My fiance and I recently hit the 40 days ’til “I do” mark and the first thing that came to mind, and the first thing everyone said, was “You’re in the wilderness” – and boy are we.
People tell you that your first year of marriage can be hard, but most people don’t tell you that engagement can be hard, too.
It’s really all fun at first – the ring, the pictures, the parties, the showers, the anticipation of forever, but then things get really real and you learn a whole lot about your future mate.
As for us, we have had our ups and downs just like everyone, but we really never had too many major fights during our dating season. But as we got closer and closer to our big day, it seemed like we really just couldn’t win.
The combination of our insanely busy schedules, buying a new house and trying to paint, furnish, and decorate it, and stressing over last minute wedding details had us both on edge. Normally, I get stressed out, and he calms me down, but what happens when we both get stressed out?
Chaos. That’s what happens.
When we are relying on each other, and not God, to make our bad days better, disappointment and anxiety and anger strike. No human was made to carry the burden of another human except Jesus, and it’s so dangerous to put that burden, like I did, on someone else.
We started fighting more and more and there were so many moments the enemy had me right where he wanted me telling me we shouldn’t even get married – that I’d be a terrible wife – and that we would never make it. But that’s when I would always have to refocus, talk to Jesus, and remember that the sole purpose for our union is to further His Kingdom, and that’s why he brought us together, and that’s why he’d keep us together.
As much as we tried to focus on what really mattered about our marriage, material things kept getting in the way. I was totally consumed by making my wedding and my house picture perfect and I neglected to really love the person I was sharing all of it with.
On Easter, we had gotten in yet another small fight for probably no reason at all, and when we got to church, we realized we had 40 days until the wedding.
Several people came up to ask us how planning was going, and we of course told them it was great and then would tell them we had 40 days left. Almost every single person said, “40 days in the wilderness, huh?” We laughed, but in my head I thought, “No kidding.”
It seriously felt like we were in this overwhelming, stressful wilderness that we may never get out of. We were both exhausted and stressing over everything from money to the garage filled with junk from our childhoods. Neither of us could see the end in sight.
I read and article that talked about the number 40 showing up quite often in The Bible, most famously when Jesus fasted for 40 days before Easter, which we now practice during Lent, but there are several other “forties” as well.
“Noah and company in the Ark watched rain fall for 40 days and forty nights. Moses was up on Sinai receiving the 10 commandments for 40 days. The Israelites wandered around the desert for 40 years.
So why all these forties? Probably because it is forty weeks that a woman carries her developing baby before a new life can come forth from the womb.
All these “forties” are a necessary and not-so-comfortable prelude for something new. In Noah’s case, it’s the rebirth of a sinful world that had been cleansed by raging flood waters. In Moses’ case, it was the birth of the people of the covenant. For the nomadic Israelites, it was the start of a new, settled existence in the Promised land.
And Jesus Christ? What did his forty days mean? The birth of a new Israel liberated from sin, reconciled to God, and governed by the law of the Spirit rather than a law chiseled in stone.
But think back to the story of Moses and the Israelites. There was someone who did not want them to go out into the desert to offer sacrifice to their God. Pharaoh did not take the loss of his cheap labor lying down. When Jesus begins his mission of liberation, there is another slave master who is no more willing than Pharaoh to let his minions go without a fight.” – crossroadsinitative.com
Reading God’s Word and seeing the significance of the word forty as we celebrated our forty-day mark ’til marriage on Easter Sunday absolutely rocked my world. I knew it was no coincidence and that God was desperately trying to tell us something. Just like these characters in The Bible, and just like a woman who suffers the stresses of pregnancy, 40 days represented struggle, discomfort, doubt, growing pains, affliction, and desperation before they get to the other side to glory, newness, purpose, liberation, and victory.
We may fight, we may struggle, we may doubt, we may stress, we may feel the attack of the enemy, but we know that we can consider our 40 days pure joy because there is something so beautiful on the other side.
“James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
We know where our story ends and we know why it began – it’s all for His glory, and when that is our focus, everything aligns perfectly.
As I write this, we are at the 1-month mark, counting down each and every day. After that 40-day mark and a few more fights, something clicked, and the prayers began to take us captive. It’s like a flip switched, and instead of worrying about everything and making everything bigger than it should be, we started laughing a lot more, spending a lot more time together, and walking through this season hand in hand, knowing that on our wedding day, the things of this world will not matter because our love for each other and our Savior will be the one big thing people see.
When we focus on what matters and Who matters, no matter the circumstance, and no matter the wilderness we find ourselves in, every problem, and every victory, seems a lot smaller in comparison to the reward we know we have coming so very soon.
You may be walking through a 40-day wilderness right now, too – in a relationship, in your job, with your purpose, with a friendship, but just know that the pruning season and the pain that happens underground always blooms into something beautiful after the tilling of the soil and the pain and struggle of the journey.
As my fiance and I continue walking, praying, and growing through our final 40 days as an engaged couple, I know we will learn more about each other and Jesus so we can let it launch us into a Kingdom-serving marriage that changes our world and maybe someone’s world around us.
We are all one bride of Christ, and sometimes the engagement period can be tough as we anticipate our wedding day, but when that day comes, we will be so beautifully dressed in white, looking lovingly at our Groom.