For the last four years, I’ve participated in Lent. Lent is the period before Easter in which many Christians observe a time of fasting, moderation, and repentance. I usually give up something that I’ve either consumed too much or consumed for the wrong reasons. I’ve given up things like French Fries, fried foods, desserts, sodas and alcohol. This year, I didn’t care to give up any food or drink because I felt like I would pick something “just because.”
After much thought and consideration I decided to give up complaining. It just seemed to make sense: complain less, pray more and think positive more often. In theory, I believed that by combating my negative thoughts and experiences with positive thoughts and affirmations, it would make me a much happier person. Sounds great right? Right.
Well, after I made this vow before God to give up complaining and count my blessings for 40 days, the storms came rolling in. That’s right. It’s like Satan overheard me say “I’m going to be a better, happier person,” and then laughed at me, hysterically.
Initially I took the “I’m stating an observation, not a complaint” approach along with the “but, I’m grateful for” technique. It helped. Some. I won’t list the issues or problems I faced because in reality, everybody has their own burdens to bear. In fact, by complaining less about my own problems, I became more observant and aware of the storms others have to endure. Instead of focusing on trying to pray my problems away, I found myself praying more for other people.
I also realized that even though I wasn’t outwardly complaining about my problems, I could still talk to God about them all. I could be honest in my anger, sadness or unhappiness because that’s what God wants me to do.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Here, God gives an invitation for relief and joy through a relationship with Him. It doesn't mean that things will always be easy, but that God's goodness is still present even when life is a whirlwind.
So, no, I did not end my 40 days as a “happier” person. But now, I really know JOY. There is a significant difference between happiness and joy. That difference is sorrow. That difference is pain. That difference is disappointment. All of those feelings may have hindered my happiness, but none of them took away my joy. I have joy in knowing that despite negative circumstances, God's love for me hasn't changed. He gave His only son for me, and that's the ultimate gift. I'm blessed to have loving and supportive friends and family. My husband is definitely my dude for life. I still have dreams and goals I can pursue. And with that, I will keep it moving!
Do you participate in Lent? Have you ever challenged yourself to quit a bad habit? What kept you going? Let me know below!