30 ways to spiritually grow this Lent — that aren’t fasting from food

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Last year was the first year in my entire life that I took the time to understand that Lent is a time to change your life for God, not sacrifice things you like such as coffee or candy.

It’s that simple.

It’s about using your time and materials rather than just giving up things that you enjoy. Or, giving up things you enjoy to form a better relationship with God. Perhaps it’s as simple as taking the things you enjoy and doing them for God. After all, if the entire point of life is to give God glory, then, whatever you choose to do for Lent, should ultimately do just that.

I know in my family circle, the season of Lent was never observed with long-term intentions. We all gave up alcohol, coffee, sweets, and so forth. It was always something we’d pick back up again on Easter Sunday — which is not the point. The point is to do something that betters your life and brings you closer to the Lord and, hopefully, you continue to carry it with you for the rest of your life.

Here are some ways that might apply to most of us:

Take a break/limit time spent on social media and use that time for prayer, family, or your children.

Quit watching the news and focus on the things that are going right in your home, town, work, and so forth.

Stop texting friends and family and opt for phone calls or FaceTime instead.

Pray the rosary on the way to work. If you’re too busy, break the decades into five parts of your day, or just shoot for one decade each day. (Fr. Edward Looney has some wonderful tips here.) Here’s what I discovered when I started praying the rosary daily.

Go for a walk, even if it’s around your backyard.

Take difficult moments and look for the joyful parts.

Cut off toxic friendships.

Offer a compliment to anyone who is unkind to you.

Pray for someone you don’t like.

Go to confession at the start of Lent and then again before Easter to see how you’re progressing with changes that you’ve made to your life.

Find 40 people to do/say something nice to/for each day. Even if it’s a stranger at the post office.

Set aside time each week to read Scripture.

Start your day off with a quick morning prayer.

Do a daily devotional.

Be kind to everyone, especially those who aren’t.

Buy an extra coffee or breakfast sandwich to offer a homeless person on your route to work.

Take one hour of your day to sit in silence.

Show your family the joy of working on a relationship with the Lord by being the example of love and happiness we are all called to be.

Examine your struggles and try to find what God is trying to show you through them.

Forgive those who require it.

Volunteer time to a nursing home, hospice, soup kitchen, or another place that serves the community.

Don’t complain. When you catch yourself, quickly replace it with one positive thing that’s happened.

Listen to the daily Mass readings each evening (the Laudate app is free and has audio options for all Mass readings).

Do an examination of conscience every evening, followed by an Act of Contrition.

Make a list of your happy moments at the end of each day, and thank God for them.

Focus on breaking a bad or destructive habit.

Find the things in life that cause you to sin and learn how to work around them or avoid them altogether.

When meditating on the mysteries of the rosary, apply that mystery to your life and how you can improve it. For example, The Agony in the Garden represents humility. Ask yourself, “How can I be more humble in my daily life?”

Set a time to attend Adoration.

Live like the next moment could be your last.

There are many ways to use your Lenten journey for the glory of God. The most important part of Lent is choosing something that not only glorifies God, but ultimately transforms part of you into becoming closer to the person he made you to be. When we become that person, we do his will for the sole purpose of his glory. That is the focus on all Lenten seasons and all seasons of life.

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