The 5-Minute Sacrifice for Lent

A personal devotion that has helped me have fail-free Lents and grow in relationship with Jesus.

What to sacrifice for Lent?  I’ve tried giving up all the standard things.  Chocolate, caffeine, Facebook…

But I always worry my sacrifices aren’t good enough. So, as Lent approaches, I choose harder and harder sacrifices until suddenly, I’ve picked an acceptably impossible penance.

Because there’s nothing quite like “failing Lent,” right?  Needless to say, I’ve never cold-turkeyed something for Lent and stuck with it the whole 40 days.

A few years ago, I found myself slumped, dejected.  Sitting in Adoration halfway through a Lent in which my selected penance had long since been thrown out the window.  I begged Jesus to show me a way to grow in holiness without setting myself up for another failure.

I emerged with a completely new approach to my Lenten penance.

A 5-minute sacrifice that I’ve been embracing every Lent since.  Instead of giving up one impossibly difficult thing for 40 days, I give up myriads of small things every day, for 5 minutes at a time.

Let me tell you how it works.

1. Offer

Every time you encounter a self-indulgent desire, offer it to God.

When you want to grab that cup of tea, that piece of chocolate, that serving of dessert.  When you want to sit down with a book. When you want to check Facebook in the morning.

Stop.

And say this quick easy prayer.

I offer my desire to You, my God, who alone can satisfy. Share on Twitter

The beautiful thing about this step:

It reminds us what all our earthly desires are really pointing towards. There are lots of things we want to do for ourselves every day, but none of these things will really fulfill us.  None of them will make us happy.

Only God can do that.

Also, this step happens so many times every day, it opens our eyes to how many things we do that are focused solely on pleasing ourselves.

2. Abstain.

Abstain for 5-minutes.

Don’t set a timer. Don’t sit there staring at the chocolate bar.  Don’t click Facebook and wait for it to load.

Instead, spend those 5-minutes doing something productive, useful, or helpful for someone else.

The beautiful thing about this step:

We practice replacing self-indulgence with serving others. It starts to become a habit to take care of others’ needs first.

Also, it’s a lot easier to say “no” when we know it’s only going to be for the next 5-minutes, not for the next 40 days.

These 5-minutes of self-denial motivate us to make the sacrifice.

3. Indulge (sometimes)

After 5-minutes, if you still want that cup of coffee, or that quick break on the couch, or you need to reply to your emails, go ahead and indulge.

But first say this prayer thanking God for this blessing:

“Thank You, God, for this gift, and all the blessings You have given me.

The beautiful thing about this step:

It allows compensation for those tough days when the baby is screaming and the kids are tearing the house apart and every single dish is dirty and we reallllly need a quick piece of chocolate or we’re going to scream!

It also gives us a solution for those times when we’re torn between offending our friend who cooked that special dessert just for us, and cheating on our Lenten sacrifice.

Most importantly, it forces us to remind ourselves of all the little blessings God has given us, and to practice gratitude for these blessings all day long.

4. Restart

So here’s the kicker.

Remember how you did something productive or helpful when you abstained for 5-minutes?

Well usually, you will end up forgetting all about that thing that you desired, that you offered to God, that you spent 5-minutes sacrificing.

Then all of a sudden, 15 minutes or an hour later, you remember, “Oh yeah! I was going to make myself a cup of coffee!” Well, at this point, it’s no longer “5-minutes later.”

So you have to start over.

Go right back to step 1.

Say the prayer, offer it to God, and make yourself busy doing something for others. Eventually, maybe you’ll end up having that cup of coffee, or sitting down to rest for a minute, or checking Facebook.

But until then, you’re going to keep doing things for others!

The beautiful thing about this step:

With these 5-minute sacrifices, there are plenty of things that we end up abstaining from for at least most of Lent.  They’re not important enough to stay on our minds while we’re busy being productive and helping others.

This is the step that helps us identify all those things that we could do without, or do with less of.

This step solidifies the habit of self-denial.

the 5-minute sacrifice pinterest.png

I’m going for it!  How about you?

On the one hand, this 5-minute sacrifice is pretty easy.

We can handle going without pretty much anything for just 5-minutes, right? With this rule, we don’t encounter failure, because it allows for gratefully having the things that we need or strongly desire.

On the other hand, this sacrifice is pretty hard.

Since we do this with every self-indulgent desire we encounter, we ending making a LOT of sacrifices every day.

Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I start this practice, I realize just how many things fill my day that get in the way of serving others, and stop me from opening my heart to God.

This rule forces me to grow in self-sacrifice and gratitude on a daily basis.

(Instead of just locking all my chocolates away and hiding the key for the next 40 days hah!)

I have grown so much from these 5-minute sacrifices, that I needed to share it with you.

If you’re having a tough time discerning your Lenten sacrifice this year, give this 5-minute sacrifice some thought, and may God bless you to grow from it as much as I have, and hope to do again this year!!

Printable

Download this free printable, and hang it on your fridge as a reminder.

5-minute Preview.png

Your Turn:

Have you done this 5-minute sacrifice before?  Are you going to try it this year?  Do you have a different life-changing penance?  Inspire us with your comment!

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24 thoughts on “The 5-Minute Sacrifice for Lent

  1. This totally reminds me of St. Therese (like one of your other commentators pointed out). Her sister taught her to wait 5 mins for something and then if she wanted it after the 5 mins, she could have it. This is what St. Therese was known for. Such a beautiful idea and something I will be implementing this Lent! Thank you for the idea. 🙂

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  2. This is wonderful. Thank you so much for this post! I always struggle with offering things up, especially since for the last 4 Lents I’ve been either pregnant or nursing so I don’t necessarily fast but still want something doable that doesn’t take away any chance for those exceptionally hard moments I really “need” that piece of chocolate. 😉 I will definitely be using this approach this Lent!

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  3. I’m excited to add this to my bag of Lent Tricks 🙂 I am sort of a Lent GEEK!! I downloaded and printed – putting up on the fridge and across the tv too. ha ha!! Thanks Sara – this really has me thinking!!

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  4. “So, as Lent approaches, I choose harder and harder sacrifices until suddenly, I’ve picked an acceptably impossible penance.”

    Oh, do I ever identify with this. Reminds me of the year we tried to do a Whole 40 with no prep work. 🙂
    —–
    You know, St Therese of Lisieux practiced a similar from of ongoing self-denial. After reading that she would place a new book on a prominent shelf for days before reading it, I thought, “Well, of course she’s a Saint.”

    I can’t yet wait days. But I can begin with five minutes.

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  5. This is a pretty cool idea! I like how this could be used any time during the year, as well – almost a daily practice, preparing for the larger penitential seasons of Advent and Lent. I will need to file this one away!

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