I overheard a conversation outside my office yesterday. A student asked the question, “Would I wish someone a Happy Lent?” That got my mind going. We wish happiness often: happy birthdays, happy New Years, happy Presidents Day, even happy Monday. Not a big deal really–just a way to wish someone well or give you something to say, but the student’s question made me wonder if we haven’t gotten a little obsessed by our happiness.
I often find myself looking for something that will make be feel better. It might be a bag of chips or a cup of coffee. It might be a TV show or movie. In small doses they’re great. There’s nothing like a Coke Zero and a great comedy to make you feel a little better after a tough week, but for most of us it’s more than a weekly experience.
It seems like more and more we’re looking for an escape from our lives. We want to lose ourselves in the lives of characters on our flat screens and just be happy. Now, don’t get me wrong. Happiness can be a great thing, but not when it prevents us from becoming the people we were designed to be.
4 “In those coming days,”
says the LORD,
“the people of Israel will return home
together with the people of Judah.
They will come weeping
and seeking the LORD their God.
5 They will ask the way to Jerusalem[c]
and will start back home again.
They will bind themselves to the LORD
with an eternal covenant that will never be forgotten.
Jeremiah 50:4-5 (NLT)
In the words above, the prophet Jeremiah is looking forward to a better day for exiled Israel. It’s a sorrowful homecoming. They return to Jerusalem and their God weeping, remembering what they forfeited as a result of their sin. It’s their sorrow that moves them into bind themselves eternally to the Lord. Their sight is blurred with tears, but they’re seeing more clearly then ever before. Weeping will bring them back to their lost source of goodness.
Paul speaks of the same thing when he says to the Corinthians, “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow.” Sorrow resulting in salvation. It’s the good gift that God wants to bring to us, but are we ready to receive it?
This Lent, I’m feeling the need to invite godly sorrow into my life. I’m praying the prayer of the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” I realize that’s impossible if I’m constantly reaching for something that will make me happy, so I’ve decided to give up my standard go-to: Netflix and Hulu. Instead of grabbing the remote to spend an hour or two escaping my problems, I want to devote that time to introspection, prayer, repentance and renewal. I’m going to resist the urge to be entertained open myself up to be enriched. It won’t be a Happy Lent, but the thought of salvation infiltrating more of my life makes me believe it will be a good one.