by Luke Harbaugh, HOPE Church Representative
In March, the Church has the opportunity to celebrate the season of Lent—a solemn and wonderful time of preparation for Easter. In the early church, Lent was a season when new converts were instructed in the basics of the Christian faith in preparation for baptism on Easter Sunday. Even today, it is a time set aside for self-examination and repentance as we ponder what it means to live as both a crucified and resurrected people.
I grew up in a church tradition that didn’t observe Lent. In fact, I attended my first Ash Wednesday service during my first year of seminary. I still remember the first time one of our chaplains imparted the ashes on my forehead and said to me those traditional Ash Wednesday words: “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.” Since then, Ash Wednesday has served as a yearly summons for me to take serious inventory of my life in light of my own mortality.
In a pastoral care class in seminary, we had to write our own eulogies. And the content—especially our causes of death—were diverse. Some chose to die as martyrs, others from natural causes, while one student met his end by way of a flock of angry ducks! This exercise challenged us with a weighty question: What will be said of your life once it’s over?
In 40/40 Vision, HOPE President Peter Greer comments on a similar exercise, saying,
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my eulogy had nothing to do with the things on my resume, nothing about my jobs or titles. It had everything to do with people, with issues of faith and love, and with gratitude to God and others. … That exercise allowed me to see the stark contrast between eulogy virtues and resume virtues.
The apostle Paul was getting at a similar shift in thinking when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
At HOPE, we talk a lot about how work is part of God’s design for mankind to flourish, but at the same time, that work is not what defines us. May we always remember that living “by faith in the Son of God” doesn’t necessarily make for an impressive LinkedIn profile. Acts of love, service, and self-sacrifice in response to the Gospel rarely make headlines or add more plaques to the wall.
That’s why Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25)
So this Lenten season, I encourage you to ask yourselves a similar question: “In light of my own mortality, and in anticipation of eternity, what will my eulogy say?” Will it be full of “resume virtues”—my occupation, my degrees, my achievements, and my net worth—or will the words that summarize my life be full of Gospel virtues: where I denied myself, took up my cross to follow Jesus, and found flourishing in Him?
Because despite what we may lose for the sake of finding Christ, we find true life in Him.
Are you looking for more devotional content for this year’s Lenten season and beyond? Check out our prayer videos for Rwanda and Ukraine, or download 100 Days of Hope, a devotional written by HOPE staff, partners, and supporters.
Luke Harbaugh has served with HOPE since 2015. Luke is a former pastor and a graduate of Millersville University and Duke University Divinity School. He currently lives in Mountville, PA, and has a passion for preaching, missions, Duke basketball, and playing golf.