone. This is new, healthy habit I’ve continued in place of the old one.
Ask for help. Talk to someone who is godly and trustworthy for advice, prayer, and accountability. And remember: there is absolutely no shame in seeking professional help, and I would encourage you to do so if habits have become addictive and destructive.
That passage in 1 John 2 goes on to say, “And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (v. 17)
This is a promise for us, that as we turn to Jesus, saying no to the things that distract and pull us from Him, we are participating in the eternal and will experience abundant life in Christ forever.