My 40th birthday lives on as one of the highlights of my life. I’m not way past it yet, but far enough that I know it was one of great significance. It was not a birthday that I dreaded as some do with those decade marking moments of life. This birthday marked me differently, like a mile marker of sorts on my highway of life.
Having just returned from China to adopt our 6th and final child, I was feeling a deep sense of contentment when my 40th birthday rolled around. Until that point in life, it seemed I moved from one anticipated event to another. Now a season of celebration had arrived. It indeed was one of the most joy-filled times of my life. Looking back on the 40 years that had passed, I could clearly see the Author of my life within the script and it all connected. I danced away in celebration of those first 40 years to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” with 4 of my dearest forever friends in beautiful Cancun, Mexico. Little did I know what would come on the other side of those first 40 years would be some of my most un-fun moments of this life. Also, I didn’t know that all those 40 years that transpired were preparation for the second half of my life story.
Someone recently shared with me that the word quarantine comes from the Latin quadraginta and Italian quaranta, which both mean forty. Personally, this is the 40th official day I’ve been quarantined for the COVID-19 pandemic. As I processed this reality, I felt compelled to dive into some of the moments within the Bible when we see periods of 40 days pass.
Genesis 7:12 – “and the rain fell on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.”
So many people have been trying to see the bright side of quarantine. At least we haven’t been sitting inside a floating zoo, although some days can feel like the zoo part, and for some with teenage boys around, it can undoubtedly smell like one. Think about that moment when the rain finally stopped. Most of us are experiencing an increase in the noise level in our homes. It’s like when you have the Governor’s news conference on and your straining to hear when you can actually come out of your house. I can imagine the desperate shushing of Mrs. Noah, straining to hear if there would be another drop of rain to hit the roof of the ark. Had they heard it for so long that the sound of rainfall on the roof just continued to ring in their ears well after it stopped?
Scripture tells us that the waters flooded the earth for 150 days (Gen. 7:24) 150 days people! That’s about 5 months! After that short amount of time, God caused the waters to recede, and then about 2 months more passed before Noah saw the mountaintops. I wonder if he started to sing “Country Road Take Me Home”??? Yet, another 40 days would pass after Noah saw the hope of mountain mamma, and this is what Scripture records: “After 40 days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.” (Gen. 8:6-7)
There would be many more days that would pass before Noah would actually disembark God’s floating zoo. Still, I believe those periods of 40 days were significant for Noah. It might be possible that they were the most trying days of his time spent within his gopher barky estate.
On the other side of the flood came the assurance of a rainbow, representing a faithful God.
Often when the Bible mentions 40 days or 40 years, it is associated with a period of trial or testing. A season of trouble or hardship, that once the time passes something significant results.
Deuteronomy 8:2-5 The Israelites wander in the desert.
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.”
On the other side of the desert came a promised land filled with abundance from a promise-keeping God.
Judges 13:1 Israelites serve the Philistines.
“Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.”
On the other side of being Philistine servants was Samson from a redeeming God.
1 Samuel 17:16 Goliath taunts Saul’s army.
“For forty days the Philistine came every morning and evening and took his stand.”
On the other side of Goliath was a boy named David from a God of all-surpassing strength.
1 Kings 19:7-9 Elijah fled from Jezebel.
“The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.”
On the other side of fleeing is a providing God of tender mercy.
Then…there’s Jesus. Matthew 4:1-2
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”
Most of us familiar with this story know that Jesus had a series of dialogues with the tempter. These conversations took place while Jesus was under great hardship due to his circumstance of being in a wilderness for 40 days. Isolated, alone, and in a weakened state, Jesus turns to absolute truth, the inspired words of God, not within a book but within Him.
On the other side of the wilderness was a God who calls us to follow.
Then in Acts 1:3, we see yet another significant period of 40 days in the life of Jesus on earth. It was the last 40 days that Jesus spent on the earth. It was 40 days that transpired between His resurrection and ascension into Heaven.
“After His suffering, He presented Himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
What did Jesus spend those last 40 days doing? Jesus was building a future hope within His chosen apostles. I would think the fact that Jesus had to keep “giving convincing proofs” the disciples must have been having a hard time comprehending all that had taken place. They were sitting in an uncertain circumstance, they were unsure. I cannot imagine all they were wrestling within their hearts and minds. They had to be in a new place of faith for sure, but that wasn’t all. Jesus spent 40 days preparing them for another wait. There was a Gift coming to them.
“On one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them, He gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ “
It would be a 9-day wait before the Holy Spirit would be given. This Gift would be poured out upon a gathering of believers, the Spirit of God breathed into those who trusted, and surrendered to belief in Jesus as the Son of God.
On the other side of Jesus’ appearances was a God who gives us Himself.
My hope is that there will be an “other side” to this period of 40 days for myself. Not so much that I would see a change in me, but that I would have a greater knowledge of who my God is. You see friends, I believe He is showing Himself to us, but we just may not really see it until we arrive on the “other side” of this quarantine. I pray we all can look back and mark Him as something significant to us. What will fill in your blank?
On the other side of the COVID-19 quarantine was a God who___________________________.