When Lent Is a Bust

I have a confession to make: Lent was kind of a bust around here.

On the night of Ash Wednesday with the ashes of mourning and the oil of gladness dripping down my forehead, I had such good intentions about the Lenten fast I had chosen. I would give up wastefulness, I decided. Wasted time, wasted money, wasted energy and emotion. I determined to be intentional with my inner and outer resources as we began the wilderness journey toward Holy Week.

In the early days, each time I picked up my iPhone to check Instagram, or each time I considered stopping at Starbucks for a latte, I thought about my Lenten commitment and instead lifted a quiet prayer of “please” and “thank you” to the Lord.

But then life.

The boys schedules, my speaking schedule, Steve’s work schedule, my mom’s move: all the activities and busyness began to press in, and I began to freak out. One week, I stopped for fast food French fries and unsweet tea every single day. Money and calories … wasted. Most evenings after dinner and a few chores, I’d lie on the couch playing Two Dots on my phone and watching TV mindlessly. Time and energy … wasted. I wasn’t sleeping well, so at night before drifting off or in the hours before dawn when I’d wake up early, I’d scroll through email or social media apps looking for some relief from the anxiety. Sleep and peace … wasted.

I accomplished so much over the past six weeks — speaking engagements attended, writing assignments completed, permission slips signed and submitted, meals cooked, Mom moved and her yard sale held, bills paid, clients contacted — yet in the process, I broke my Lenten fast nearly every day trying to cope with the pressure of it all. Suddenly, those spare moments of wasting time seemed like the only relief.

Except it wasn’t. With each moment wasted, I knew the distraction of technology or food or entertainment was not what my soul needed. The time I spent in prayer and Bible reading each morning was a reminder of that … and an invitation to a better way. Real peace is waiting for me in Jesus.

On Monday, as I headed into Holy Week hanging my head over my broken fast, I read Psalm 51.

“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

That’s when I understood. Sure, my Lenten sacrifice was a bust, but it had also busted up my pride, torn down the barriers of my heart, and delivered up a thoroughly humbled … and broken … spirit to the Lord for Holy Week. And once again I knew without a doubt: I need Jesus.

It’s Holy Week, and we’ll join Jesus and the Disciples in the Upper Room. After that, we’ll meet in the Garden as our Lord wrestles in prayer with anguish and turmoil. And just hours later, the darkness will fall with the weight of heaven.

Come, go with me. There’s room for us at the foot of the cross.


Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • Donna Falcone ,

    When the bread wafer was in my hands today, Good Friday, our priest placed it such that it broke – I both heard and felt it, and it sent a shot through me. I’ll never forget it. I was going to say we can’t hide from it (brokenness), but I deleted it. I know from my own experience that we, indeed, can and do – and sometimes we must in the interest of self preservation. To everything there is a season, right?

    • Shirley Curtis ,

      Charity, I had the same experience of Lent being somewhat of a bust. In the midst of some especially difficult challenges, sometimes I felt myself hanging on by a thread. I wanted to FEEL stronger and more energetic; but found that God met me where I was. Thanks for the reminder that God does not despise a broken and contrite spirit (I’m sure a spirit of tiredness is included here as well).

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        Charity Singleton Craig ,

        Shirley – Yes, I think “tiredness” fits right in with my experience of brokenness. Trusting God when we don’t FEEL like it really is the essence of faith, I think.

        Hang in there!

      • Donna Falcone ,

        Thank you for sharing your perspective on your broken fast, Charity. The same thing happened to me, but I wasn’t able to see the value in the times of my failure to be true to my fast on resistance all the way through every day. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, really… so I think I needed your post today. Thank you.

        And I can’t even tell you the number of times I have heard and wrestled with the word broken – reflections of brokenness, shared words of brokenness… I think this is the point. We are all so broken. It’s hard to accept that. I wrote a song about that this week, but it’s meaning is still unfolding.

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          Charity Singleton Craig ,

          Donna – I’d love to hear that song someday. I also hear the word “broken” a lot and sometimes I struggle to relate to it because it seems so destructive. Other times, I understand exactly what it means in my life and embrace it. I think you are right, though. The meaning of all our brokenness is still unfolding.