The Meaning of Lent

It’s that time of year again — Lent. The time of year when Christians all over the world stop eating chocolate or swearing or something of the like. For the life of me I haven’t been able to decipher giving something up for Lent and a New Years resolution except that one is for Jesus. And yet we all, myself included, think each year about which to give up for Lent. I guess 40 days is a lot less intimidating than 365.

In the midst of preparing for Lent, I received an e-mail that has the Japanese word for Lent as it’s posted above. The word for Lent in Japanese is jyunansetsu. It is made up of three kanji (pictures that symbolize words or parts of words). The first kanji means “to accept,” the second means “hardship,” and the third means “a period of time.”

Together, in Japanese, Lent means to accept hardship for a period of time.

Maybe this is the heart of our Lent resolutions. Hardship is… well, it’s hard. So perhaps we resort to New Years resolution-type Lent disciplines as a distraction away from the things that are really hard in life, not that it is easy to give up chocolate or soda. But to really stand face-to-face with the hardships of life is uncomfortable for everyone.

We came face to face with death yesterday in hearing the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This reminder can be the hardship we take on. Lent constantly brings us next to our mortality.

And then, after 40 days of living next door to death, we hear the incredible news that the tomb is empty and the death has been defeated by love. This is the most important part of the meaning of Lent. We accept hardship… but only for a period of time. At the end of which we celebrate the wonder of the resurrection.



  1. That’s fantastic. Think of it in the broader context of our lives and death. We accept the hardship of this present evil age, but only for a period of time, after which God consummates his eternal Kingdom on earth and we all experience the wonder of the resurrection. Thanks for sharing.

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