The Lenten season commemorates the 40 days that Jesus fasted and was tested in the desert before He started His public ministry, in anticipation of Easter Sunday, the day that celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Christians collectively remember these trials through fasting and prayer. Lent is more than a cultural phenomenon, and it is more than a tradition. It is a powerful time for intentional spiritual reflection. It prepares our hearts for more completely perceiving and celebrating the shared resurrection we have in Christ.
Lent is saturated with opportunities to more deeply understand our God alongside other believers. I hope to bring strength to our walk with God this Lent by reflecting on Psalm 35:
1 Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation!”
11 Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.
13 But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
(Psalm 35:1-3, 11-13 ESV)
This psalm reminded me that faith is most evident when it is expected to fail. Or in other words, following God is most evident when it is hardest to do so. This is a sentiment noted in the Psalms, in the life of Jesus, and in passages like the one below in 1 Peter.
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV)
The psalms are unique, however, in their ability to provide a basis for prayer, specifically in the relatable context of others’ prayers.
In Psalm 35, David is writing about facing a period of injustice in his life. David sought the Lord for help as he recounted his experiences through lament. Still, his confidence in who God is and that he himself had been truly seeking to live according to God’s will is evident in this prayer. As we follow God, we are called to do the same: to diligently call for His will to be displayed in our lives, in all circumstances.
In Jesus’ life, He encountered various trials. As fully human, Christ experienced this suffering in its entirety. As fully God, Christ was able to overcome these trials and walk in perfect alignment with the Father and Spirit. Jesus’ life is a picture of what God has, is, and will work in our lives as we actively commit to taking up our cross daily (cf. Luke 9:23). Following Him is not always easy, but is always worthwhile, as 1 Peter 1:6-7 reflects. In this Lenten season, may we take the time to embrace any discomfort that may come as a result of clinging to God and His Word—just as Christ endured.
In Psalm 35, David is expectant that, because he is following the will of God, God will bring justice to the situation and peace to his soul. He prayed for a renewed certainty of the truth that God alone is his salvation. Like David, we all have doubts. But to experience renewal and freedom from those doubts is to “be able to existentially access our doctrinal convictions . . . [because] Christianity without real experience of God will eventually be no Christianity at all” (Timothy Keller, Prayer, 180). We must know and use Scripture to speak the truth, as Jesus did in the desert, but also allow room for the Spirit of Truth that will form us from within. Let us pray for a fresh, soul-stirring understanding of the Gospel and God’s character.
My vision for this Lenten season is that we would take the steps to rest in the salvation of God. This will require that we embrace both the active and passive aspects of following God, as Jesus did. This means we can both intentionally choose to act out the will of God and allow the Spirit to form in us the ability to wholeheartedly perform such acts. At the end of Lent, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I pray these days of fasting to come prepare our hearts for Easter. We welcome you to join the writers of the Yale Logos and Harvard Ichthus this Lent as we share our reflections on God’s word and work in our lives.
Hannah Turner is a sophomore (‘23+1) at Yale in Berkeley College majoring in Political Science and Religious Studies.
Image by Josephine Shin, a junior ’23 at Yale in Pauli Murray College, majoring in Computing and the Arts.