If you study the Bible for any length of time you will begin to notice that some numbers hold a significance within the Scriptures. This is not the same as the religion of numerology where numbers are believed to hold power and influence over people's lives; but theologians agree that God uses numbers throughout Scripture to represent themes.
A few of the significant numbers that are easily recognizable are:
12 - the number of tribes of Israel and the number of Apostles
3 - The Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and the number of times the Lord called to Samuel
7 - the number of perfection and completion, there are 7 lamp stands in Revelation and 7 years of Tribulation
6 - the number of the anti-Christ, the counterfeit of the Trinity
and then there's 40.
The number 40 is easily recognizable in the Bible especially in the Old Testament. It is the traditional Hebrew number used to signify a trial or testing. God allowed it to rain 40 days and 40 nights as He flooded the earth. The Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years before making it into the Promised Land. Moses spent 40 nights on Mount Sanai with the Lord before he descended to find his followers worshiping a golden calf. In the New Testament, Jesus went to the desert after being baptized and fasted for 40 days and endured the temptations of Satan. Even our Lord experienced the trials and testing that the number 40 represents.
Today, I celebrate my 40th year of life on this earth. It used to be that 40th birthdays meant a lot of "over the hill" gag gifts but in recent times, 40 is celebrated as "the new 30". In our day and age, people live longer, healthier lives so 40 doesn't seem so old. As this day approached, I contemplated my first 40 years. I asked friends and family about their first 40 years and we all had similar conclusions. The first 40 are similar to the biblical significance - testing, trials and temptations.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior very early on in life but I can honestly say I didn't really know what that could mean for me. I spent the first twenty years of my life extremely insecure and seeking approval of anyone who would give it. My school years felt lonely as I never really felt like I fit in with a particular group, I was often teased or made fun of and I had many years of weird haircuts, thick glasses, and bad teeth to boot. It wasn't easy. Most days I came home from school in tears because I felt so incredibly alone. I knew the Lord was somewhere in the picture but I often followed hard after the wrong friendships instead of Him.
The second half of my first 40 years was marked with better friendships, marriage, and motherhood. But none of this was without its trials. A friend at my birthday party last night said her son asked how people grow in marriage. She gave him the wisest answer, "Son, you go through some really hard, awful stuff and then you decide to stay together." It was in this time the Lord became more real to me. I realized I was like the Isaraelites wandering the desert for 40 years, being led by the Lord and having the Lord providing for me daily, but not really living a life dedicated to knowing Him and making Him known.
As I thought about my friend's wise words, they don't just apply to marriage or friendship. My relationship with Jesus is just like the relationship she described. I went through some really hard stuff with Him and then I decided to stay with Him and has kept His promise to stay with me. Jesus was with me during the early years of insecurity and the latter years of difficulty; like the silly cartoon based on the Footsteps poem, sometimes He was dragging me.
I'm not really sure if 40 is the new 30 but I look ahead with excitement. I get to look at life and truly know better and do life differently. Another good friend of mine recently said at her birthday celebration to say the hard things and tell people you love them. Our days here are not guaranteed and I plan to live a life that reflects my Savior's love for the world with His help. I won't live in the insecurity that drove me to the desert places because I know my God loves me as I am and holds me close no matter my appearance, my failures or my difficulty to fit in. The only place I was meant to fit in is in His hand.
Yesterday, I attempted to take a selfie to send to a friend as the last selfie of my thirties. As soon as I pressed the button on my phone, the entire phone crashed. I laughed and I got the message loud and clear. No, my forty year old face did not break the camera, it's that my life is no longer about self. A little more dying to self each day makes for a life with room for Jesus to fill in all the desert places. This is 40 and I like it.