Hormones and Holiness Part 2, Menopause
In a previous article, I offered some suggestions and tips for those of you who suffer from PMS, or Pre Menstrual Syndrome. This is a problem that can really cause a struggle for a few days each month, and I hope you got some encouragement there. Many of us, however, are past the years of that monthly battle and have entered the season of Menopause.
We no longer have the pain of monthly cramps, but there are plenty of other “pains” that accompany the season of menopause. There can be some crazy mood swings, insomnia, and of course the hot flashes, which are the most publicly lamented symptom. Many women have decreased libido, and sex can become painful due to the vaginal changes that accompany this time of life. These things can cause all kinds of trouble in marriage if communication has not been established beforehand.
There are many interventions we can access for these issues, both natural and pharmaceutical. But not all women find relief in either of these ways, and some have to deal with these symptoms on their own. Like PMS, menopause brings many temptations to sin, and many occasions for struggle in marriage.
Temptations to Sin
Our bodies are influenced by an incredible number of hormones, and changes in them produce many physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges. You can learn more about the effects of estrogen depletion online.
According to the above-linked article, estrogen depletion can “bring on a combination of hormonal and biochemical fluctuations that can lead to changes in your brain and nervous system”. Mood swings, memory loss, problems focusing, fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, and anxiety can be attributed to the hormonal changes at this time of life. While these physiological issues are real, they are not an excuse for sinful behavior any more than any other physical problem is. You may agree with that, but at the same time, you are wondering how to escape this condition that seems to be a constant snare to you as you navigate midlife.
Additionally, the changes of menopause can sometimes affect a woman’s physical appearance. Gray hair, wrinkles, weight gain, and other bodily changes all contribute to a woman’s sense that she is no longer attractive; that she’s lost her youthful appeal, and a frumpy old woman she doesn’t recognize looks back at her from the mirror. Many women believe they have lost their beauty, and begin to be self-focused and sorrowful because of it. I’ll address this later but for now, let’s begin by recognizing one truth that may have gotten lost in the seeming craziness of “the change”.
The issues we face now are “common to man” issues. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us that nothing is going to come upon us that many other people have not endured, even bringing glory to God in the midst of it. There may not be a million menopause heroines, but I know there are many, many individuals who have suffered through pain, disability, grief, and sorrow, meeting and overcoming the temptation to sin along the way. While no one does this perfectly, you can rest assured that your case is not especially bad or severe, no matter how crazy your symptoms seem to make you. You can–and you must–persevere in resisting that temptation.
Loss of libido, fatigue, and vaginal changes are all related to the depletion of estrogen and other hormones at midlife. These can either cause problems between you and your husband, or you can use them as an opportunity for growth in your marriage. It all depends on how you look at it, and how you approach it as a couple.
Communication is important throughout a marriage, but it is especially vital during this season. Your husband may see your lack of interest in sex as a personal rejection of him. Add to that a tendency to be irritable and short-tempered (possibly on both sides), and you will soon see a wedge developing between the two of you. You absolutely must clue your husband in on what is going on with you. He needs to know about the changes that are happening inside your body, and how they are affecting you. Educate him on the hormonal changes of menopause, and help him understand. You might even want to take him with you if you visit a health professional about this. Let him hear first-hand, from someone with knowledge and experience in this specific area, that this struggle is real.
Once he has a good intellectual understanding of the facts, let him know that you are aware that these things are tempting you to respond sinfully and that you are working, through the power of the Holy Spirit, on disciplining your thoughts and attitudes. If he is a believer, ask him to pray for you, and let him know how much you need his patience and love. Work with your doctor or other healthcare professionals on ways to lessen the symptoms that are most troublesome. Many women will opt for hormone replacement therapy, while others will choose an alternative option. Be sure that you welcome input from your husband about these things, and consider his opinion.
For some women, the physical changes of menopause bring about emotional struggles related to their appearance. A wrinkle here, an extra pound or two there, and pretty soon the woman we see in the mirror looks quite different from the one we used to see. While it is tempting to get focused on our appearance, spending all the grocery money on concealers and creams, we must remember this truth from Proverbs 31:30.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
In other words, a woman’s physical appearance is not eternal or spiritually important, but her Godward orientation and its resulting fruit are.
Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
The hidden person of your heart is far more important than your outward adornment, including all those things you see in the mirror that tempt you to be self-focused or sorrowful. The incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit cannot be seen in a mirror or achieved with creams and powders. It is a gift of the Spirit of God, and is precious to Him. Rather than focusing on your physical appearance, why not set your heart and mind on the things that matter to God?
Our physical bodies are most definitely earthly things. Though they will one day be resurrected and made perfect, at least for now, they are corrupt and subject to decay. Our souls, on the other hand, are being renewed every day.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:17)
Rest assured, my dear sister, this body that is fighting all your efforts to keep it youthful is nothing but an earthen vessel for your soul. The very aging process you are fighting will, if you view it rightly, work for you an eternal weight of glory. Like any other trial, as difficult as it may be, we must see menopause as one of God’s good and perfect gifts, meant to be counted all joy because of its potential to bring growth in our hearts. So let’s turn our focus to those things that are unseen, and praise God that He is renewing our inner (wo)man day by day.