By Brittany Ann, Crosswalk.com
Are you among the millions of people participating in Lent each year? Growing up, my family never observed Lent. It simply wasn't a part of our upbringing. Now that I'm an adult, however, I look forward to the practice each and every year.
As a sucker for self-improvement, I love any opportunity I can get to reevaluate my spiritual life and find ways to improve. Whether I'm giving something up or adding a new spiritual discipline, I love how Lent makes it so easy to find new and simple ways to grow in my faith.
Are you still trying to figure out what to give up for Lent this year? Do you have a significant other (a wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancé)? If so, why not give something up as a couple? Not only will this unique spin on the typical Lenten practice help you grow in your faith, but it's also sure to help you grow in your relationship.
Here are ten things for couples to give up during Lent you might consider.
1. Television and/or Social Media
While giving up television and/or social media for Lent is somewhat predictable, there's a reason that these choices are so popular. How often do we waste countless hours daily on mindless entertainment when we could spend that time growing in our faith or relationships instead?
This Lent, you might decide to commit to 40 days with no TV or social media so you can spend this time talking, reading God's Word, or praying through these 40 short daily Lenten prayers for spiritual renewal together as a couple instead.
2. Extra Spending
Are you and your significant other avid shoppers? If you typically spend more time filling up your online shopping cart than you do filling your soul, Lent can be a perfect opportunity to change that.
This Lent, you might decide to implement a spending freeze where you forgo any "extras" you really don't need in order to give more generously to your church, world missions, or a certain non-profit whose mission you closely align with and want to support. Talk about it and decide together!
3. A Few Hours of Your Time
No extra money left over to give? No problem. You can often still support your favorite local and online charities, ministries, and non-profits by using the unique talents, skills, and abilities God has given you to make a difference.
As I share in my book, Follow God's Will: You were created on purpose for a purpose! And volunteering to meet the needs around you is a great way to discover what that purpose is.
What talents, gifts, and abilities has God given you and your partner to serve others? Can you knit baby blankets, clean houses, rake leaves, pass out canned goods, run a sound system, tutor children, or mentor teens? Lent is a perfect time to find ways to give back.
4. Sin You've Held Onto
Are there any sins holding you back spiritually that you're ready to give up? If so, Lent is the perfect time to confess your sins to your significant other and ask them to hold you accountable.
In fact, James 5:16 instructs us to do just this: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
Whether your significant other holds you accountable for spiritual growth and change or you both hold each other accountable, Lent is the perfect time to finally break free of the sins that have held you back (and grow closer in your relationship in the process).
5. Annoying Habits
Alternatively, maybe what you and your significant other really need to lay down are annoying habits that aren't sinful but certainly aren't adding to your relationship. Does either of you have a bad habit of interrupting, taking the other for granted, avoiding uncomfortable conversations, hiding your excessive spending, or paying more attention to video games than to each other?
If you really want to grow in love, self-discipline, and self-sacrifice this Lent, asking your significant other, "How can I be a more loving, kind, and considerate partner for you?" might be a great way to start.
6. Chocolate or Alcohol
Chocolate and alcohol may be two of the most common options for people to give up during Lent, and it's not hard to see why.
While Lent isn't mentioned in the Bible specifically, Scripture is clear that we should exercise self-control and self-discipline in the way we live. For example, Titus 1:8 tells us a church elder should be "...hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined," and we can safely assume these qualities are important for non-elders as well.
If you or your significant other seemingly lack self-control or self-discipline around chocolate or alcohol, this Lent may be the perfect time to challenge each other to work on these important spiritual disciplines together.
7. Anger and Resentment
Is your relationship suffering from a buildup of anger, resentment, or unforgiveness? If so, your spiritual health is undoubtedly suffering as well. This is why Ephesians 4:32 instructs us: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Forgiveness is vital for our spiritual health!
If you and your significant other are still holding on to anger, resentment, or bitterness due to hurt from your past (whether caused by each other or by someone else entirely), this Lent may be the time to finally lay that heavy burden down. Have that conversation. Choose to forgive. Find a trained counselor if you need to, but find a way to forgive and move forward in healing together.
8. Excessive Hobbies
Similarly to television and social media mentioned above, if you or your significant other spend so much time focusing on your hobbies that you don't have adequate time to grow your relationship with God, it may be time to reevaluate your schedule.
To be clear, I am not saying that hobbies are bad. We should have hobbies! But if our hobbies have begun to take over our lives, schedules, or bank accounts to the detriment of our relationships with others (whether God, our significant other, or someone else), it may be time to cut back.
This Lent, you might decide to sit down with your significant other to discuss which hobbies you will pursue and which you may step away from in this season, so you have additional time for the things that matter most.
9. Your Extra Possessions
Alternatively, perhaps your schedule is reasonable, but the amount of possessions you own is starting to be a problem.
The Bible warns us in Matthew 6:19-21: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Perhaps this Lent, you need to look around your home, schedule, and bank account. What does the way you spend your time and money say about what you really value most? If you've been dedicating your life to amassing more "stuff," you may decide together to regularly donate a certain number of your worldly possessions each day or week to those who need them more than you.
10. Secular Music
Finally, one easy way to grow in your faith this year is to forego listening to secular music at home or in the car in favor of listening to Christian radio, podcasts, or audiobooks instead.
The truth is the influences we surround ourselves with can have a tremendous impact on our thoughts, our perspective, and the choices we make. Why not take the next 40 days to intentionally fill your mind with hope and encouragement, whether you're listening alone or together? Then, be sure to set aside to discuss what you've heard or learned together.
Of course, these ten things for couples to give up during Lent are just a few suggestions to get you thinking. If you'd love to participate in Lent with your significant other this year, be sure to talk with them to see what additional ideas you can come up with as a couple as well!
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/pcess609
Brittany Ann is an ECPA bestselling author, speaker, and founder of EquippingGodlyWomen.com, a popular Christian-living website dedicated to helping busy Christian moms find practical ways to go "all in" in faith and family. You can learn more about Brittany’s latest books, Fall in Love with God’s Word and Follow God’s Will, on her website.