Oxymorons – Happy and Lent?
Today is the first day of Lent, so should I suggest, “Happy Lent?” Like the sunny happy color of yellow that God chose for the sour lemon, it seems like an oxymoron. There appears a conflict of terms between “Happy” and “Lent” or that happiness or joy could even be part of the Lenten journey. Should we be happy that Lent has arrived, or can one even celebrate the coming of Lent? To best think about those questions we need to explore what Lent is through a historical view to see if it is possible to have a “Happy Lent” or more to the point be happy in reflection.
Lent originally was created for new Christians, who experienced the “call” to Christ. These individuals were to spend forty days preparing for their baptism. If at the end of this time period they still wanted to follow Jesus, then on Easter Eve they would be baptized as the sun was rising in the east, as this signaled a new day and time, consecrated because of the Resurrection. It was a powerful experience to prepare for their dedication to Christ in much the same way that Christ prepared for His vocation as the Savior: spending forty days and nights of contemplation and self-reflection in the wilderness.
As time progressed, the Church decided to use the forty days as a time of reflection and renewal for those who were already Christians. This came about as many people were baptized as infants, so the need for additional baptisms was unnecessary. However, a time of renewal and recommitment appeared fundamental to live the life of a Christian.
Seeing Joy in Forgiveness
When we consider reflection, especially the reflection of personal self-examination, it seems to call for something a bit more somber than a celebration. It isn’t always easy to look inward and consider the weight of our sinfulness or the fact that we need a Savior. But upon taking a closer look at the Lenten journey, we discover that a light heart is not forbidden. The forty days of Lent are applied to the days of the week whereas the Sundays are treated as mini Easter days with the joy and happiness of the expectant Resurrection. Taking this into account maybe Lent is not expected to be a time of all somber and remorseful inner contemplation.
When we dive deeply into self-reflection, we quickly realize that we are a sinner and that knowledge can easily weigh us down. But as Christians, we are sinners, who know a Savior. We know the solution to the brokenness of our souls. There is a way out and we hold the key of hope for all “Happy” days from Lent and beyond. It is so important to consider the role that “hope” holds in our Lenten journey. It is our hope in Christ that soothes our souls and allows our joy to burst forth, offer relief, find blessings, and feel His comfort for David, as the Psalmist, says it best.
Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!Psalm 32:2 (NLT)
Happy Days of Relief
Indeed, because of Christ, there is a happy day and days of happiness to come. We can be happy because our sins are forgiven and wiped clean. If the word happy doesn’t seem quite right, we could substitute other words such as redeemed, alleviated, or just relieved. The psalmist is clearly telling us what makes for real happiness and there is no other substitute. When we reconcile our life with God, we live with a clear conscience. Our faith plainly tells us that this type of joy and happiness is in our reach. God is always seeking reconciliation with us and offering forgiveness. This is the reality of the redeemed and it is through this that a state of happiness comes.
It is important to understand that it is only with forgiveness that we can find a happy place in life. And this only comes because of God’s loving nature as He sent us Christ so that our full disobedience could be placed totally out of sight and our record cleared of guilt. When we contemplate deeply with an inner reflection the knowledge of a full happy and joyous experience descends from the forgiveness offered through our faith in Christ. We are healed of our discontent and there is a “happy” found even during the place of self-reflection.
Looking Closer at the Lenten Journey
So, how exactly should we spend Lent? Our time during Lent might best be spent by simply recognizing our sins and seeking forgiveness, but then stopping and taking a breath breathing in the knowledge of God’s love for us as we realize that our guilt is wiped out because of our faith in Christ. This is the relief in life, the break, the rest, and dare I say it, the “Happy Place” that we reach by just holding this knowledge in our heart and head.
It is important to recognize that God is right and that we are sinful, and it is wrong to desire sin or to do it. Furthermore, reconciliation means affirming our intention of renouncing our sins so we can follow God more faithfully. During Lent, we can reflect more passionately in reflection and share with God our deepest sorrows and come to Him with repentance. Yet, it is in this time as well, that we can also experience the highest joy and happiness of being forgiven. Rejoicing comes from knowing that God responds to our confession along with our repentance and stands willing to forgive because His judgment of sin was satisfied by Christ’s death on the cross.
The Journey of Healing Brings True Happiness
Lent isn’t a quick fix to happiness, but it is a journey of healing that begins with hope, as we seek to reach our destination. We are not alone on this journey, as we fix our eyes on Christ and hold the encouragement that He walks with us. The Lenten season makes us aware that our sins separate us from God, but we place our hope in Christ to relieve us of that sin and it is replaced with true happiness. And it is in this “Happy Place” we can share our hope in Jesus with others helping spread the happiness of a life with Him.
Won’t you take the time this Lenten Season to challenge yourself to see that even during the darkest times of life that happiness, joy, and relief are possible through repentance and forgiveness from God? Place your full hope in your convictions of all that Christ did for you. Find your motivation in the pure happiness and joy that comes only from Christ’s offer of forgiveness for sin. Surround yourself in the comfort of knowing that God loves you so much that He sent His Son for you!
So, maybe Happy Lent is possible because no greater joy can be experienced than knowing your sins are forgiven and that a Savior stands by your side.
Love in Christ,
All true happiness, pure joy, sweet bounties, and untroubled pleasure lie in the knowledge of God and love of God; they cannot exist without them.Said Nursi
What are Your Thoughts?
Can you associate Happy with Lent? Have you experienced the joy of forgiven sins through Christ the Savior? Share your thoughts on the happiness that can be found on a Lenten journey.