Toward the end of my freshman year of college, debate season was over, and my roommate and debate partner moved home. There was a brief period where I was alone.
A week or so prior to this period of solitude, I competed at the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas. After I was eliminated, I met a young man competing for a school in Texas who asked me what I believed about salvation. I hadn’t really thought much about the question in those terms, but I drew out the Plan of Salvation the way I had been taught it in primary. After I did so, he told me, “It’s up to you if you want to believe that, but it’s not a biblical concept.” His statement really bothered me. I realized I didn’t know the Bible well enough to know whether the concept was biblical or not.
On the way home from that tournament, I talked to a good friend and mentor on our team. He was a returned missionary and very knowledgeable about the scriptures. He guided me through several passages and gave me some ideas for others to read.
When I got back to my college, I began reading the scriptures earnestly in a way I never had before. I was devouring them like a starving man. It reminds me of Jesus’ statement in The Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). That very well described my experience.
During this time of intense focus, I was reading the scriptures approximately eight hours a day and being inspired by them and filled with joy. I had numerous spiritual manifestations as I immersed myself in God’s word. My period of intense focus on the scriptures lasted about six weeks. By the end of it, I had read and marked up the entire standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My little spark of faith had been fanned and fueled into a raging bonfire—and my life would never be the same. That spring, I submitted mission papers and ended up serving a two-year mission in Queensland, Australia.
Many years after this experience, it occurred to me that six weeks is 42 days. I don’t know exactly how many days I spent spiritually feasting on the word of God, but it was in the neighborhood of 40 days and 40 nights. When God brought the flood to cleanse the Earth, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4, 12). Moses communed with God on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights as he received His law (Exodus 24:18, 34:1–28). Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights fasting to reach Mount Horeb; and fasted for 40 days before beginning his public ministry. (1 Kings 19:8). Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness before being tempted (Matthew 4:2). Jesus ministered to his disciples 40 days and 40 nights between his resurrection and ascension into Heaven (Acts 1:3).
The number 40 is mentioned 157 times in the Bible. It symbolizes a period of testing, trial, or probation. At a deeper level, I think it represents something transformational. In each of the aforementioned scriptural accounts, the state of the world or the state of people’s hearts was changed.
Many of you have gone through painful transitions and some are going through them right now. These trials have the capacity to transform you into a new person if you consecrate them to Christ. Many of you are seeking a new identity, having seen yourself as part of a couple for many years. Some of you are alone, as I was for that brief time at the end of my freshman year of college. Some of you carry incredible burdens and demands on your time as single parents. This time of transition is crucial to the person you will become for the rest of your life.
I encourage you to look at your calendar and choose 40 days and 40 nights and consecrate them to God. Intentionally make them different from any other time. That may look different for different people depending on their circumstances. For some, that consecration may include a significantly increased focus on getting to know your children deeply. For others, it may involve prayer, singing hymns, or reading scriptures at a designated time every day and journaling about the experience. I know you have jobs and kids and financial obligations. Most of us cannot simply disappear into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights in our time. But whether you know it or not, many of you are in the wilderness now. The wilderness is not a place of solitude. It is a place of trial.
In our faith, many who are experiencing severe trials like divorce become disillusioned and many experience a faith crisis. So, take 40 days and 40 nights and consecrate it to God. It will deepen your understanding of the trials you are experiencing. Tell Heavenly Father, “I’m in the wilderness. I’m in a place I don’t want to be. But use me in this place however you wish.” At a minimum, I hope this 40-day consecration will involve some amount of intentional feasting on the word of God through prayer and deeply immersed in the scriptures.
I firmly believe that if you take this challenge to heart and consecrate 40 days and 40 nights to God, it will transform your life and even your soul. Perhaps you will even see that a tragedy has become a tender mercy.
About the Author
Jeff Teichert and his wife Cathy Butler Teichert are the founders of “Love in Later Years,” which ministers to Latter-day Saint mid-singles seeking peace, healing, and more joyful relationships; and the authors of the Amazon bestseller Intentional Courtship: A Mid-Singles Guide to Peace, Progress and Pairing Up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeff and Cathy each spent nearly a decade in the mid-singles community and draw on this experience to provide counsel and hope to mid-singles and later married couples. Jeff and Cathy are both certified life coaches and have university degrees in Family Science. They are the parents of a blended family that includes four handsome sons and one lovely daughter-in-law.
Purchase Jeff & Cathy’s book at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09KMXXJN7?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420