By Pastor Jennifer Beil
Forty days and forty nights. That is the length of Lent. (For those keeping track of actual days, Lent spans 46 days and nights. Sundays are not included because they are a “mini-Easter” and the solemnity of Lent is overshadowed by the joyful triumph of Easter.) Forty days and forty nights. That is a very long time. Forty days and forty nights. What difference can forty days and forty nights really make?
In the Bible, the number forty has great significance. First, larger numbers in the Bible are meant to convey a bigger idea and not an exact count. So, forty would be a really long time and 5000 would be far too many to count. Second, forty denotes suffering. Lastly, forty reminds us of the many times the number has come up in the Bible and its significance for us.
The Hebrew people wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Doubts and fear plagued the Hebrew people . How has your own trust in God faltered in the past??
The first Kings, Saul and David, reigned for forty years. Fear and lack of trust in God resulted in suffering. How have your fears and lack of trust in God resulted in your own suffering??
Jonah declared to Nineveh that God would destroy the great city in forty days. Nineveh did repent and the destruction did not happen. When have you repented and experienced God’s grace??
Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness for forty days. Every day we face temptations that slowly can whittle away our faith. How has your faith helped resist temptations and doubt??
Jesus lay dead in the toumb for forty hours. For those who followed Jesus this was brokenness, betrayal, grief. Have you ever felt like you have lost everything, even the ground under your feet was slipping away??
What difference can forty make?? Forthe Hebrew people forty years meant learning to truly trust in God. For Jesus forty days in the wilderness led him into the heart of humanity, into our fear and anxiety, our delusions of grandeur, and our doubts. Forty hours conquered sin, hatred, and death. Forty can and does change everything.
On February 14th we begin 40 days and 40 nights of solemnity and deep reflection; forty days and forty nights of fasting and praying; forty days and forty nights of serving and giving up; forty days and forty nights of letting goand drawing closer to God. Lent is forty days. It is a long time to suffer, reflect, and purge. Lent is forty days. It feels like a long time but it is enough time to change you if you will let it.