On Lent: Why Good Choices Aren’t Always the Best

by | Feb 11, 2015 | Uncategorized


Last year during Lent, I gave up reading books on all days except Sabbath.

I abstained from fiction and non-fiction, from dissecting marvelous sentences. I let go of extracting meaning through a good story. In the beginning, this seemed sacrificial somehow, a surrendering I had secretly hoped for years God wouldn’t require of me.  By day forty, the relinquishment wasn’t as painful as I always assumed.

Like most things, overcoming the fear of uncertainty is often more difficult to conquer than what God asks of us.

With one day a week to luxuriate with a book other than the Bible, the discipline helped me to notice the ways I am often shackled by too many choices.

In our culture where individualization is such a high value, the options leave most of us second guessing whether we picked the “best” among a myriad of good options.

What song on my IPod will inspire my thinking most on a 30-minute walk?

What dress from the collection in my closet will garner the best impression?

What book from the stack will challenge me the most?

Am I in the mood for steak or seafood from the menu?

Ever order something at a restaurant and regret that you didn’t pick what she ordered instead? Or wish you would’ve spent those precious spare moments reading something more inspiring instead of that magazine article with a terrible ending?

Just two days ago, I said out loud to my family after watching the Grammy’s, “I wish I could get those hours back.”

When choices are limited, we’re grateful for what we have right in front of us.

Remember when we only had five television channels instead of hundreds? And only one network played Saturday morning cartoons? Okay, perhaps I’m dating myself.

More isn’t always a sign of blessing. More can become an allowance for choosing the good at the expense of God’s best. Instead of contentment, we ache with soul hunger that cannot be satiated.

If time becomes a possession manipulated with our choices, we can miss God’s divine interruptions.

“My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work,” writes Henri Nouwen.

Jesus’ ministry was riddled with interruptions from ordinary people like fisherman, blind men, dying children, women with health issues, and hungry crowds. He was more concerned with seeing people than keeping track of his time.

This year for Lent, I am releasing a grip on time as a possession. Time isn’t a possession, it is what God possesses and then extends to us as a gift.

I long to lean into daily interruptions, overcome fear of uncertainty, and trust in the mystery of what God asks of me. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but I’m expectant.


Beginning February 18, the first day of Lent, I’ll be publishing stories here once a week inspired by the Gospel readings from Margaret Feinberg’s Lent Challenge. Over 50,000 people are reading the Gospels together during the forty days of Lent. I would love for you to join us.

Once a week, for conversation and accountability, I’ll check in with those of you who join me on my Redemptions Beauty Book Club page. If you aren’t already a member, just request to be added to the group. Find out more about the Lent Challenge here and download a reading plan or the YouVersion reading guide. I look forward to doing this with you!

Are you giving up anything for Lent this year? Tell me about what you did last year in the comments.


Joining Jennifer and Holley this week.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Sheila Dailie

    Last year, I gave up recreational shopping during Lent. When I first set out on that journey, I thought it would mostly free up discretional funds for the Easter offering.

    What I discovered was freedom from looking at the junk mail flyers, traveling to the stores, carrying in my packages, less time spent paying bills, and no time used to put away my purchases.

    As a Lenten discipline, which at first seemed a bit unrealistic–that’s when I added recreational to the discipline–I discovered that it DID allow more time to be in communion with God.

    But now I need to ask God what discipline He wants me to engage this year. Hmmm?

    • Shelly Miller

      It seems that the gifts hidden in disciplines are often much more than we ever anticipate. I’m thinking about Sabbath too. So much more than we ever imagine comes from that time of rest.

  2. Maria

    I was going to choose something to give up…but, then, I was realized what my soul needed was to receive what Jesus is offering me in every day. So, I want to focus on receiving & be aware of Gods’ presence daily. I’m not sure how I would tie that in with giving up something.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’ve done that in previous years as well Maria. Instead of giving something up, I actually respond to what He is giving me. It’s also a sort of relinquishment because we have to let go of something in order to receive. That looks different for all of us.

  3. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Shelly, these words really spoke to me, “More isn’t always a sign of blessing. More can become an allowance for choosing the good at the expense of God’s best. Instead of contentment, we ache with soul hunger that cannot be satiated.
    If time becomes a possession manipulated with our choices, we can miss God’s divine interruptions.”

    I’m trying to be more intentional about whittling down my choices, number one area is my reading material.
    And two, I also want to be able to see what God’s doing and saying in the middle of my unplanned moments–i.e.interruptions.
    I keep hearing Mother Theresa’s words in my Spirit, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” I want to live the Word of God better and ‘speak’ to others that way. I think people (me) need inspiration much more than they need information. 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      I think you are right Jody. I’m practicing that too, being more intentional about noticing where God is afoot in my daily life. It’s usually surprising and fulfilling.

  4. Traci Rhoades

    God has taught me so much about seeing Him in the interruptions! What a beautiful point to make. That perspective changes our whole outlook. It often makes me wonder how much of life God expects us to plan out anyway? Thanks for your thoughts on Lent Shelly.

  5. shughes

    Last year I gave up listening to the radio in my car and I instead filled that time with conversations with God, attempts to memorize bible passages and just silence with my thoughts. When I began thinking about what to do as a Lent practice this year, I realized that in the past couple of years the things I have given up or incorporated have actually carried over into my “regular” life. I continue to embrace the silent drives to work each morning… This year I am being led to fast from food one day a week and on that day to make the time to spend a potion of the day in our church prayer room.

    • Shelly Miller

      Isn’t it amazing how what seems sacrificial in the beginning turns into a way of life? Your experiences inspire me!

  6. Susan

    I’ve had good experiences with Lent sacrificing – last year’s was weak though and it didn’t seem intentional enough. Holy Spirit hasn’t spoken to me yet for this Lenten season…I am waiting!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’ve had those years too Susan, when I didn’t press in to all that God had for me during Lent. And sometimes that is the message we need to hear from it more than anything. A mediocre Lent results in a heart longing for more of Jesus. I think that is a good outcome!

  7. Lisa notes...

    “Like most things, overcoming the fear of uncertainty is often more difficult to conquer than what God asks of us.”
    I relate to that in so many ways.

    I also SO relate to the struggle with my time. It’s the one thing that I am always greedy for more of. But I know God has given me the exact amount I need to bring him glory. The problem is on my end, not his. I love your Lent challenge.

    • Shelly Miller

      Time and what we do with it has become a passion of mine. The Sabbath Society continues to teach me the importance of relinquishing the death grip on accomplishment for abiding. The results never cease to amaze me. Nice to see you here Lisa, thanks for stopping by.

  8. Lynn D. Morrissey`

    So many choices can drive me to distraction, Shelly–quite literally. I really struggle w/ it, Like you, last year, I stopped reading books other than the Bible. At first I thought I’d die, but amazingly, I found satisfaction. Right now, I am purging a # of books from my shelf, and God forbid!, even throwing some out. This year, I feel more and more I should not watch TV during Lent. We host Downton Abbey dinners, and they’re on Sunday and only a few to go….so likely I will do that, but the news is my downfall…and oddly enough really gets me down! I love how you are letting interruptions become God’s opportunities in disguise. Really looking forward to hearing the gavel come down on that house sale!

    • Shelly Miller

      I actually had an everyday example of too many choices in the grocery store yesterday. I stood in front of a million choices of olive oil trying to make a decision.
      We have our house inspection tomorrow morning, prayers are appreciated!

      • Lynn D. Morrissey


  9. Nancy Ruegg

    Oh, my, Shelly. So much good truth here. For example: 1) “Overcoming the fear of uncertainty is often more difficult to conquer than what God asks of us.” (Indeed. The “what ifs” can still plague me. When will I be able to trust God implicitly–with no faltering?!) 2) “Instead of contentment, we ache with soul hunger that cannot be satiated.” (How ironic that an abundance of choices should result in dissatisfaction. Satan and his cohorts really know how to twist our thinking! Paul was right: I MUST take every thought captive.) 3) Henry Nouwen’s quote. (Oh, yes. Help me, Lord, to see interruptions as possibilities of divine service to you–no matter how trivial it may seem.) Thank you, Shelly, for your inspiration!

    • Shelly Miller

      H’s grandmother used to say, “We have more conveniences than we’ve ever had in history, yet people have less time than ever.” I think that is a direct result of too many choices. She was a wise woman.

  10. Tiffany

    What an inspiring post, Shelly. To release the reigns on time. Oswald Chambers has a great perspective on this – he calls it “gracious uncertainty.” That even in the midst of interruption, distraction, uncertain moments, God is moving with grace – extending it to us. Divine interruptions – certainly do not want to miss those. Simply blessed to have stopped by from #tellhisstory.

  11. Jean Wise

    That is a great Nouwen quote. will have to ponder that for awhile. Interesting post, Shelly. I am facilitating a book/bible study on The Best Yes. Lysa writes to use the best yes as a filter for all decisions. I really liked that image of filtering my actions, thoughts and discernment first. Reminds me to slow down and listen to God’s direction first too. you know you really do a great job of living a reflective life – looking back on your lessons, articulating them here and sharing with us so we can learn too. Thank you!!

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