December 18, 2001
Medical science offers new labels for sad, crabby, or worried people. For instance, if we used to complain that we “get the blues when it rains” or “have the winter blahs,” we can now call it SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Those who might have called themselves “worry worts” now can say they have GAD or General Anxiety Disorder. A similar designation, something like “excessive rage disorder” applies to spoiled children with temper tantrums.
Maybe modern medicine is on to something but a few experiences make me wonder if symptoms like these have less to do with physiological conditions than they do with choices.
When my brother was a teenager, he was often cranky in the morning. My mother noted which days were the worst and diagnosed his problem as not having enough sleep the night before. Now as an adult, he has learned to go to bed earlier but has also discovered that tired or not, he can choose to be cheerful.
All through my own life, I’ve had PMS. It has affected my behavior but a wise person told me how to handle it. She said, “Sure, your body hormones are out of whack, but observe yourself when this happens. You will discover all the areas of life where you have weaknesses that need to be taken to God. Keep track. When you are back to ‘normal,’ review them and confess the sins. He will cleanse you and the next time will not be so difficult.”
She was right. For me, each bout with PMS became an opportunity to see and confess sinful attitudes and fears that came out only when I was physically ‘weak.’ As I brought them to God, He forgave and cleansed me at a deep level. Gradually, the hormone swings stopped affecting my mood.
That does not mean God says,“it’s all in your head” (or heart) and ignores genuine physical needs. The Bible gives many instances where He puts the body first. In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah ran several kilometers, confronted an evil king, received a death threat from the queen, ran even farther to escape, then collapsed under a tree and wished himself dead. God could have rebuked him for his negative attitude and for being afraid of a mere mortal. Instead, He ordered food and rest. Soon Elijah was back on his feet, encouraged and ready to do God’s will. In other words, Elijah’s fatigue contributed to his discouragement. Nevertheless, his lack of courage was fear and a lack of trust. He was afraid God would not help him.
When we get into a situation where we are fearful and discouraged, we need to remember that “God is not the author of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind.” He is able to help us. We must also remember that whenever Jesus was tired, He never used fatigue as an excuse to be rude, cranky or to ignore people. When He took His disciples to a remote place to rest from their exhaustion, the demanding crowds followed. Jesus was tired too but He took care of the needs of the multitude anyway.
Scripture offers many exhortations about our attitudes and clearly tells us that our lives should be governed by love, God’s power, and sound thinking. There are no disclaimers. Even if SAD or GAD or any other disorder is genuine, we can still love others. Courage, grace, power and joy are still available from the Lord.
Some of the most cheerful people I know have chronic illnesses or are in pain. Sadly, the same is true for some of the crankiest people I know. Lord, when my back hurts or things are not going well, help me to deal with whatever it is in a wise way but also help me remember that You are here with me. With Your help, I can remain loving and cheerful.