There is another way we can enter into this ritual. We could enter it not as a mere ritual to which we are called but we could do it reverently and responsibly. We could give up something for no other purpose than to create space for God to be fully present to us. In doing so we would portray not a salve-driving God but a God whose concern is for us not what we try to give Him.
We can enter anything we do with either of these two attitudes; ritual or reverence. Everything we do can become empty under the cloak of ritual. Our prayers, our songs, or service, etc. can be a hindrance if not done in an attitude that rightly portrays God and offers the self. If we, in depriving ourselves, are doing anything other than offering our hearts and creating space for God then we are better off not participating at all. God cares more about our hearts than He does our actions. He cares more about us than He does about our obedience, He weeps not because of disobedience but because He knows the pain disobedience brings. He does not cry because we didn’t listen to Him but He cries because we’ve not found the “way of peace.” (Luke 19.42)
This is a time where we deny ourselves something not for our selfish reasons or out of obligation. We give up something in order to remember that we are fully dependant on the Eternal God. We remember our frailty and lean on the strong shoulder of a loving God. Before you examine what you’ll give up, examine your reasons and decide if you even should consider it.
That is why the LORD says, “Turn to me now, while there is time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief; instead, tear your hearts.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you. -Joel 2:12-13