A couple of years ago, I turned forty. There are a lot of things we could discuss about the forties in general, but let’s talk about the mood swings, shall we? Lately I am experiencing emotions that have no basis in reality.
All three of my sisters are around a decade older than I am, so they reached this stage of life first. Several years ago, one of them said to me, “PMS is for sissies. I have full-on mood swings.” Yes and amen. I spent most of my Junior High years feeling like I could burst into tears at any moment, and I’m right back there again.
First I need to put my emotions in the proper perspective. In the book The Cry of the Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal Our Deepest Questions About God, authors Allender and Longman say, "Our emotions connect our inner world to the ups and downs of life.” For me, I have to think about specific ways in which my “inner world” is mistaken.
Of course, there may be medical things to be done. Address them with you health care provider. God in his common grace has provided medical help for some of this, but that’s another post for another type of blog. For now, I need to focus on what I can fix here and now.
Physical: I didn’t sleep well last night. As anyone who has ever dealt with an overtired toddler knows, it’s harder to maintain self control when you’re sleepy. I haven’t thrown a kicking, screaming fit (yet), but I tend to get overwhelmed more easily on these days. This time there wasn’t a particular cause for my sleeplessness. Other times it’s circumstantial: one child worked late, then another had to be somewhere exceptionally early. But I can also do more to help this. I’ve also noticed if I eat a lot of junk food, I feel awful the next day. I can’t bounce back from these things like I could when I was 25. My lack of self control has always been a bad thing, but now it has more obvious consequences.
Environment: The sun doesn’t rise until noon this time of year. (Not really. That’s only true where Rebecca lives. It’s more like 7:15 here. But still.) It’s hard for me to get going in the dark. The best solution, however, is not sitting around thinking ill thoughts about Benjamin Franklin and his invention of Daylight Savings Time, but turning on the lights and emptying the dishwasher. Getting out of my pajamas is a good idea, too. Complaining has always been one of my besetting sins. Now, rather than simply making me unpleasant to others, it makes me unpleasant to myself.
Fear: Things are changing fast, and change is scary. My oldest will be leaving home soon, and the other two are right behind him. Our kids are “good” kids. (In the traditional sense of the word. I realize, in a theological, Romans 3:23 way, that we’re all sinners.) But they have their own ideas and will make their own mistakes. Some things they will have to learn for themselves (as their parents did). But I am surely wrong about some things, too. I don’t always know what’s best, and only God can sustain and protect them. This has always been the case, it was just easier to fool myself into thinking I was in control when they were little.
In light of that, I have to start talking to myself, rather than listening to my feelings. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones says,
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.
So today, I turn my thoughts to truth:
How I feel doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.
This too shall pass.
This world is not my home. Part of my unease is run-of-the-mill longing for heaven.
God is in control, as he always has been.
God has sustained me in the past. He will sustain me in the future.
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, page 21.