Restoring Hope, Finding Forgiveness
Despair vs. Hope, Part Two
David C. Reardon, Ph.D.
In part one of this three-part series, “The Devil’s Bargain”, we examined the role of despair in the lives of women before and after an abortion. We observed that most women who choose abortion feel trapped by their circumstances or the demands of others. While their maternal side may want to nurture their child, at the same time they fear that if they do not submit to abortion, they will lose something, or even “everything” they already have–the love of their parents, their husband or boyfriend, their career, their freedom, or whatever.
Abortion, then, is an act of despair. And because despair is the opposite of hope, the abortion decision encompasses the woman in a spiritual battle. On one side is Christ who asks the woman to hold onto hope by trusting that He has a plan for her life and the life of her child. On the other side is Satan who insists that the only way to save the life she already has is to seize control of her situation and make the choice to give up this one thing (her child) for the sake of saving everything else.
But once she has chosen abortion, Satan turns on her and becomes her fiercest accuser. He charges her with the crime of an unforgivable murder, a secret shame of which she can never be free. His goal is to build up despair in her life for three reasons: to generate misery, to encourage more sin, and to create doubt in the unfathomable mercy of God. Christ, on the other hand, continues to invite post-aborted women to embrace the virtue of hope by trusting in His mercy and forgiveness.
Now, in the second part of this series, we will look more closely at how despair is an obstacle to post-abortion healing and how this despair can be replaced with hope.
For many post-aborted women, the forgiveness of God is a precept which they can mouth, but which is difficult for them to digest. How can they be forgiven? The horror of their sin is so great. Many know that they must believe in God’s forgiveness, and they do so in an act of faith. But how can they feel forgiven, when every instinct in their nature says they cannot be forgiven, even should not be forgiven?
I certainly do not have a complete answer to this complex question, but I do believe we can offer more than simply the truth that “God can forgive any sin, even abortion.” While this is a revealed truth, it is also a conclusion for which we can develop a greater appreciation if we look at some of the reasons behind this truth. As we look, I believe we will discover not only truths which must be shared with post-aborted men and women, but also truths which explain why our focus must be on ministering to them, not accusing them.
Assume that I am on a joy ride, speeding along for thrills. I see a flash of light. A bump. And I know I’ve killed someone. I run to the victim. He’s dead. An innocent man has been killed because of my negligence. My guilt is very real and well deserved. But a moment later my victim jumps to his feet alive and uninjured. Now the guilt is gone! I am spared, not by my virtue, but by his immortality.
In just the same way we have all been forgiven of murder. Because of our sins, of whatever type, each of us is guilty of crucifying Christ. Because of our sins, He was killed on the cross. His blood is on our hands. Yet on Easter Sunday, He rose from the dead. He is not dead at all! The guilt has been lifted.
Words to a Grieving Mother
“But my child did not rise from the dead,” a post-aborted woman complains. “She is truly dead, and I am guilty of her death.” But to such a woman I would respond that this is another example of her guilt being twisted into despair.
Death is an experience, not a state of being. For “God is not the God of the dead but of the living. All are alive for Him (Luke 20:38).” When your child was killed by abortion, he or she experienced death. But your child is not dead in the sense of destroyed. Your child, like all of us, is immortal. Death cannot keep her down.
C.S. Lewis explains it well when he writes, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” Damned or glorified, all people live on (Matt. 25:46).
Therefore, like Christ, your child lives. Your guilt can be removed precisely because God has already preserved your child from destruction. He lives! She lives! They all live in Him!
Remember, your abortion was a result of your failure to trust God. In giving you that pregnancy, God was giving you the opportunity to love. But you rejected this gift because you did not trust God’s plan for you. This lack of trust and obedience is at the root of all sin, yours and mine.
So it is only right that the reparation for abortion is found not by clinging to guilt and despair, but by trusting in God’s love. You failed once in rejecting His gift of a new life. But now He has a new plan for you, a second gift which He passionately desires for you–the gift of His forgiveness, the rebirth and renewal of your spirit.
To refuse God’s mercy is to refuse His love. Don’t insult Him by refusing His forgiveness. Accept God’s forgiveness, not because you deserve it, but so that God can use you as an instrument for showing the abundant glory of His mercy. Accepting the gift of God’s forgiveness is actually a humble thing to do. It is your first step toward an obedience which is rooted in both faith and hope, and it is your only escape from the tar pit of despair.
The Worst Evil
In a sense (and I write this asking the reader’s forbearance for my inability to express this more precisely), since immortal persons cannot be destroyed, the greatest tragedy in killing is what this sin does to killers. This does not deny that the killed have been unjustly deprived of life, but we know that God will be merciful toward these innocent victims. We should be more concerned about the eternal fate of killers.
Even Socrates, a pagan philosopher, recognized that, in terms of preserving the nobility of our character, inner virtue, and our very souls, it is better to suffer evil from others than to do evil ourselves. Specifically, Socrates argued that those who do unjust acts are becoming unjust; those who reject their obligations to others are becoming irresponsible.
Because he believed that moral character was more important than physical well-being, Socrates believed that harm which is done to one’s body is less important than harm done to one’s “inner self” as the result of immoral choices. In the case of abortion, he would argue, the harm done to the mother’s soul is a greater moral evil than the physical wrong suffered by the unborn child, who remains innocent.
There is nothing in this argument which is contrary to Christian thought. Indeed, Scripture teaches not only that it is preferable to suffer evil than to commit evil but that those who suffer from wrongdoing can even rejoice in being called upon to share in the suffering of Christ (1 Peter 4:13-16). As we have suggested above, the unborn child who suffers physical harm from abortion is an immortal being whose innocence will be recognized and rewarded by God. But the spiritual damage done to those who are involved in abortion, directly or indirectly, individually or socially, is immeasurable.
Let us look at the spiritual meaning of abortion from another perspective. We begin by recognizing the Judeo-Christian teaching that children are always a gift from God. Because God is the author of all life, no child is conceived by accident. Each has a part to play in God’s design. This providential purpose includes not only the child’s destiny, but the destiny of those whom the child’s life touches. For parents, the conception of a child may be intended to lead them to greater generosity, responsibility, and understanding of the meaning of unconditional and sacrificial love. (Even in the case of experimentation on in vitro human embryos, God allows these human lives to be conceived so that scientists and the eugenicists who fund them can prove their depravity and thereby justify their final judgment.) No life is created without a purpose. It is our role to simply find and cooperate with that purpose.
Thus, whenever we reject the gift of new life, we are rejecting a gift from God! Obviously, this is an insult to the Giver. But it is an insult which will be mercifully forgiven. And, as members of the body of Christ, we are called upon to be mirrors of God’s mercy and ambassadors of His forgiveness. While we can do nothing for the unborn children in heaven, there is much we can do for the women and men who have been so morally wounded by abortion.
In brief, without in any way diminishing the horror of abortion, I am confident that children killed by abortion are in the enviable position of living in the glorious presence of Christ. (The Scriptural and theological basis for this confidence will be discussed in a future article.) Furthermore, if the salvation of souls is the greatest of goods, then the damnation of souls is the greatest of evils. Thus, the greatest evil of abortion lies in the spiritual damage it inflicts on the women, men, and families (and politicians) who are ensnared by it. It is these bleeding, bruised, despairing, and even rebellious souls who are most at risk. It is they to whom Christians need to reach out with the good news of forgiveness and hope.
In summary, the greatest tragedy of abortion is that it separates men and women from God. The despair which drives women to abortion is also used to make them doubt God’s mercy. This fear, in turn, leads many to embrace atheism. For such as these, the fear of hell makes them hope for a death of annihilation: “When it’s over, it’s over.” For those trapped by despair, this is their only hope, the annihilation of self.
The yearning for peace, even in annihilation, at least partially explains why so many post-aborted women are suicidal. Others court death’s semblance in abusive relationships or the mind-deadening effects of drug or alcohol abuse. Still others just run from life, burying themselves in everything from pointless work to joyless parties–anything that distracts them from reflection.
Abortion is, of course, not the only sin which separates us from God. But to those who have had one, it almost always creates the biggest rift. To return across this chasm, they need our help, offered graciously and abundantly. In giving them hope, we will be giving them back to God.
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 3(4), Fall 1995. Copyright 1995 Elliot Institute