A grandmother once told me about how she suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her first baby. She didn’t know what was happening to her. No one had told her to expect this. No one assured her it was normal. No one offered comfort or counsel. They just didn’t talk about things like that back then.
But hormonal challenges are real. PMS, menopause, postpartum depression—whether mild or severe—are honest to goodness trials. It is no use being pseudo-spiritual, thinking we as Christians are immune to such temptations. Better to humbly acknowledge the frailty of our human condition. Better to remember, as God does, that “we are dust” (Ps. 103:14).
But God “knows our frame.” He’s counted every hair on our head and knows the exact level of every hormone in our body. He made us this way. And not as some kind of cruel joke; but rather, so that through our weakness, His power may be “made perfect.”
Yes, the hormones may be raging, our feelings may fluctuate and our body may have worn out. But God’s grace—that comes to us because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross—is real. It is not a myth or a placebo. His grace is real. And it is more powerful than any out-of-whack hormones in our body. It is, as God told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, “sufficient for you.”
Unpredictable hormones may be the proverbial thorn in our side. We may plead, as Paul did with his ailment, that God would take away this trial. (I admire Paul’s self-control in only pleading three times!) But often, God has other plans. He wants to position us so that the power of Christ may rest on us.
Therefore, let us be content in weakness. Not that we don’t do what we can to alleviate the symptoms. We should avail ourselves of the common grace of naps and vitamins and paper plates and a shoulder to cry on and even a doctor’s visit, if necessary. But our hope is not ultimately in these things. Our salvation is from God. Our hope is in His power that is sufficient to see us through.
So let us boast.
Let us tell other women of the grace of God that is sufficient. Sufficient to enable us to get a handle on our feelings. Sufficient to help us rejoice. Sufficient to cause us to grow. Sufficient to empower us to do the next thing, to sow in tears and reap in joy.
Today, women are much more educated than that grandmother about the reality of hormonal challenges. But we, as Christian women, should testify even more loudly of the grace of God that is real, the power of Christ that is sufficient.
Along with other practical ways of escape, taking care of our bodies in the midst of PMS, menopause, postpartum depression etc. is wise and helpful. Because we girltalkers have no medical expertise whatsoever, we consulted two Christian doctors, Dr. Jeffrey Trimark and Dr. Christopher Mays and asked for their advice.
First, Dr. Trimark explains that:
“Treatment for either PMS or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a severe form of PMS) begins with non-prescription interventions. I recommend women take Vitamin D 1000IU daily, Calcium 1000mg daily and Vitamin B6 100mg daily. In addition, I recommend avoiding caffeine and alcohol and participating in regular aerobic exercise (150 minutes weekly). As always, a balanced diet is recommended, but there is no evidence to suggest certain foods will improve or worsen symptoms. Because the symptoms of PMDD and PMS are cyclical, I also encourage women to be intentional to spend some additional time in prayer and meditation during these challenging times.”
Dr. Mays adds for those experiencing menopause:
“Although PMS and menopause are conditions that are primarily hormonal, they are obviously not the same and the treatment for the most part is not the same. The non-prescription interventions for PMS (Vitamin D, Calcium and Vitamin B) are important in menopause, but they will not treat the symptoms of menopause. Non-prescription treatments include Vitamin E, black cohosh, and naturally occurring estrogens called phytoestrogens. There are several other prescription options as well.”
Both doctors concur, in Dr. May’s words, that: “The main message when it comes to treating PMS or menopause is that each patient responds differently and often a physician will need to try several treatment options before a successful combination is reached.”
As Christian physicians they do, as Dr. Trimarks says, “believe there is a God-honoring role for prescription therapy” and so, if your symptoms are severe, you should consult your physician.
However, both doctors caution their patients “to not excuse the sinful behaviors that occur during these times of increased temptations by thinking of them as simply a result of a disease.” That is why we’ve spent the majority of this series examining ways of escape, so we can stand up under the increased temptation during PMS, postpartum depression or menopause.
Wise doctors are a gift from God. We are so grateful for the common grace of medical wisdom, and to Dr. Trimark and Dr. Mays for their willingness to serve the girltalk audience. Tomorrow we’ll look beyond the helpful advice contained here to the promises of God’s Word, which is sufficient to sustain us, regardless of the severity of our trial.
After reading Friday’s post, girltalk reader Andrea encouraged us to check out an essay from John Piper’s A Godward Life entitled “Talking to Your Tears.” We’re quoting a small excerpt here, but you’re really going to want to read the rest; so go ahead and buy the book!
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6
“This psalm teaches the tough truth that there is work to be done whether I am emotionally up for it or not, and it is good for me to do it. Suppose you are in a season of heartache and discouragement, and it is time to sow seed. Do you say, ‘I can’t sow the field this spring, because I am brokenhearted and discouraged’? If you do that, you will not eat in the winter. Suppose you say instead, ‘I am heartsick and discouraged. I cry if the milk spills at breakfast. I cry if the phone and doorbell ring at the same time. I cry for no reason at all, but the field needs to be sowed. That is the way life is. I do not feel like it, but I will take my bag of seeds and go out in the fields and do my crying while I do my duty. I will sow in tears.’
If you do that, the promise of this psalm is that you will ‘reap with shouts of joy.’ You will ‘come home with shouts of joy, bringing your sheaves with you,’ not because the tears of sowing produce the joy of reaping, but because the sheer sowing produces the reaping. We need to remember this even when our tears tempt us to give up sowing.” A Godward Life, pp. 89-90
So what fields in your life need to be sowed today? Even if you cry while you do your duty, you will, one day reap with joy.