Sunday, May 11, 2014

Testing & Preparation - 40 Days

The number 40 holds great significance in Biblical context:  
  • Noah experienced 40 days and nights of rainfall
  • Moses spent 40 years in Egypt and another 40 years in the desert prior to being called to lead his people out of slavery
  • Israel ate Manna for 40 years
  • Moses was with God for 40 days and nights on the mountain, on two separate occasions
  • Spies searched the land of Canaan for 40 days
  • Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years
  • 40 stripes was the maximum whipping penalty
  • Othniel, Deborah and Barak, Eli and Gideon all served as judges for 40 years
  • Goliath presented himself to Israel for 40 days
  • Saul reigned for 40 years
  • David reigned for 40 years
  • The holy place in the temple was 40 cubits long
  • Solomon reigned for 40 years
  • Elijah fasted for 40 days and nights
  • Ezekiel laid on his right side for 40 days
  • Jonah warned Nineveh of its impending destruction for 40 days
  • Jesus fasted & was tempted 40 days and nights prior to beginning his public ministry
  • Jesus remained on earth for 40 days following his resurrection

In all of these instances, the number 40 indicates a period of preparation, testing, trial, probation or indicates the time period of a generation.  These periods of testing often end with a period of restoration, revival or renewal.  

I am now 40 days from the beginning of my Hike4Hope journey.  In many ways, I feel as though I've been on this journey for some time already, but I believe that these last 40 days hold great significance.  These last 40 days are sure to be a time of preparation and of testing.  As I make final preparations for the hike in terms of equipment, training, etc... I will also be continuing to prepare mentally and spiritually for the road ahead. God is surely at work,  making and molding me into who He wants me to be, giving me the strength and tools that I need to complete the journey ahead. 

Testing:

This time is sure to be one of spiritual warfare.  As the time nears for my departure, Satan will do all in his power to place stumbling blocks in my path to keep me from following the callng that God placed on my heart.  Fear, anxiety, busyness, and a variety of distractions are all likely weapons that he will use to throw me off track.  Fortunately, I have a perfect model to follow in Jesus Christ, to combat this spiritual warfare.  Jesus' answers to temptation and trial are to find nourishment in the Word of God, to humbly revere God, and to worship and serve him in all that we think, say and do.  

I am confident that God will use this time of testing to fulfill His purposes in my life and in the lives of those around me.  It is through these times of testing that we often learn to trust and rely on God, and it is in these times when our wills begin to align more with God's will. Mark Schultz's song, "40 days," captures the essence of the wilderness experiences.  When we feel that we are farthest from God, that's when we will find him and come to trust him more fully.

Lord, Your ways are not my own
But I trust you
Lord, you say, "You are not alone,
For I am with you"

But there are times, like now, when you can't be found...

And it's like 40 days out in the desert
Feeling like I'm lost forever
And crying out for You
But in these 40 days I'm going to seek You
With my heart because I believe You
Have brought me to this place
These 40 days

Preparation:

Since receiving this call to action last October, God has been working in my life to prepare me (mind, body, spirit) for the road ahead.  One of the most difficult lessons that I've been learning is that of trust. Trusting with reckless abandon is so unnatural for me, and that is exactly what He is asking of me; to trust Him with all that I have and with all that I am. Really, it's the same thing that he asks of every Christian. Much of the time, our pride obscures our vision, making it difficult for us to see our trust issues. Over and over God has proven his trustworthiness,  yet over and over again I have pridefully refused to trust Him. It is a difficult lesson, and one that I will spend the entirety of my life learning. I have found, over these past months,  that the more time I spend immersed in the Word, the easier and more natural it is to trust. This then is the key to the 40 days ahead: to dive into the Word and sit at the feet of the Master, fixing my gaze upon Him and learning from Him in every circumstance.

In preparation for this hike,  God has also given me a tremendous support system.  My family and friends have been extremely helpful and supportive these past months. A phenomenal team of passionate women have also teamed up with me and have been instrumental in helping to prepare me for the road ahead. I can honestly say that without them, I never would have made it to this 40 day mark. They have been so encouraging and helpful; constantly thinking of ways to bring Progeria into the spotlight and stirring others to take action, and also helping me to plan the hike itself. They have been and continue to be such a blessing to me, and as I make my final preparations,  I can rest assured, knowing that they're in my corner offering their prayers and support.  

As I think on the 40 days ahead I am drawn to Deuteronomy 8, and am reminded that the same God who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, leads us still, providing for our every need.  Without Him, we are lost, blind and lame sheep, meandering through a wilderness that we cannot hope to navigate on our own.

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.
Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley,vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied,14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hand produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.