When it comes to handling our feelings, we must first recognize that physical symptoms (whether hormonal or otherwise) can result in greater temptation to sin. That’s why it is so important, as we’ve been saying over and over again, to prepare for these seasons of our lives
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” instructed Jesus in Mark 14:38. And Matthew Henry commiserates: “What heavy clogs these bodies of ours are to our souls! But when we see trouble at the door, we should get ready for it.”
Although temptation is greater, it doesn’t mean we have to sin! By faith, we have the power to resist temptation. There is a way of escape, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
Elisabeth Elliot elaborates on this truth: “Choices will continually be necessary and—let us not forget—possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.”
We must not fall into the trap of believing that we are helpless to confront our feelings. Instead, we must choose to obey God.
“Try it,” challenges Elisabeth Elliot. “When, in the face of powerful temptation to do wrong, there is the swift, hard renunciation—I will not—it will be followed by the sudden loosing of the bonds of self, the yes to God that lets in sunlight, sets us singing and all freedom’s bells clanging for joy.”
What glorious words for women who feel (and not “are”) trapped by depression, anxiety and despair! When we choose to say “I will not” to sin, we will experience (maybe not right away, but eventually!) freedom, joy, and the sunlight of God’s face.
So when that hormonal trouble comes knocking, we need to prepare to renounce our feelings and choose to obey. We’ll continue to discuss how in the days to come.
As we’ve told you before, we’re not medical experts here at girltalk. Today, we have a case in point (although I doubt you needed further evidence to convince you!). One of our readers, Christina, who happens to be a Family Nurse Practitioner emailed us and graciously explained that we got our terms wrong. What we have been referring to as “postpartum” (which is simply the recovery period following the birth of a child) is actually called “postpartum depression” or “baby blues.”
Now that we have learned the correct terminology, we’re going to fix our previous posts. (So for all of you with RSS feeds, we apologize in advance! I don’t have an RSS feed, but I assume it’s annoying to have people like us edit their previous posts, which we do on occasion!)
But this little clarification provides us with an opportunity to pass on some additional, useful information about what women may experience following the birth of their baby. Preparation is half the battle and that’s the point of this “PMS Prep” series. In his book, Blame It on the Brain, Edward T. Welch (not only uses the correct terminology, but) provides us with a concise and helpful description of “baby blues” and “postpartum depression”:
“Baby blues. The baby blues is a poorly defined condition that is experienced by 50 to 70 percent of women in the first week to ten days postpartum. Rarely severe, it begins within the first three days and might be experienced as sadness, depression, feelings of wanting to cry, or rapid and unpredictable emotional fluctuations. To those who experience these emotions, the triggers are often felt to be insignificant. In fact, many women will not actually feel sad when they cry!”
“Postpartum depression. More severe and of longer duration than the blues, postpartum depression (PPD) occurs in about 10 to 15 percent of all mothers (Pitt, 1968; Watson, Elliot, Rugg & Brough, 1984). Indistinguishable from other forms of depression, it can last anywhere from two weeks to a year.”
Being equipped with this knowledge removes the element of surprise. In other words, if we feel sad for the first week to ten days after our baby is born, or even if the sadness persists, we shouldn’t be shocked. We can simply realize—“Ah, I know what’s going on here, but I also know that God has provided ‘ways of escape’ to endure this trial.”
More tomorrow on “handling our feelings as a way of escape” from postpartum depression, baby blues, or any other hormonal trials!
Long-time reader and our good friend Cindy from PA sent us this cute anecdote.
Have a super weekend, Nicole for my mom and sisters
A mom was concerned about her kindergarten son walking to school. He didn’t want his mother to walk with him. She wanted to give him the feeling that he had some independence but yet know that he was safe. So she had an idea of how to handle it.
She asked a neighbor if she would please follow him to school in the mornings, staying at a distance, so he probably wouldn’t notice her. She said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it would be a good way for them to get some exercise as well, so she agreed.
The next school day, the neighbor and her little girl set out following behind Timmy as he walked to school with another neighbor girl he knew. She did this for the whole week. As the two walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, Timmy’s little friend noticed the same lady was following them as she seemed to do every day all week.
Finally she said to Timmy, ‘Have you noticed that lady following us to school all week? Do you know her?’ Timmy nonchalantly replied, ‘Yeah, I know who she is.’ The little girl said, ‘Well, who is she?’‘ That’s just Shirley Goodnest,’ Timmy replied, ‘and her daughter Marcy. ’‘Shirley Goodnest? Who is she and why is she following us?’ ‘Well,’ Timmy explained, ‘every night my Mom makes me say the 23rd Psalm with my prayers, ‘cuz she worries about me so much. And in the Psalm, it says, ‘Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life’, so I guess I’ll just have to get used to it!’
Easier said than done, this telling our feelings to submit to Truth. It’s not a one-time thing, like learning our ABC’s in the first grade. It is a battle, an intense battle, a lifelong battle where victories are often outnumbered by defeats and progress is sometimes hard to measure.
But we’re not the first to fight. Stretching back to the beginning of time is an unbroken line of saints who struggled against the onslaught of their emotions.
The Prophet Micah knew what it was like to “sit in darkness” (Micah 7:8-9)
Job, in the midst of his suffering lamented his very being: “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness!” Job 3:3-4
The Psalmist berated his despairing soul: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Psalm 42:5-6
The Apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away his thorn his “messenger of Satan to harass me.”
David Brainerd “suffered from the blackest dejection, off and on, throughout his short life.”
The missionary Henry Martyn “suffered from an obvious tendency to morbidity and introspection.”
Charles Spurgeon lamented: “My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for.” (We all know what that is like!)
Martyn Lloyd Jones writes of being” overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil.”
Need I go on? Because I could! And these were all men who didn’t have to deal with PMS or menopause!
The battle isn’t the only thing these men have in common, though. Even more encouraging, they all received grace from our Heavenly Father to endure and eventually to triumph! They all were led to discover the “way of escape.”
As John Piper writes, “God has woven his Word with strands of truth directly opposed to [our despondency]. The law of God does revive (Psalm 19:7). God does lead to springs of water (Psalm 23:3). God does show us the path of life (Psalm 16:11). Joy does come with the morning (Psalm 30:5).”
May this “great cloud of witnesses” spur us on to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
“Oh the havoc that is wrought and the tragedy, the misery and the wretchedness that are to be found in the world simply because people do not know how to handle their own feelings!” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones My in-laws have a dog named Bailey that my four-year-old son Jack loves to put on a leash and drag around the yard. Poor patient Bailey! You can tell he’d rather be snoozing on the rug, but what choice does he have? He’s on the leash and Jack is running around in circles. So Bailey runs around in circles. When it comes to my fluctuating feelings (which spike at a certain time every month) I sometimes feel like Bailey on a leash. I often follow my feelings around in circles, forgetting that I am the owner and the leash should be on my feelings instead. If I feel irritable, I might make an unkind remark. If I feel depressed, I may cry. If I feel fearful, I might become withdrawn. If I feel despair, I want to curl up and go back to sleep. Obviously I don’t need to attend obedience school! No, I need to handle my feelings instead of letting my feelings handle me. It’s “Way of Escape #1” from the hormonal maze. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones elaborates in his book (which we highly recommend) Spiritual Depression:
“Avoid the mistake of concentrating overmuch on your feelings…Above all, avoid the terrible error of making them central. If you put them there you are of necessity doomed to be unhappy because you are not following the order that God himself has ordained…After all, what we have in the Bible is Truth; it is not an emotional stimulus, it is not something primarily concerned to give us a joyful experience. It is primarily Truth, and Truth is addressed to the mind, God’s supreme gift to man; and it is as we apprehend and submit ourselves to truth that the feelings follow.”
By apprehending and submitting ourselves to Truth, we put a leash on our feelings and they must follow. Granted, they may follow slowly at first, but eventually, as we put Truth at the center of our lives, our feelings will fall into line. What is this Truth? Dr. Lloyd-Jones again:
“Put at the centre the only One who has a right to be there, the Lord of Glory, Who so loved you that He went to the Cross and bore the punishment and the shame of your sins and died for you. Seek Him, seek His face, and all other things that be added unto you.”
Only the Truth of the Gospel is more powerful than our fluctuating emotions. So no matter how your hormones are raging today, or no matter how much Valentine’s Day might leave you feeling lonely, disappointed and depressed, put at the center the only One who has the right to be there: Our Savior! And tell your feelings to heel.
Caly turns two next week. As all mommies say, “It feels like yesterday” that I brought my sweet girl home from the hospital. And, well, to be quite honest, it feels like yesterday that my friend “postpartum depression” also followed me home from the hospital. (Maybe I should deliver somewhere else with my next one!)
Having watched my mom and sisters all have babies and not experience postpartum depression, I was completely
unprepared for the three months following Caly’s birth. My c-section did slow down recovery a bit, but even after most of the physical pain was gone, I was still feeling tired and rundown. I would wake up each morning thinking that I was feeling better only to find myself exhausted and overwhelmed a few hours into my day. Tears were my constant companion. This continued for about three months and then, as quickly as it came, it left.
In the same way, the first trimester of my current pregnancy has brought similar challenges. Along with the vomiting and exhaustion, I have experienced that familiar “down” feeling, just like with my friend postpartum depression. All someone has to do is look my way and I start to cry. Boy, I don’t sound like someone that you want to hang out with right now. (Hee-hee!)
So what’s a girl to do? You may not be experiencing postpartum depression or pregnancy blues, but perhaps PMS or menopause is where your struggle is. For me, one of the most encouraging things that my mom told me after Caly was born was…“THIS IS NORMAL.” Yes, it’s common. As it says in 1 Corinthians 10:13:“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” These hormonal challenges are a temptation—not an excuse to sin, mind you—but a significant temptation to be sure. And we are not alone in this struggle. Women all over the world experience the same things. We aren’t the first and we certainly won’t be the last.
I don’t know about you, but this truth brings comfort to my heart. I’m not some strange person experiencing a unique trial with no known cause. The Lord allows this and He will grant all of the grace needed to endure.
In fact, that’s exactly what 1 Corinthians 10:13 goes on to promise: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Our Lord does not stick us in the middle of hormonal craziness and leave us alone to find our way out of the maze. No, He graciously provides a way of escape so we can endure it. He provides a way of escape so we can rejoice in Him (even when it’s the last thing we feel like doing). He also provides a way of escape so we can serve others (even when it’s the last thing we feel like doing!). We’ll spend the next few days considering some of the “ways of escape” God has so graciously provided.
For me, God was faithful to help me endure in the months following Caly’s birth. That same help is here in the midst of morning sickness and pregnancy hormones. And I know He will be faithful once again in the months following the appearance of this next little one. I won’t be surprised this time. No, I’m planning on welcoming “postpartum depression” home right along with Baby #2 because I know that the Lord will grant me the strength to endure. That knowledge will dry up a few of those tears!
We know they’re coming (most of the time, anyway): PMS, morning sickness, postpartum depression, menopause. Yet these predictable, physical trials of a woman’s life still tend to catch us off guard. When they show up, we feel like we’ve been hit from behind and struggle to keep steady amidst physical and emotional challenges.
Last week, my girls and I spent an evening answering questions from the wives of the men in the Sovereign Grace Pastors College. We had a blast with these sweet ladies. The final question was from a woman who was pregnant again and dreading the inevitable postpartum feelings of sadness she knew would follow the birth of her baby. She humbly asked for counsel. How could she glorify God and serve her family in this difficult season?
This wise woman understood the truth of Proverbs 22:3: “The prudent [woman] sees danger and hides [herself], but the simple [women] go on and suffer for it.” She saw danger ahead and by seeking counsel, she was running to hide herself from it.
For the next few days we’re going to talk about some of the ways we can all prepare for the “dangers” of postpartum depression, PMS, or other physical difficulties. So no matter what time of the month it is for you, we hope you’ll join us for a little “PMS Prep.” You know it’s coming. But take heart: God’s grace is already here to help us prepare to glorify Him and serve others. Let’s consider how.
2008 at 4:21 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
So the girls told me that it was time to give a little pregnancy update. I haven’t been to the doc yet, but still plenty to tell. Those online pregnancy calculators put me at 11 weeks with a due date of August 28.
I thought I was sick with Caly, but this baby is looking to beat all of her records. I’m much more sick and much more tired. Fun, huh? Kinda dragging around a bit these days. With Caly, the sickness stopped right at 12 weeks, and I have already made it clear to this baby that the same will be true again. No exceptions.
My first craving was broccoli. Steamed with some lemon and butter. (My mouth is watering right now!) Too bad it was late at night and I was already in bed. I have also been craving cream puffs (but only a special kind that my mom makes—hint, hint!), egg and cheese sandwiches, and Chinese food.
No “feeling” yet on whether it’s a boy or a girl. Everyone is having fun guessing, but that’s what you are supposed to do. I’ll be sure to share the news when we find out.
More “baby watch” soon. Thanks for all of your encouragement and most of all, thanks for your prayers.
“Over the course of time, preaching the gospel to myself every day has made more of a difference in my life than any other discipline I have ever practiced. I find myself sinning less, but just as importantly, I find myself recovering my footing more quickly after sinning, due to the immediate comfort found in the gospel. I have also found that when I am absorbed in the gospel, everything else I am supposed to be toward God and others seems to flow out of me more naturally and passionately. Doing right is not always easy, but it is never more easy than when one is breathing deeply the atmosphere of the gospel.”
How’s that for incentive to preach the gospel to yourself every day? The author of these words has written a book that’s been published just in time for our little series. We’ve mentioned it before, but now it is officially in print: Milton Vincent’s A Gospel Primer for Christians. This little book is “a tool designed merely to get you launched in preaching the gospel to yourself and rehearsing its benefits.” And we’ve found no more helpful tool for digging the truths of the gospel from the soil of Scripture.
There are thirty-one reasons to rehearse the gospel daily, and “A Gospel Narrative” in both prose and poetry. Best of all, each page is more than half-filled with Scriptures that expound the gospel.
As Mr. Vincent says, preaching the gospel to yourself is the discipline that will make the biggest difference in your life. And A Gospel Primer will get you started.