The following article first appeared in Table Talk. It is reprinted with permission.
Tears filled her eyes as she told me her story: an older boyfriend, pressure to have sex, pregnant at fourteen, and an abortion to cover the shame. Even though she’d been raised in a Christian family, the weight of guilt that followed these early choices led to years of wandering. She questioned, “Is there grace enough for me?”
The tide of abortion’s guilt rises high, threating to engulf a woman’s entire life with shame, regret, and feelings of unworthiness. Statistics report that nearly three in ten women will have an abortion. These numbers speak to the reality that our churches are filled with women who have had abortions (and men who have encouraged abortions).
Maybe this is your story. And perhaps you wonder, “Is there grace enough for me?”
In Christ, there is freedom from the penalty of past sins. As Paul wrote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). In Christ, we are not the sum of our past choices, but we are made beautiful and new by the work of the Spirit within us. Yes, there is grace enough for you.
However, many women who have had abortions and men who have encouraged abortions find it difficult to walk in the freedom Christ has secured. If this is you, then you may hear the father of lies speak words of condemnation, fear, and doubt as fiery arrows to assault your faith. You may feel tempted to self-incarcerate, declaring yourself unworthy of ministry, service, and joy because of a past abortion.
Yet, the good news is truly good news. Jesus can bring complete healing to the heart broken by abortion. If you long to walk in newness of life, He invites you, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). By seeking Jesus, the community of the church, and ministry to others, you can come out of the shadows into His marvelous light:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
On the eve of His death, Jesus gave His disciples this instruction:
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:3–5)
Jesus declared the disciples clean. They were not asked to abide in Jesus in order to get clean; instead, they were enabled to abide because they were already clean. Jesus provides the only pathway to God, as well as the nourishment our souls need to walk in newness of life. Spending time with Jesus is as necessary as food or water. The more time you spend in the Word and in prayer, the more God shapes your understanding of who you are in Christ. Your identity is not in your past abortion, but in your present adoption. In Christ, you are a beloved child of God.
Paul’s understanding of this concept is reflected in his letters to the various churches. Paul calls the recipients of his epistles “the saints” in Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, etc., not “the sinners.” Surely, Paul’s recipients still struggled with past choices and current temptations (as Paul did himself; see Rom. 7), but Paul understood their identity as saints who struggle with sin rather than as sinners working toward sainthood.
If the past sin of abortion speaks words of present condemnation, hear this precious truth: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). He has called you a saint, a beloved child of God. You are invited to approach the throne of grace with confidence because you have a sympathetic Savior (Heb. 4:15–16). God’s Word offers daily reminders of His love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Spending time with Jesus transforms and renews your mind, fortifying you against feelings of unworthiness and shame.
In addition to seeking Jesus, it is also of vital importance to seek the community of the church as part of your healing. James 5:16 encourages, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
If you’ve never shared with anyone about your abortion, I encourage you to talk to your pastor or to seek out a mature believer with whom you can share your story. Many pregnancy resource centers offer post-abortion counseling and support groups. The pregnancy resource center in my area uses a curriculum called Surrendering the Secret to help women walk together in grief, forgiveness, and healing.
Recently, a pastor told me the story of providing a memorial service at his church for babies lost to abortion. A woman who had had an abortion twenty years earlier came up to him after the service, saying, “The blood of Christ took away my guilt, but today the body of Christ took away my shame.” The compassion and love offered through the community of the church is a powerful part of the healing process.
The shame of past choices may have caused you to run away from the church and from a relationship with Jesus. You may have spent years spiraling into sinful patterns and behaviors. However, as you experience the healing power of the gospel, new patterns emerge, freeing you for a life spent ministering to others.
As Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). In Christ, we are not only made new, we can walk in newness of life. At the cross, Christ defeated both the penalty of sin and the power of it in our lives. Your past does not enslave you to your future.
Freedom in Christ allows you to begin to share your story with others. You do not have to hide in fear, but you can minister to others the grace you’ve received. Almost 40 percent of the women who work at my local pregnancy resource center are women who have had an abortion. They have chosen to share their story with others in hope of rescuing other women and babies from the mistake they made.
In John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian gets off the narrow path to follow the wide road of sin. He finds himself locked in Doubting Castle, full of despair. When he finally remembers the key in his pocket (called Promise), he escapes and finds his way back to the narrow road. Afterward, he makes a point to go back to where he got off track and posts a sign to warn others, saying:
Out of the way we went, and then we found
What ‘twas to tread upon forbidden ground:
And let them that come after have a care,
Lest heedlessness makes them as we to fare;
Lest they, for trespassing, his prisoners are,
Whose castle’s Doubting, and whose name’s Despair.
Christian understood the depths of doubt and despair that attend sinful choices. Thus, he wanted to warn others not to make the same mistake.
One of the tender mercies of God is that He can take our misdeeds and use them to help others. Your story may help another woman choose life or assist a man in standing up and providing for his child. Volunteering at a pregnancy resource center or sharing with the women and men at your church might be a way the Lord uses you powerfully in the lives of others. After King David’s sin with Bathsheba, he poured out his heart in confession to the Lord, asking for a renewed sense of God’s presence and promising, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (Ps. 51:13).
Ministering to others produces a renewed sense of joy in the Lord. As you share His grace with others, these gospel truths will settle deep within your own heart. In the midst of mourning past choices, you can rejoice in the free gift of salvation. God clothes you with robes of righteousness and turns your grief into joy. Isaiah 61:1–3 declares:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
Seek Jesus. Seek community. Seek ministry. The Lord kindly offers beauty for ashes and gladness for grief so that your life may shine for His glory.