A woman’s physiology, specifically her monthly cycles, can be a real source of despair. At particular times of the month, during ovulation and before her period, sexual feelings can be at their peak and may spark sexual temptation.
The desire to masturbate, to indulge in a book or movie that leads to sexual fantasy and masturbation, temptation to seek out a sexual contact, or to just allow fantasies to go unchecked, can become a major problem. When these feelings affect night-time dreaming, too, a woman may become depressed and guilty over how out of control she is.
Sexuality is a beautiful gift from God but there are times which can lead one to feel that purity is not attainable in thought or deed. This is particularly true for those who have struggled with habit patterns in the area of sexual sin. This, in turn, leads to estrangement from the Lord. Those who come from gay backgrounds and are trying to live for God are especially susceptible to feelings of defeat that can lead to rationalizing sin: “I’m never going to change. I might as well do what I want.”
Add to this the subtle lie that if these feelings were heterosexual, then everything would be fine. It isn’t true, but with the way heterosexual Christians deal with their own sexuality – and seemingly “wink” at an uncontrolled thought-life or activity – it’s easy to understand why others might think that impurity, as long as it’s of a “normal” nature, would be okay. Envy and bitterness can creep in and the stage is set for out-and-out spiritual warfare.
How can a woman win that war? How can she rejoice in being sexual, yet live with cyclical sexual temptation. How can she thank God for the gift of her female body when it poses problems like painful periods and intense manifestations of pre-menstrual syndrome?
Steps to winning the war
1. Begin by thanking God – through a function of your will – for making you female, even if you are not sure you like everything about the package. You have been made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and your womanhood was no mistake. Battling Him on this issue causes intense rage and frustration. Wishing to have been born a boy is to throw back into His face a good gift. Sometimes the best escape from that kind of frustration is to concede the facts. You are a woman. Accepting this will bring release from a war you cannot win. Even places like Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore that have done transsexual operations in the past have stopped that practice. They’ve come to believe that persons seeking a sex change are no happier afterward than they were beforehand.
2. Make friends with your body. Look at yourself in the mirror without your clothes on. Acknowledge the flaws without making a mental note to go on a diet or join an exercise group. Just ask God for His viewpoint on what you see. Of course, there are things you should have done or could be doing. But look deeper.
Your body may show signs that it has been ravaged by a hard life, by sin, and neglect. God the Father and Jesus your Bridegroom weep over the hurts and the indignities that your body has been subjected to. God did not create it to be abused physically by yourself or by anyone else. It wasn’t intended to be hurt by a working mother whose anger and self-hatred was taken out on her daughter, nor was it made to be a plaything by a brother who violated it sexually.
God loves your body. He looked upon the feminine form at the beginning of time and pronounced it good. You must, too. Have pity on the woman who looks back at you from the mirror and resolve to do something nice for her. Get her ears pierced or give her time to soak in a hot tub. She needs a touch of kindness.
3. Praise God for the gift of your sexuality – your feelings and responses, the capacity to act on them. Sexuality is part of the gift of being human and being made in God’s image. It has been a source of confusion, trouble and turmoil perhaps, but only because you haven’t fully learned how to treat it the way He would have you to.
Being sexual is part of that which draws us to others. It brings vibrancy and color to relationships. In our yearning for completeness, we experience a foreshadowing of what it’s going to be like to be complete in the Lord when He resurrects our bodies on the Last Day. It can also be the source of knowing how God glorifies Himself in our weaknesses. If we weren’t a little off balance on occasion [how about all the time?], would we, on our own, let Him have a chance to reveal Himself in power?
And does it make sense that a loving God would saddle you with something intended only for misery? No! “Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You,” says the Psalmist. Something good comes of surrendering this area of our being to God.
4. Deal appropriately with sexual temptation. Feeling sexual is not a sin. Feeling sexual and indulging in lust, manifested by a rampant fantasy, is a sin. These are two different things. You control lust by resisting the temptation to do things like covet someone’s body, by casting down “vain imaginations” (2 Corinthians 10:5) which can lead to fantasies starring you being with someone, which then leads to you being in bed with that person. Rejecting both kinds of thoughts is important.
You can do it! You can resist temptation. If you can’t, then the Bible isn’t true: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to woman.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 – my paraphrase). It also means refraining from “come on” techniques and other kinds of flirtatious behavior with those you are fairly sure will fall for them.
5. Learn your cycles. If you become familiar enough with your own body, you can be better prepared to deal with your hormonal ups and downs. The question I’ve learned to ask myself when I notice an increase of sexual desire is “What time of the month is this?” When I’m aware of my cycles, I don’t have to fall for Satan’s lie that I’m a “bad girl” and I can take steps to avoid sin. I know I’m especially vulnerable then, so I don’t go to certain movies, listen to music that makes me melancholy or get involved physically with someone even if the occasion has offered itself.
To help you figure out your cycles, look at the book PMS & You, by Neils Lauersen (Simon & Schuster; 1983). It can show you how to chart your cycles month by month.
6. Gird your loins! Draw near to God in time of personal prayer. Make it alive by asking the Lord about things that trouble you and wait for Him to answer. He might speak to you through the Psalms or He might impress an actual phrase or message on your heart that you could write down. Worship Him in song. Learn some new hymns or choruses and sing out loud to the Lord when you are by yourself.
7. Be prepared physically. Exercise, eat right and get enough sleep. Too much sleep will make you tired and can promote back problems. It may also be an indication of depression.
Dr Lauersen, in PMS & You, talks about special diets which help to reduce the symptoms like water retention, achy muscles, fuzzy vision and lack of co-ordination. Other women experience seeming uncontrollable anger, crying, and depression. And many others experience heightened sexual awareness and response to alcohol and sugar.
Pain, due to heavy cramps during your period, can easily cause a woman to feel like she’s been cursed. Pain and irregular bleeding during the rest of the month are health issues doctors are very much aware of these days. You do not have to put up with these problems anymore. You may hate your body because of these things, but now you can make peace with your body. Go to a doctor who is familiar with gynecological problems and talk about what’s wrong.
8. Don’t give up! When you give in to masturbation, when you find your thought-life totally out of control, or find yourself repudiating your femininity, remember that you have a High Priest who can sympathize with your weaknesses. Jesus knew sexual temptation and spiritual warfare. He knows about your battles. Maybe He didn’t know firsthand about Premenstrual Syndrome but He understands vulnerability to sin. Remember that He loved and cared for Mary Magdalene and many other women.
“My daughter, if you confess your sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive you your sin and purify you from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 – my paraphrase again). Resolve to do better next month and carry on.