This year for Lent I gave up sugar to remind me that I am human, and not God, and as a daily reminder that I am limited and not really in control of my life at all. There is nothing like denying yourself a Freddo to remind you how fragile you really are. However, in the last week, I have not needed to forgo chocolate to be reminded of my fragility: I think most of us are very now aware of the limits on what we can control.
Every year for Lent I try to give something up and take something on. This year, I have tried to take on practices of peace, intentionally doing more things in my day which would cultivate in me a peaceful heart. I have been experimenting with these in the last three weeks. So whilst I have embraced sugar back into my life, I have been thankful to retain these practices which in a difficult and chaotic week have brought my heart a little more solace. My prayer is that some or all of these may help your heart rest a little more securely in the overwhelming love of God and know the peace that passes all understanding.
Look for where God is present in your day and with you in the difficulty of the moment. Where do you see his beauty, grace, creativity and love? What have you missed of his goodness because you were focussed on what was going wrong? Be on the lookout to notice the grace of God in your life. This works even better if having looked for it that you then articulate it. Write it down, share it with a friend, message or call someone. Start a group chat about it. Make a Tik Tok if that is your thing.
Remember what is in your control. It feels a little ironic that one of the ways to remember you are not in control is to remember the things that you can change. However, God made us with agency and not powerless. You might choose to only check the news only once a day and then only doing so on a single site. Put a limit on how often you check social media and engage with friends through text or call. Or make the difficult call and do a 30 day block on friends who only post anxious content. Ask your friends, neighbours, church community and enemies how you can help them. Remember that what we can control also reminds us of what we can’t, and the boundary between the two is where we can hand the rest over to God.
Pray in ways that might be new or strange for you. I have found three particular kinds of prayers to be helpful, adding these in addition and sometimes in substitution with my normal practices of prayer.
I don’t know where I first learned the first, but is, I think, an old Jewish practice. Sit cross-legged and put your hands open on your knees. Let your open hands feel the weight of all that is pressing down on you at the moment; the brokenness of the world, your grief, your lack of certainty, your pain for others, whatever is heavy on your heart. Sit with them for a while, feeling their weight. Then slowly and deliberately turn your hands over, surrendering all those things over to the hands of our loving God. Pray with your hands turned downward, thanking God that he cares about even the sparrows, and that humans are worth so much more to him. Praise him that he is sovereign over all and commit to him and his care all that burdens you.
Secondly, pray the Psalms. Choose a favourite or a new one and pray it slowly, let the words be your prayer to God. The Psalms of Lament can help provide words to articulate some of the anguish and anxiety that we feel, but help us frame it in a way that recognises God as king (try Psalm 13 or 86). Other Psalms, like 91, can bring immense comfort as they remind us of God’s love and kindness amidst trouble. I have been saying the 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my Shepherd) as I wash my hands, not only is it 20 seconds long, but it also reminds me so many times each day that my life is secure in the hands of a good God.
The final one, is to pray prayers from a Prayer Book. Most of these were written some time ago, and in times when people were honest about their lack of control over their lives and faced more often real reminders of their mortality. The wise words that infuse these prayers are both beautiful and poignant as they minister to our hearts and remind us of eternal truths. Check your phone’s app store for many different versions of the Prayer Book, or check the store room (or pews) at your local Anglican church or you can purchase books called “The Divine Hours” in which she uses ancient liturgies and adds modern poetry.
Fiona is a School Chaplain who is also passionate about physics, fanfiction and feminism. She studied at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.