Another Forty


The number 40 is significant in the Bible. Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai and wandered in the desert for 40 years. Elijah spent 40 days and nights walking to Mt. Horeb. God made rain fall for 40 days and nights in the story of Noah. There are other examples, but perhaps the most significant 40 is the number of days Jesus spent in the wilderness.

During his time there, Jesus fasted and was tempted by Satan. For the last 4o days, I have joined with millions of other Christians around the world observing the traditions of Lent. Lent, for most Christians, is the period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter). For most of my life (I am only 41) I have not participated in the traditions of Ash Wednesday or Lent.

There is no Biblical mandate to participate in these things (and many denominations ignore them as meaningless), but it is a good way to fellowship with other believers and celebrate the victory of Christ over temptation by honoring his time in the wilderness. Many believers choose this time to give up something of value in their life. This year, I gave up coffee.

For many, this is not a big deal – especially if you do not like coffee. I love coffee. I drink a lot of coffee. Some days, I drink a whole pot by myself. That is too much!

The temptation was great in the first few days and so were the headaches. Even as I passed the midpoint of my fast from coffee, I found myself lingering near the empty pot in my kitchen. One Friday, I helped prepare the settings for the meal at Celebrate Recovery and one of my tasks was to brew the coffee for the guests. Thankfully, I survived.

Actually, this Lent has done my body good. As I mentioned, I drink a lot of coffee. In the week prior to Ash Wednesday, I had two anxiety attacks. If you have never had one, they are awful things. Many people have different symptoms, but WebMD defines them as “Separate and intense periods of fear or feelings of doom developing over a very short time frame”. The site also says at least four of the following things will be present:

  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sense of choking
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • A feeling of being detached from the world
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Chills or hot flushes

I had all of the above except the nausea. Years of assaulting my stomach with buffalo wings and spicy food in college probably prevented that symptom. My last one happened as I was sitting in line to pick up my kids from school. Typically, in the past, I pace a lot when they happen. It’s hard to get out of the car and pace without alarming the other parents. So, as I sat there writhing in my seat and tugging on the confines of the seat belt I began to wonder if this was a sign.

I can say in all honesty that I believe that giving up coffee for Lent was a good thing. I have not had an attack since. Giving something up for Lent is purely voluntary, but it can be a real blessing if you give up the right things for the right reasons.

I will get up in the morning and I will probably have a cup of coffee for the first time in what feels like an eternity. I will probably enjoy it. I will take this opportunity to start over in moderation and give thanks to God for helping me defeat this temptation. It has been good for my health.

If you gave up something for Lent, whether you made it the whole time or not, I hope this time has been good for you.

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2 thoughts on “Another Forty

  1. I didn’t grow up observing Lent, but a few years ago I decided to try it. Since I’m a “wordaholic,” I decided to give up reading everything except for the Bible and books written from an explicitly Christian worldview. At first, just passing by books that didn’t fit those parameters nearly drove me up the wall. Later, however, I hardly noticed what I was missing out on, except once or twice when I found out one of my favorite non-Christian authors had a new book out, and even then I thought, “It’s just a few more weeks.” After Easter, I gradually broadened my reading selections again. One thing I noticed when I did so was that I had become more sensitive to strong language and graphic content in my stories, so I became more aware of what I was choosing to read, and whether or not that choice was a spiritually healthy one for me. I still enjoy reading a broad spectrum of secular fiction, but now whenever I start to realize that I’m become desensitized again, I start a new “book fast.”

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