Giving up more than chocolate for Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, when Christians focus on Jesus’ sacrifice through prayer, fasting, and giving. World Vision's Katie Swift reflects on taking a "Life Audit" -- part of our Live Life campaign for youth and college students around the world.

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I’ve always joined the hordes of people who give up sweets for “religious reasons,” but in reality, it was just another excuse to diet. For many of us, fasting for Lent just gives us a second chance to pursue our New Year’s Resolution. Almost every year, the Girl Scouts and their Thin Mints tempt me out of my fast somewhere around week 4, and I end up wondering why God would care if I gave up chocolate anyway.

Fasting from chocolate doesn’t make me a better person, and it doesn’t bring me closer to God.

This year, I’m doing something different. I’m part of a team that created Live Life, a Lenten campaign created by World Vision for youth, students, and young adults around the world, with more than 76 countries participating. We will focus on what Jesus meant when he said he came so that we may “have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10) through six weekly challenges.

This year, World Vision's Katie Swift has chosen to "fast from negativity" for Lent.

Today, Live Life launches by challenging young people to take a Life Audit -- an examination of how we are already living our lives and defining fullness of life.

Even though I was part of creating Live Life, I hadn’t fully thought of what living life in all its fullness means in my own context. When I finally sat down to take the Life Audit for myself, I got uncomfortable. I found it incredibly difficult to think through the idea of life in all its fullness.

I think it was so difficult because it required me to come to terms with the fact that I’m not living my life to the fullest.

The audit helped me realize I’ve been more negative than usual -- the cloudy, rainy winter weather gets me down; I come home a lot of days tired and generally unsettled; and I’m quick to complain and slow to be grateful.

So this year, I am fasting from negativity. It takes six weeks to form a new habit, so the six weeks of Lent is the perfect time to take on this challenge. I’m challenging myself to take time each day to write down the things I am thankful for and the places in that day where I found joy.

When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve always been surprised by how it has drawn me closer to God and how it has increased my happiness and gratitude, allowing me to see more and more of God's blessings in my life. Studies show that people who have more gratitude are more satisfied with their lives; are physically healthier; are less envious; are more generous to others; and are more connected to the natural world.

A little gratitude is exactly what my life needs right now.

What will you do this Lent? Are you planning on giving something up? Or adding a new, healthy habit? We would love for you to join us as we explore what it means to truly Live Life.

We’ll be reading Scripture; hearing stories of youth from around the world who are making differences in their communities; and responding to weekly challenges on fasting, prayer, giving, thankfulness, and service. We hope you’ll join!


    Thanks for sharing! I historically have not participated in Lent. These last couple of years I've started following the liturgical calendar for various reasons and have found myself engaging more actively in Lent. I have been trying to figure out what can I sacrifice or what can I begin to do? This post really spoke out to me. I wants to be more consciousness of the world and I need to let go of what I identify as my burdens. What better to do then to habitually identify what blessings God has given me? All the best on your quest for a more grateful heart!

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