March 14, 2023

by Deaconess Bethany Stoever, Director-at-Large, LFL of Kansas

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5).

40 days. 40 weeks. 40 years.

The Christian life is a time of trial, waiting, and temptation. The greater an event, the longer and more difficult the wait and fulfillment often are. Look no further than Noah, Moses, the people of Israel, and Christ Himself: the 40-day flood, Moses’ 40-day sojourn with the Lord on Mount Sinai, Israel’s 40-year wilderness wanderings following a 40-decade sojourn and captivity in Egypt, and Jesus’ 40-day fast and temptation in the wilderness, among many other examples.

As I write this, we ourselves are now walking through the 40 days between Jesus’ birth on Christmas and His presentation at the Temple, where with their own eyes the aged saints Simeon and Anna saw their God and their Redeemer.

Shortly thereafter, we embark on the 40 days of Lent, culminating in Christ’s death and resurrection—and then the final forty days of His earthly walk before His Ascension.

40 days. 40 weeks. 40 years.

In God’s great providence, He has given us a similar pattern to witness in our own lives, which we all celebrate as For Life Lutherans. It is remarkable to me that the Lord chose 40 weeks for a child’s gestation. Pregnancy itself illustrates our waiting and longing for the fulfillment of God’s promises, just as marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church. The challenges and joys of the “family way” are visible for all, Christians and unbelievers alike.

So “40” punctuates our Church year and our lives. Families live the 40-year Exodus and wilderness wandering in miniature on a constant basis.

But being born “in the fullness of time” does not mean being born in full health, either. Which brings me to another topic: perinatal hospice, a model of care for families given the painful knowledge that their child is likely to die before or shortly after birth, yet who nevertheless cherish that life as a God-given gift.

How can tragedy within life and birth illustrate God’s mercy? How especially can such tragedy point to Christ when life is cut off within the womb?

We are not always promised deliverance to our earthly goals. Most of the people of Israel perished in the wilderness and were forbidden to look upon the Promised Land. Even Moses was kept from entering.

Yet we cannot accuse all these men and women of unbelieving death. On the contrary! We can believe that the Lord sought to keep them in His sheepfold by giving the Israelites many opportunities to repent. Those whose lives are cut short while they live in faith are welcomed to the true Promised Land, even if they perish in the wilderness.

So, comfort exists for both the faithful and for our children, even when they die before they can be baptized. We may be certain that the trials we face in all of our times of waiting, whether they be for 40 weeks, 70 years, or a century, may point the faithful to the Lord’s grace and mercy.

It is He who sustains us each and every day. It is He who brings us into the world, and He who draws our earthly lives to a close at the proper time. It is He who was born for us, He who died for us, He who rose for us, and He who reigns on high for us. His is the pattern of our lives.

40 days. 40 weeks. 40 years.

In the fullness of time, our Lord was born for our sake.
In the fullness of time, He will bring all the faithful into eternal fellowship with Him.
In the fullness of time, He will dry every tear and fulfill His will for all mankind, as John the Evangelist witnessed in the Revelation God granted him.

May we all faithfully live out our sojourn on this earth, however long it may be, in anticipation of the New Creation, the end of our earthly sorrows, and our final Resurrection of body and soul to live with our Lord in righteousness and purity forever.