Spiritual Growth

It’s been a little over a year since I started using the “Implanon”, a birth control that’s been used in Europe for over 10 years, however, it’s fairly new to the US market. I really have mixed feelings about this contraceptive…and recently all birth control in general.

Much like the “Norplant” (which has been taken off the market), the “Implanon” is inserted in the upper arm between two muscles…right in the softest part of the inner arm. It was a quick, painless insertion with very little time spent in the doctor’s office. The doctor told me that it would last 3 years, and I figured that that time frame really worked the best with my “plans”. At the time, I figured it was less invasive than an IUD and I didn’t have to remember to take a pill that would make me toss my breakfast every morning.

However, the last year has been wrought with a roller coaster of emotions and hormonal challenges, to say the least. At random points throughout the year, I have found myself feeling tired and irritable…with my sins spilling over onto those around me. Lord have mercy!!! It’s during these moments when I feel “less spiritual” and I really struggle with how to handle my emotions in a way that honors God and encourages others.

Due to the unforeseen bouts of emotional chaos, my strategy has often been to try and wait it out. Once this “darkness” is over, I tell myself, then I’ll get back to making progress in the “Christian life”. I forget that I am smack in the middle of God’s plan…even in the midst of emotional highs and lows!!! Silly me. God has ordained these hormonal days along with all the others. I have a really hard time believing that God created women to have hormones (which He did) and I usually chalk up all tempting, trials and opportunities for sin to abound straight to the Devil (which, of course, includes all hormones at any point in my life). PMS, pregnancy, postpartum depression and menopause are not simply a “trial to get through”. They are opportunities for testing your faith and for spiritual growth.

Elizabeth Prentiss expressed this point beautifully when she said:

“God never places us in any position in which we cannot grow. We may fancy that He does. We may fear we are so impeded by fretting, petty cares that we are gaining nothing; but when we are not sending any branches upward, we may be sending roots downward. Perhaps in the time of our humiliation, when everything seems a failure, we are making the best kind of progress.” (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that…”the best kind of progress”. Hallelujah!!! Far from participating in a spiritual decline, we often grow more in these difficult seasons than when life is easy. What a great encouragement to my weak, battered heart!!! This is one reason why the apostle Paul sees weakness as an opportunity for boasting in the Lord. In one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Paul so eloquently wrote 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”

For Christ’s sake, we are to boast in our weakness…we are to be content in the midst of PMS, pregnancy, postpartum depression or menopause. For when we are weak, it is then that His power rests on us. What an opportunity for growth!!! Or should I say…what a missed opportunity for growth in my life the last year. I have been so focused on me and my raging emotions that I forgot to rest in the power of Christ and use these situations to grow Godly character.

However, putting “free-will” aside, have I really been in a right state of mind to really lay hold of greater spiritual growth? One question that keeps rolling around in my mind is: does the excessive hormones, that I daily put in my body, go beyond what Christ intended women to experience emotionally? Does this contraceptive, that is really only the size of a toothpick, give me a greater burden than I can handle? It seems clear in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” I understand that God is bigger than my birth control…and He is faithful to provide a way out (Praise Him!!!)…but am I really asking God to do more than He has promised by putting myself in a difficult emotional situation?

It’s like going into a bar, getting ridiculously drunk and then expecting God to protect me from all harm. And in reality, I know that I act stupid, make horrible choices and say ridiculous things when I am intoxicated. I am not in a position to clearly hear from the Lord because I have a substance that is inhibiting all reason and an ability to apply knowledge in a right way. With that in mind, I propose that using hormone drugs can potentially produce the same effect in women as excessive alcohol produces in all humans. Women everywhere are inebriated on contraceptive drugs and I think it is making a difference in homes and in churches around the world.

So…whether or not my birth control is controlling more than birth in my body, God has indeed promised to provide a way out…because He is faithful. Can I get an Amen? In the midst of intentionally giving myself a “heavy yoke” and an emotional burden, God is ever so graciously willing to provide a way out. In the weeks and months to come, I am going to wholeheartedly grab on to the hand that the Lord is extending and attempt to live a life that is pleasing to Him. In the process, I hope to remember that when I am experiencing PMS, pregnancy hormones, postpartum depression and someday menopause that it can indeed be a time of spiritual growth. Be that as it may, this is also not a time to assess my spiritual growth or maturity.

I read a quote today by Martyn Lloyd Jones that addresses this issue a little bit: “Do not spend too much time feeling your own pulse taking your own spiritual temperature, do not spend too much time analyzing your feelings. That is the high road to morbidity.” On a normal day we should be careful not to spend excessive time analyzing our feelings. But on a PMS day, this self-examination is very unhelpful!!! If we try to “take our spiritual temperature” when our hormones are raging, the reading will most certainly be inaccurate. And we run the risk of compounding our discouragement and despair.

I’ve decided if today is a PMS day, it’s a great opportunity for spiritual growth. However, next week is a more appropriate time to evaluate any growth. In the mean time, I will continue to wrestle with the words that are written in the Bible and look for ways to apply them to my life (hormone induced and all). And I will continue to be thankful for the abundant grace that the Lord pours over me…on PMS days and on “normal Dana” days. For it’s scripture like the ones that are found in 1 Corinthians that remind me that God is faithful to provide and scriptures that remind me that “[He] has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” 2 Peter 1:3 These are the life-giving words that encourage me to pursue spiritual growth…even when I’m overwhelmed with hormones.

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