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Lent in the Year of Miracles

By Shannon Pugh
In eLetter
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You may or may not know that the 40 days before Easter make up the season of Lent. This is a period of preparation; a time to slow down, let go, and make space for God to work in your life. Many people “give up” something for Lent. The point is not to deprive yourself and make your life miserable! But eliminating something for those 40 days (like social media, tv, chocolate, alcohol, etc.) can serve several purposes:

  • To remind you of the sacrifice that Jesus made by leaving heaven, coming to earth, and dying on the cross for us
  • To make room to connect with God, instead of being distracted or turning to other vices when stressed or anxious
  • To make the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter day especially joyous and freeing!

Some people also “take something on," such as extra prayer, memorizing scripture, reading a specific section of the Bible, etc. It’s really very personal—what you give up or take on depends entirely on what you need in your relationship with God. What’s getting in the way or missing? How can you exercise discipline and experience God in a new way? That’s what Lent is about. (If you want to learn more about Lent, check out Episode 44 of IBC’s Formed podcast.)

I grew up sort of knowing about Lent, but honestly I thought that only Catholics observed it. It wasn’t until I came to Irving Bible Church that I really came to understand what it was about and start observing it. For many years, I looked forward to Lent and found it to be an extremely impactful time in my relationship with God. But I want to share with you where I am this Lenten season, because maybe some of you might relate.

Honestly, I have not really observed Lent over the past six years or so. My husband and I got married in March 2018, and for the next five years our world revolved around his epilepsy. Daily seizures, five brain surgeries, multiple hospital stays…when I thought of “giving something up," it just felt like my whole life was already filled with that. Juggling his care and safety and watching him suffer, while also working full time in ministry (which can be very emotionally draining, no matter how much you love it), left me depleted much of the time. Although we certainly had a lot of fun and joy in our lives, my relationship with God had been one of begging for help to get through each day for a very long time.

But now he has been seizure-free for 15 months. This is a miracle of epic proportions, and we have freedom and independence that we couldn’t even imagine for those five years! Honestly, I went into 2024 subconsciously thinking I would be filled with a sort of low-key elation all the time. So imagine my surprise when I found myself feeling lost spiritually. I express gratitude to God every day, and I look to Him for guidance and wisdom in challenging situations. But I can’t feel Him right now. And it has been really hard.

I connect with God through nature, and I used to go walk in the woods and it felt like He was walking with me. I felt wonder at every flower, every butterfly, every cloud and tree and lake. But the other day I went for a walk in the woods and that wonder was missing. It just felt like a walk in the woods. The trees were just trees, the pond was just water. If you’ve never felt a tangible closeness to God, then you might not understand what I’m talking about. But if you have and you’ve lost it for a season, you will understand why there are tears in my eyes as I write this. Although I know He is with me and has not left me for one second, I miss Him.

So here I am, in the midst of miraculous circumstances, with freedom that I haven’t had in a long time…. still not observing Lent. I haven’t given up or taken on anything. And I don’t know how I’ll feel on Easter… it might just feel like another Sunday. But I am clinging to the hope that as long as I continue to pursue God, I will experience the joy of Easter again. And I was reminded by a wise friend today that when I come through this season, however long it is, I will have a new understanding that my relationship with God is not based on feelings, but on the Truth of who He is and His steadiness through all of the stages of our lives. He is not disappointed in me and I am not letting Him down. He is simply doing a new thing.

I will leave you with the lyrics of a worship song we sang as a staff this morning (emphasis on the lyrics that really hit me):

I am held, I am held, I am held by the lover of my soul

I am held, I am held, I am held by the one who won’t let go

Caught in a love and it won’t let go

Caught in a love and it frees my soul

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