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Ash Wednesday Devotional

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Join us in this Ash Wednesday Devotional written by Jess Galván, World Relief content writer and justice advocate. Then, join over 20 contributors from around the world as we journey through Lent together in our free Lent devotional.

Scripture Reading

Begin by reading Romans 12:1-2 and Isaiah 58:6.  

Ash Wednesday Devotional Reflection

There is no better day than Ash Wednesday to remind us of where we come from — I mean, it’s right there in the name. Our Creator tells us in Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” 

From the beginning, our fragile mortality has rested in the hands of a trusted father. But it can be so easy to forget this when the distractions of life take over. We begin to believe we have control and that our time on earth is endless. 

That’s how I remember feeling as a 20-year-old, a sophomore in college living in the big city of Chicago and completely wrapped up in the pressures of school and my buzzing social life. The last thing on my mind was my own weakness and need to rely on God. I was well under the spell of the promise that if I pursued a higher education, it would lead to a successful career and produce a life lacking nothing. Coming from a family and church community of Mexican immigrants, this seemed like a lifeline. 

Growing up, I had watched my mother as she juggled multiple jobs trying desperately to create stability for her daughters. We relied on the kindness of strangers at our local food pantry when the scattered paychecks didn’t add up, creating a determination within me that got me to a university. I could feel the hopes and expectations of my community on my shoulders.

It was a typical Wednesday night as I ran down the steps of the elevated Red Line platform on my way to night class. There, in the middle of the train station, was a priest dressed in full liturgical vestment with a deacon beside him holding a jar of ashes. The priest was applying ashes in the form of a cross on the foreheads of commuters exiting the station. Suddenly, the image of the ashes, of Jesus meeting me right where I was that day, brought me back to my roots as I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “Remember where you came from.” 

I felt that I had descended from my own platform of idealized success — the pursuit of a college education and bright future in a bustling city — and landed on sacred ground where Jesus himself was elevated and honored. I was brought low in reverence for all that I lacked while knowing that I was still completely loved. 

I had been fighting for a false ideal where all the struggles of my parents, neighbors and, by connection, hundreds of thousands of other immigrants would be “worth it” if I only kept doing everything right and stuck to the plan. But that striving left no room for God and his work. 

He wasn’t just reminding me of where I came from culturally but also where I came from physically and spiritually — where we all come from. On Ash Wednesday, we boldly mark our bodies and confront our place in God’s creation. Our weakness and need for a Savior cannot be hidden as we face the sins that bring us to the foot of the cross.

His reminder to me that day led me down a path of living a life of justice that would infiltrate my work, my parenting, my faith and my future. So today, I invite you to slow down and think back to where you came from. Remember the moments of humility, brokenness and abandonment that led you to see your flesh as it is. 

Ash Wednesday is bold and on display. It marks the beginning of a season that disrupts our daily life. It gives space for contemplation and mourning in order to truly appreciate the joy that is coming. The beauty in a day like today is not found in an attitude of resignation but in a disruptive, celebratory surrender. Remember and mark the day that brought you to the feet of Jesus.


Spend some time coming before God openly and honestly. Set aside the need to strive. Think about your mortality and the reality of your sin — seek his forgiveness. Thank him for his deep and unending love for you and his mercies that are new every morning.

Worship & Listen

As you continue into the season of Lent, consider listening to this playlist we’ve created to accompany your journey. We hope these songs, submitted by our global World Relief community, will draw you into moments of reflection, reverence and renewal. 

If you enjoyed this Ash Wednesday devotional, we’d love for you to join us and Christians around the world as we journey through Lent together. Get a free digital copy of “He Was There,” our new Lent devotional, at the link below.

Jessica Galván is a Content Writer at World Relief. She is passionate about storytelling and amplifying diverse voices to reveal the beauty of God’s creation. She is also the Editorial Director for Chasing Justice and prior to World Relief, she was a freelance writer and editor for a variety of clients in publishing, most recently Penguin Random House. When she isn’t wordsmithing for the pursuit of faith and justice, she is spending time with her husband and their 3 children in the Houston, TX area.

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