Monday, February 18, 2008

Do Not Be Overwhelmed by Excessive Sorrow

For this month’s newsletter article, I want to pick up where I left off last month about the sanctity of human life. The situation of women (or even young girls) who are in crisis pregnancies or have undergone abortions deserves further attention. Giving a full defense of the sanctity of human life from conception till death does not yet fulfill our duties as Christians. We must also remember that abortion hurts the mothers of these unborn children, who are often deeply wounded by the circumstances they are in, before or after an abortion; and that it is not uncommon for them afterward to fight feelings of guilt, anxiety and depression, flashbacks of the abortion, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, among other after-effects. Many did not anticipate the emotional or physical consequences that their choice would lead to. Many were regrettably pressured into their choice to escape shame or embarrassment, or because the father abandoned his role in the new life begun. Recognizing that a significant number of women in our society and in our churches have undergone abortions, we as Christians need to provide care for these wounded souls as well. So how can we begin to do this? How can we “bear each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ?” (Galatians 6:2)

Two organizations that I already named: http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org and http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/ are among the many pro-life organizations that are seeking to meet the needs of women in a variety of circumstances, from those who are in a crisis pregnancy to those who have undergone an abortion(s) in the past. Our own church body’s nationally recognized organization, Lutherans for Life: http://lutheransforlife.org/ deals with a broad array of life issues. One of the supporting ministries that they offers is Word of Hope: http://www.word-of-hope.org/ a ministry to help those who have “had an abortion…are pregnant right now, or…have been hurt by someone.” They have a toll free number for those in crisis, or needing immediate assistance: 1-888-217-8679, as well as an email address help@word-of-hope.org

Letting people know about these hotlines or organizations is one way we can caringly direct those who have gone through or are contemplating abortion, to a place where they can receive confidential help, information, or recommendations. Each of these organizations also emphasize the need for healing and forgiveness for a person feeling the guilt of an abortion. In the video testimonial of a woman named Kelly, who had an abortion at age 13, she shared how years later, participating in one of these retreats had helped her to finally let down her “umbrella” and experience the rain of God’s mercy and forgiveness that had been showering down on her all along. What I find so compelling about these organizations is that women (and men) who have suffered the after-effects of abortions are now finding the courage to be “Silent No More” and let their voice be heard. They are telling people that abortion is not the promised “easy-fix” to remove the evidence of pregnancy, but that the child and mother are bound together in a most intimate and mysterious way, and that the rending of this bond can cause deep emotional sorrow and other consequences. They are speaking out about the devastation that their “protected right to choose” caused them. These are not simply people who have always opposed abortion, but some who were once vigorously in favor of it and even underwent several themselves.

There are several ways Christians can stand together with those who have undergone abortions. First, we can help them to find resources such as the ministries of healing and forgiveness named above. Next, we can provide an unconditional love for both lives that will not condemn those who have sinned, but speak together with Jesus, “Neither do I condemn; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). A vital part of offering such unconditional love is to help women in crisis pregnancies find positive, life-honoring options for the care of their child, and not to feel pressured to hide their pregnancy. This is to recognize that even in less than ideal circumstances, the life of the child is often the most positive result. Also, we can strive to embody what St. Paul asked the Corinthian church to be: a place of forgiveness and comfort for the restored sinner, so that they will not be “overwhelmed with excessive sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7). For indeed, Christ has taken all of our sin and its sorrow to His cross, where God fully took upon Himself the burden of our guilt, and gives us His innocence in exchange! And like Kelly, mentioned above, taking hold of that forgiveness for herself was impossible until she let down that umbrella of denial or the inability to forgive herself. So we especially need to care for those in our community who are overwhelmed by excessive sorrow, and help them to take hold of the full forgiveness and innocence that is theirs by faith in Christ Jesus.

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