How to keep going when you’re finding it hard

As a carnivore with limited cooking skills, a love of bacon and a dislike for beans and pulses, I have begun Living Lent with more than a little apprehension. Indeed, however much I recognise the health, ethical and environmental reasons for giving up meat, or at the very least reducing consumption, I have yet to embrace this growing trend.

Living Lent is going to be a real challenge for me, and I hope it is for you, too. Lent is a time when we remember Jesus living in the wilderness, and reflect on the temptations he faced – which certainly weren’t easy.

But, how should do we keep going when it’s getting tricky? How should we persevere on the days when, perhaps, we don’t jump out of bed excited by the thought of buying locally, or using more environmentally friendly forms of transport, or whatever it is we’re doing? This reflection is as much to remind me how to keep going rather than to lecture any of you!

Three things that I intend to remember over the coming weeks:

  • Remember the importance of what we’re doing.

Given that you’re reading this and have (I hope!) signed up and started Living Lent, I assume you require no persuasion that environmental action is important.

But just in case, it’s worth remembering just how urgent the changes required are to prevent further damage to the climate. The prospect of the global temperature rising by half a degree by 2030 will significantly increase the risk of drought, floods, and extreme heat for millions of people.[1]

Our inadequate collective stewardship of God’s good creation has real and immediate implications. Whilst those of us living in the United Kingdom are unlikely to feel the worst effects of climate change, we have a responsibility towards those – invariably the poorest and most vulnerable in our world – who will.

  • Remember that we’re not doing this alone.

There’s considerable power in the word ‘we’. As we embark on Living Lent, we do so with others.

We need to work together, because climate change is an issue from which we cannot detach ourselves. Collective action is required to tackle a problem that will affect us all. 

The Christian life is more fruitful when exercised in community. The writer of Hebrews calls us to ‘consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds’, that we might be people who encourage one another.[2] I very much doubt that first century Christians were reminding one another to be environmentally aware, but the imperative to support one another has timeless value. 

On days when you’re finding it hard to keep going, remember that you’re not doing this alone. On days when you’re feeling particularly energised by the challenge, reach out to somebody else and spur them on. There are few things more heartening than to know that someone is praying for you.

  • Remember what lies ahead.

Having remembered that we are doing is important, and that we’re not doing it alone, we should be motivated by the fact that we’re not working for something that we can’t achieve. In fact, we know that creation will be restored.

Paul writes:

‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’

Galatians 6: 9

I like the way the Message version puts it: ‘let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good’.

Living Lent is an opportunity for us to do good, and doing good is very often a matter of sheer willpower. I don’t think the verse is saying we should preserve in anticipation of a reward, but it is reminding us to stick at the activities about which we feel passionate. We know that we’re doing is not in vain. 

As we commit ourselves to a period of environmental reflection and action, we must be mindful of the fact that our world is in serious trouble and we need to act now. But we should embark on this challenge with great hope, because Jesus lived, died and rose again to restore the world to its promise.

Will Fremont-Barnes splits my time between JPIT, the Methodist Conference Office, and the House of Commons. He has recently completed his Masters at University College London, has previously worked as a Ministry Assistant at St Nicholas’ Church, Durham, and campaigned for several Democratic candidates during the 2016 election.