I see you on the couch with the ibuprofen and your second (ok, probably third) chocolate bar. You’re rocking the sweats and the messy bun (not the cute messy bun you wear out—the one that gives a troll doll a run for its money). Most women (over 90%) experience some kind of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) while on their period, so even though it doesn’t feel like it should be, what you’re going through is totally normal. PMS is physically and psychologically real and it makes life hard. You’re bloated, crampy, in pain, gassy, tired, irritable, sad, sometimes all at once. I deeply believe the gospel applies in every circumstance of our lives, so here we go: the gospel and PMS.
The Psalms are full of the same kind of dramatic things one might say while PMSing: “How long O LORD?” (will I feel this way forever?!), so it’s only fitting that they also give us a picture of how to interact with God in the midst of it. They’re not only God’s Word to us, they are our words to God. I love the turn David makes in Psalm 13; he’s crying out to God very honestly, angry and sad, his circumstances obviously terrible, but he says,
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
So even when my hormones tell me no one loves me, I will choose to remember and believe in the steadfast love of Jesus on the cross for me. Even when my body feels like it’s trying to kill me, still I will hope in the Lord! Even when I feel like this can’t possibly be God dealing “bountifully” with me, I will find some way to sing because of my salvation.
Let me be a cheesy tampon ad for a minute, you know the one, with a bouncy woman playing tennis (the sport of choice for every bloated whale): your period is an opportunity to recognize what God is doing in your life and remember the gospel. Hear me out.
It is an opportunity to practise rhythms of rest
You are a human woman with a physical body and hormones. You are not God. I hate it when my body reminds me of this fact, because I like to continue in the ignorance that I am far more capable and stupendous than I really am. The truth is that I am not limitless, I am not peoples’ Saviour, and I am not the one holding all things together. There is a real invitation to allow the way we are designed to help us follow healthy, life-giving patterns of being. As we embrace our physicality in humility, we are invited to learn to let God be God, and rest in his grace. Your body is a gift: listen to it and give it what it needs—like a good night’s sleep and fluids and a banana.
Real rest doesn’t come from rom-coms and junk food. Real, soul-restoring rest comes in the person of Jesus. What brings you back to the gospel, and re-aligns your heart to what is true and helpful and good? Lean into those things!
“Shoulds” (as in “I should be able to power through” or “I should be more like Susan who spreads rainbows regardless of what time of month it is”) are never helpful. Try to rethink the “should” through the lens of what is true about you in Jesus (“I feel pretty terrible. I can rest in the finished work of Jesus by taking a nap right now”).
Your body is a gift: listen to it and give it what it needs—like a good night’s sleep and fluids and a banana.
If your life is so crazy that there is literally no way to take the rest you need, maybe you need to pray and think through all of the things on your plate.
If you already struggle with anxiety or depression, PMS can make it worse. Anchor yourself in what is true, have a go-to promise as a personal reminder (mine is Psalm 84:11: “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly”), and weather the storm with hope. If you notice a consistently bad pattern, get some professional help, talk to a doctor or a counsellor. Some people who don’t need medications regularly are greatly helped by them at a certain time of the month.
It is an opportunity to grow in spiritual fruit
I am 100% more confident of the Spirit’s work in my life producing joy and peace and patience when my body is telling me to strangle someone. PMS is not an excuse for being unloving, for giving into sinful habits, or for just tapping out of life. It is an invitation to persevere, to walk in step with the Spirit, and to put our faith to work. This means continuing the disciplines the Spirit is leading you in, like still getting up to read your Bible when you’d rather stay in bed, or practising self-control when everything in you just wants another tub of ice cream. It doesn’t mean hosting a dinner party to celebrate ovulation, but practising with the people you live with, have to see in class, or the pizza delivery guy.
Ask for the Spirit’s help over and over and over and trust him as you follow through.
Ask for grace when you need to and have safe people in your life who can encourage you in being like Jesus, including gently telling you when you’re not (maybe after feeding you and telling you you’re pretty).
It is an opportunity to take care of each other
Shifting hormones can bring the sensitive romantic out of even the biggest cynic. Being married simply means there is one more person I want to simultaneously punch where his ovaries would be and yet include in my blanket burrito. We are designed for community and invited to care for each other.
You don’t need someone of the opposite sex to help you feel cared for, so figure out what would make you feel loved, and tell a good friend. I remember sitting down beside a friend during a gathering with P2C. I came in late and it had been a rough day. I don’t remember what we were listening to, but I do remember how she reached over, gave me a quick side-shoulder-hug and gently rubbed my back. It was such a small simple gesture but it made me feel so loved. I remember too a Saturday morning at a friend’s house, lounging on her bed in our pj’s like a pile of puppies, just talking about life. Can you tell I’m a huge physical touch person? It’s ok if you’re cringing. Grab a friend and go for a hike, or to the mall for a little treat, or bake cookies for someone else, or ask someone to write you a PMS note to read once a month. If you live with a roommate, you’re probably synced up anyway, so take care of each other.
We see the true nature of our faith in the daily living out of what we really believe. Today might be a hard one to make it through, but you are loved and God is with you.
As you bleed, may you remember holy blood shed for you. Too much?