Hang on!

It was very sad to hear in the news that Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper had announced that they were separating, sadder yet is the fact that it has just been two weeks since they celebrated their fortieth anniversary. The number “forty” appears throughout the Scriptures, typically for a long and sometimes difficult period through which God’s people must persevere. “Forty” is a long time–either to struggle, or to find redemption. Usually both.

In Noah’s day it rained for forty days and forty nights. Moses got involved with God’s people when he was forty years old, forty years later he led them out of Egypt in a great Exodus, he spent forty days on Mount Sinai meeting with God, and after forty years in the wilderness God’s people arrived in the promised land and Moses was buried. When we get to the New Testament, we find Jesus, who is in some ways a new Moses, going out into his own wilderness experience for forty days and forty nights, and, after his resurrection, spending what must have been forty remarkable days with his disciples before ascending to heaven.

So what does it all mean? “Forty” is the number of sojourn. Consider these questions: have I gone through long periods when I really needed to know that God was there with me? Do I want to have his guidance for the long haul in my life? When I enter the wilderness experiences of life, how will I know he is there? Are there stretches of time in which I can devote myself to seeking God in some special way?

I am writing this just up the road from the small country church where Ingrid and I were wed thirty-five years ago this week. I can hardly believe it. We were very young and poor at the time so the flowers in the white steepled church were lilacs hand-picked from the nearby fields earlier that day. Lots of lilacs. Pungent lilacs. After all these years when I first get a whiff of lilacs in the first week of June I get a nervous knot in my stomach and a clammy feeling in the palms of my hands. No kidding. I am right back there. Standing at the back of the church, steeple bell ringing as one of the ushers pulls the rope. Exhilaration and fear. Time to walk the aisle. And now, thirty-five years later I marvel at how many experiences we have had together, thousands of miles traveled, hundreds of friends, babies become children become teens become adults. Storms and calm. Challenge and redemption. Love in ever-changing forms. Better today than before.

Today I find myself thinking especially of those of you who are leaders in your part of the world. You know the joys, the labor, the challenges, the rewards, the struggles. If you’ve been a leader for a long time you have wisdom to share–lessons learned the easy way, and lessons learned the hard way. May I encourage you today–hang on!

On the other side of forty is a promise.

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7 thoughts on “Hang on!”

  1. My 47th has passed me by and I’m still in a deep strugle…emotionally.
    Please pray for me to find the proper mate.


  2. As of this email, my husband has been without work for 419 Days. The days of the flood. multiplied by ten-fold. 10 times the time when Jesus was tempted. It sems like 419 years! There were times when I felt God was so far away from me that he was absolutely indistinquishable. And there’ve been times when I felt so close to Him, I was written in his hand, that he had my husband and I in his care. Generally I feel…..we’ll be ok. God will not abandon me. He hears my constant prayers. He has “a plan, a purpose”. I keep hoping. I’m willing to “plod”. I need to keep my eye on the ultimate prize.

    But it’s hard. So hard………..

  3. To both Randy & Mary: Remember Jeremiah 29: 11-13: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. “. Praying that this will encourage you to keep the faith, stay strong in the Lord. Don’t give up, regardless of the circumstances you may be in – God is in control.

  4. Ten years into Jeff’s and my marriage we were both ready to call it quits. Then God got a hold of me. Through some odd circumstances he put the book Beloved Unbeliever in my hands and began to teach me how to be a loving, caring and sharing 1st Peter 3 partner. Now God has been a part of our marriage for 10 years and even though my husband doesn’t yet know him our relationship is very good because it is based on the qualities God has infused into our marriage like unconditional love, the ability to say “I’m sorry”, trust, communicating what is bothering us in a respectful way instead of holding grudges and with keeping the goal in mind of solving the problem not being part of it. Sorry, got carried away. The most interesting part ot this walk was to see how as God changed me my relationship with my husband got better and better. Looking forward to the next 20— thank you Lord.

  5. Greetings from India ! Thank you for those thoughts , it’s been an encouragement to read on the 40 days and hang on . i’m a youth worker and have been in ministry for the last sixteen years , i have been waiting for some of God’s promise to come to pass . at times i find it hard to wait specially in the area of a life partner . i wonder if you could advise me in the area of waiting and for God’s timing . i know my times are in the Lord’s hand . i don’t want to hurry up things but how long do i wait . please if you find some free time please can you drop a few lines . thank you . God bless.

  6. Just another encouraging testimony to this book, “Beloved Unbeliever” that I have recommended through the years t women in spiritually mismatched marriages. Just another testimony to commitment despite life’s challenges.

  7. So what does it all mean? “Forty” is the number of sojourn.
    Been teaching on the Psalms of Ascent with the idea of believers today being “21st Century Pilgrims”. This week we will look at Psalm 130….the song of Hope. Our own human resilience and optimism may fade or get trashed. God is the true source of our hope, by His Word and His Works. Personally, had my wife not hoped in God, our marriage would have ended 20 years ago in the wreckage caused by my sin. God is good.

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