Growing up in a church that observed Lent every year, I have always valued this season of reflection and preparation before Easter. The 40 days of Lent help me to turn to Jesus by reading and reflecting on the events of His life, remembering the 40 days in which Jesus was sent into the wilderness by the Spirit and was tempted before His crucifixion and resurrection.

Lent is often a spiritually challenging season, far more so right now. For me, and probably for many people, it is easy to feel as if I too am in a kind of wilderness. It is easy to absorb the confusion, loneliness and hopelessness that is amplified in the news and in the minds of people around me. The constant updates warning of further deaths and of devasting impact on communities have also made me feel as if death has a stronger presence in my life – far nearer and more threatening than before.

David’s experience of living in the shadow of death” is, perhaps, an illustration many of us may now be able to identify with. He wrote: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Yet Lent has also provided comfort to me in the past because so many of the Bible passages we read during this period do not shy away from suffering and death. Ash Wednesday starts Lent solemnly, reminding us that our lives are inescapably finite through the words of Genesis 3:19: You are dust and to dust you shall return”. Similarly, the celebrations of Easter Sunday are balanced in the Christian calendar with the sombreness of Good Friday. 

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It is a humbling experience to hear the Bible passages read aloud that describe the crucifixion of Jesus on this day. It is rightly a day of grief – of grieving our own sins and the sins of our communities from seeing the negative effects they have had on the world, of grieving the separation that death creates between us and our loved ones, and of grieving that although we try, we are not yet the people we want to be. The proof of this is shown to us on Good Friday when we remember Jesus hung on the cross. For the price of sin is death, which was paid for us on that day by God. 

Lent teaches us to live in a state of expectant preparation, knowing exactly where the story ends.

The other comfort for me of following the Bible through Lent is that it provides a narrative which distracts me from my own calendar, by walking me day by day through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Lent teaches us to live in a state of expectant preparation, knowing exactly where the story ends.

When we witness Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday we are reminded that the grave for all Christians has become like an open door. Although we may follow a path that takes us down through the gates of death, because we are united with Jesus through faith we hold onto the promise that we too will walk through them and into life eternal. As 1 Corinthians 15:54 celebrates, Death is swallowed up in victory”.

One of the lessons Lent has been teaching me this year is that we always – and especially now – live in the shadow of death, but as Christians we also live in the light of the resurrection. We have been freed from the slavery that the fear of death enforces and instead we are filled with the hope that eternal life in Christ brings. Refreshing this hope by turning my eyes to Jesus has been increasingly important to me when we are uncertain how long the situation we face will last, when my hope feels like it is being consumed like a fuel and needs constant nourishment.

Easter is still a little over two weeks away, and in the Lent calendar we are still metaphorically living in the wilderness with Jesus. As Lent prompts us as Christians to turn to the word of God, I pray that reflecting on the death and resurrection of Christ will help me and many other Christians around the world see Jesus more clearly and remember again that though we live through these times in the shadow of death, we also live in the light of Christ’s resurrection. I pray that as we remember this together, we become a more hope-filled people and use this living hope as the spiritual fuel we need to respond to the events around us.