How to Grow Deeper in Your Faith During Lent

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Image courtesy of Weheartit

For those of us who celebrate Lent, as we approach this years 40 day season, we are faced with the challenge of what to give up or what to do. There are a variety of ways that we can achieve a successful and meaningful Lent season, starting with the three practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

 

Prayer

One of the key elements to improving our prayer life and furthering our spiritual growth begins with asking ourselves the “how” and “what” questions.  For example, I have recently asked myself this question: what is one prayer practice that God is calling me to work on and how can I use it to get closer to Jesus? Through reflection, I noticed that one thing God is calling me to work on for my prayer practice is quality over quantity. Sometimes, I get too caught up in my performance value, trying to please God by praying for the longest I can and being the “best” at it. Quality over quantity. This Lent season, I am instead going to direct my focus on how I am praying and the meaning of it (i.e the quality). Some of the practices that I am going to do in order to achieve this goal include listening to the gospels through the audio bible and just setting aside a few minutes per day for prayer.

 

Fasting

The first thing most of us think about when we hear the term, “fasting”, is restraining from food. While practicing fasting from certain foods during Lent, such as not eating meat or giving up sweets, is perfectly beneficial, we can also apply this practice to other areas of that feed our spiritual lives. The definition of fasting can be applied to anything that is distracting us or taking us away from connecting to Jesus. So take a minute and think about what distractions may be present in your life that are consequently causing you to feel disconnected from your faith. For example, something I know I want to fast from this Lent season is constantly checking my phone. While there are benefits to keeping up with the media, friend, family, personal and professional connections, I feel that sometimes it takes me away from my spiritual focus.

 

Almsgiving

Almsgiving is about service and how we use time, money or personal talents to bless others. Many parishes have relief services where your donations can help contribute to a really good cause. Most often we see this service in the form of “rice bowls”, or the little pop-up cardboard boxes that you can fill with donation money. This is a very humbling and rewarding practice and can truly help you grow in the area of service. You can also practice almsgiving this Lent through giving time, by volunteering or even writing thank you notes to people in your life that you are grateful for.  This Lent, I am going to do the thank you note practice of almsgiving and I am eager to see how my faith will flourish.

 

Resources

One of the most important ways that I have grown and continue to grow spiritually is by accessing my resources. Truthfully, spiritual growth is incredibly difficult and sometimes the best thing we can do is reach out for help when we need it. Everything ranging from online resources such as Redeemed Online, Ascension Presents or Father Leo Feeds, to friends and family, I know at least in my experience, that accessing my resources has really helped me ripen the fruit of my spirit.

For example, my cousin, Deacon and soon-to-be ordained priest,  Joshua Weaver, consistently offers me advice and wisdom that has helped me prosper and flourish in my faith journey. So, today I asked him to share some of this wisdom that I can now pass on:

 

1.    How would you describe Lent and its importance?

Lent is a time in the Liturgical year when, like Jesus, we enter into the “wilderness” for 40 days. In Scripture, the “wilderness” is where God cares for his people for 40 years after freeing them from Egypt; it was the place where they completely depended on God. Therefore, the “wilderness” is actually a place of encounter and intimacy with God. During Lent, we are called to enter into “the wildness” and grow in our relationship with God.

 

2.    What suggestions do you have for those trying to grow deeper in their faith this Lent season?

Lent is all about growing in your relationship with God. Traditionally, it is a time for more prayer, almsgiving (good deeds), and penance. Choose a Lenten practice that A) is realistic - that is, you are capable of completing it and B) will bring you closer to God. Don’t try to top what others are doing. Often, it is the simple penances, done out of love for God and neighbor, that bear the most fruit.

Lent is a process of navigation, growth, enlightenment and clarity. Just like Jesus, we enter the “wilderness” where we have to not only rely on God but we have to face the challenges or blockages in our hearts that are limiting our spiritual growth. And it’s hard. We can enter Lent with the greatest of intentions and challenge ourselves in the best way and still feel unsuccessful. We may feel lost, defeated or struggle more than we thought we would. The important thing to remember is, this is not a bad thing. Struggle builds strength and struggle allows us to learn and grow. So, it’s okay if you have a bad day or two and it’s okay not to be perfect because that’s not what God wants. He wants us to flourish and grow and that means we will struggle but it doesn’t mean we will fail. If we keep trying and get back up when we lose a battle during this process of growth, in God’s eyes, we are successful.

So, I encourage you this Lent season to listen to your heart, channel your unconditional love of Jesus, and focus on the true meaning of Lent.

May the Spirit be with you & God Bless!