The number 40 is significant in the Scriptures. Moses' life and journey with God is divided up into 40 year increments. Israel wanders in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus is tempted as the True Israel in the wilderness for 40 days. In Ancient Rome, 40 was typically when you were taken seriously as an "elder" (not sure how to take that one, personally). 40 means something. 2 weeks ago I turned 40 and spent a day meditating on the differences between 30 and 40. While this devotional will be different than most, I promise it has a point at the end.
Here are some general things that have changed for me from age 30 to age 40:
At 30 I got married to Jenn. At 40 I love her more than I could've dreamed of.
At 30 I graduated college. At 40 I have already graduated seminary and am doing what I believe God called me to do: Pastor.
At 30 I was full of vigor and an outward joy. At 40 I feel like I'm more aware of my weakness (soul and body).
At 30 I could accomplish anything physically. At 40 I can't run (bad feet); can't swim (bad shoulder), but can cycle forever and love it. At 30 I would've bet my life that you would never catch me in spandex...but with age comes wisdom?
At 30 I was without kids. At 40 I have 2 wonderful girls whom I adore. God has probably taught me more through parenting than anything else.
At 30 I had a solid group of friends that were in my life daily. At 40 I have a couple close friends, and to be honest, I'm not that good of a friend.
At 30 I judged men who had depression as weak. At 40 I have had ongoing depression for 4 years. This has brought a deep humility in loving others.
At 30 I wanted nothing more than the John MacArthur Commentary set. At 40, MacArthur makes me cringe (sorry those of you who love him) and I will take the wisdom of Eugene Peterson ten times out of ten.
At 30 I had a high view of the local church. At 40 the view has grown, yet is also mixed with wounds.
At 30 I longed for self-glory. At 40 I am content getting no glory and giving it to Jesus.
At 30 I was learning a lot about Jesus. At 40 I long to daily know Jesus.
At 30 I was optimistic. At 40, pessimistic.
At 30 I longed to be radical. At 40, I love the ordinary.
At 30 I would hide the things that didn't make me "cool." At 40, you may catch me rolling with my windows down listening to Taylor Swift. No shame.
At 30 I was a perfectionist and a people-pleaser. At 40 I am more aware I cannot please everyone and meet their expectations; but I know the One who can.
At 30 the Psalms were a bunch of songs written by whiners and complainers. At 40 they have become prayers spoken for me when I have no words.
I have a lot more to list but I hope you see the point: People change and God transforms in ways we may not expect. If you would have asked me what life would be like at 40, it may look like this externally. But the deep transformation that has taken place has been through the dark places I would've never entered on my own. I believe I am a better more Christ-like man at 40 but I also seem to walk in places I would never go on my own. I have become more slow to speak and quick to listen because I don't think my words are all that necessary. I wait on him.
As I wrote this list a couple of weeks ago, in God's providence I came across a quote that fit well with this process. Talking about Israel's wilderness journey, Eugene Peterson writes, "How did Israel manage to stretch a one-year journey into forty years? Well, here's how: They were the congregation of the people of God in formation, but they were not formed." (Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, 42).
This made me conclude with gratitude that God is conforming us into his image (Rom. 12:1-2). It is a task we are both passive and active in. What we must know and settle into is that He will accomplish this task (Phil. 1:6) in his ways, in his timing, and however he sees fit. But the good news is that we are not alone and we are not the first to be formed through stumbling upon crooked roads.
The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world and always lived for the glory of God. And even though he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15), he had to learn obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). Being fully God and fully man, he could've taken the path of least resistance. But no! He walked through the suffering. Why? Not because he had to but for you. Like Israel, my heart and your heart was rebellious and would've wandered for years and years because we just don't like being told what to do. In contrast, Jesus perfectly obeyed for 40 days in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). He did this for you and I. He perfectly obeyed. Yet, later in the narrative we see him nailed to a cross. How could God let someone who always obeyed be treated like a sinner? Because he had you and I in mind. He was lovingly taking our place so that even in our wanderings and slow formation, we could know he loves us, forgives us, and will bring to completion his work.
He was approximately 33. As far as space and time go, he didn't enjoy 40. Yet, in his resurrection he was uniting a host of people to himself. And as we speak, he is forming us into a trophy of his grace. There is a huge and beautiful theological nugget tucked away in the letter of Galatians that communicates this truth. Galatians 4:19 says, "my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!" The whole goal of this Christian life is Christ being formed in us. Sometimes that means an outward and external joy becomes a deep joy of the soul that limps because of the grace of God. Above all things that are different now that I am 40, the one thing I am happiest to say is that I love Jesus more than I did at 30. And what I mean is that I'm starting to believe the perfect unchanging love he has for me. I'm growing into what is already true.