Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: If you’re the parent of younger children, be advised that today’s Revive Our Hearts may not be appropriate for them.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tried everything in an attempt to be happy. He tried making wise choices, yet it didn’t satisfy. He said, “I perceive that this also is but a striving after wind” (Eccl. 1:17). He also ran after pleasure and concluded, “What use is it?” He said, “I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine” (Eccl. 2:3). Nothing satisfied him. Jennifer Smith felt the same way. By the time she reached her early twenties, she felt like she had tried everything as well. 

Jennifer Smith: I kind of always thought I was smart. I got good grades, and I behaved myself. I got all the stickers for being a good girl. 

Leslie: But that didn’t satisfy. She turned to alcoholism, partying, and numerous relationships.  

Jennifer: During that time life was meaningless, and it felt meaningless. It was like in Ecclesiastes when he talked about “vanity of vanities.” The partying wasn’t good, the being good wasn’t good—nothing was good. It was just all garbage, and so I didn’t know what truth was. I didn’t have any basis to live on. It was all just kind of random grasping. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, January 16, 2015.  

Nancy: Yesterday we heard how a model student who spoke against abortion could end up descending into a spiral of sinful behavior and contemplate ending the life of her child. Here is a sample of what we heard.

Jennifer: My brain is always going, and drinking kept my mind from going. That kind of led me to making all kinds of wrong decisions. At the age of sixteen, a guy that I thought was really, really popular and cute and funny indicated some interest in me. I was very, very flattered by that.

Sure enough, I ended up losing my virginity to this guy, and I felt horrible. I felt completely guilty. I don’t know what happened in my mind, but I just thought, This is why guys want to be with you. It doesn’t have anything to do with who you are as a person, what you think, even what you look like. They just want this one thing. And so with a combination of that thought rolling around in my head and a lot of drinking, I just sort of delved into that whole lifestyle.

If I’ve been drinking, and I’m a girl and there is a guy involved, and the guy is being rather forceful, you have to ask yourself, “Physically, can I overpower this guy?” More often than not this answer is "no." A guy will try to get you alone and then think because you’re drinking it's okay to do whatever he wants.

I was out partying with friends. The next thing I remember about that night was waking up in a hotel room. I had no idea what happened. I did know that something happened because there was physical evidence that something happened.

I almost knew before I took the test. There is something that happens when you get pregnant that you just know. It is life—that’s what it is. It is life residing in you. At that moment I just went on autopilot and said “I’m having an abortion; that’s all there is to it.” I went and told my fiancé. After all, these guys didn’t love me at all, and here was a person who did. I now had to tell him this happened—that I was pregnant by someone else.

It was about the day before the abortion and I walked into the bathroom, put my hands on my abdomen, and I just said, “I’m sorry.” Those were the only words I spoke to that child. So I went to the abortion clinic. I remember vomiting all over the place. It was just the most grueling thing I’d ever experienced. It was awful. And I felt condemned at that point.

Nancy: We’re going to hear more from Jennifer Smith today. She was the director of the Pregnancy Care Center in Niles, Michigan, not too far from the ministry headquarters of Revive Our Hearts.

Her story illustrates to everyone that no matter what you’ve done, no matter how messy your life may be, that God can forgive, He can heal, and He can use you to bring healing to others.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. Let’s listen to part two of Jennifer Smith’s story. She thought abortion was going to fix all of her problems and get her life back to normal, but it didn’t.

Jennifer: After the abortion I could not shake the guilt. It was despairing guilt. And so, the drinking increased a lot because there is that small, still voice that is calling you to repentance, and I didn’t want to hear it. I couldn’t handle it.

Leslie: Once Jennifer was in a car with a friend who introduced her to alcohol for the first time. The friend had gone to a Christian school.

Jennifer: We’re both drinking, mind you, in a car. And I said to her, “Am I going to hell?”

And she says to me, “Well, do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?”

This seemed like the most odd conversation of two girls drinking. But I said, “Yes, I do, but I committed the ‘biggie.’”  

And she said, “I don’t think it matters.”

And I said, “I do! I think it totally matters. I think I’m going to hell.”

Leslie: It was with this backdrop of guilt that Jennifer discovered that for the second time in her life she was pregnant. This would lead Jennifer to make some substantially different choices. Again, she was in a very difficult situation. While she was still pregnant, Ray left her and moved in with someone else. But this time Jennifer decided to get help from her mom and keep her baby.

Jennifer: Of course, that took away my drinking crutch because I didn’t want to hurt this baby, so I couldn’t drink. So now that  "still, small voice" got a little louder because I couldn’t quench it.

So when I went home with mom, of course I’m not drinking. I am pregnant, and the guy I thought finally loved me is gone. And I’m thinking, What in the world now? She asked me to go to church with her, and I thought, Well, I really don’t have anything else to do, so, whatever. I guess I will.

She’d given me a Bible for my twenty-first birthday, and that Bible was sitting in the bottom of my closet. It just kind of beckoned. I would look at it all the time but just never go pick it up. Once we started going to church, I picked it up and just started reading. It just spoke to me. The love that poured out of that book was amazing. I remember being in church, and the pastor was doing a series on characteristics of God. We were at the point where God is a just god, and I just thought, I’m doomed. Okay that seals the deal—I am doomed.

Here I am about eight months pregnant and with my mom in the pew and feeling totally embarrassed. I thinking everybody is probably looking at me like I’m the sinner of all sinners. I had just had a friend who was murdered at the time. I was partially thinking, If God is a just god, then why did that happen? Then part of me was thinking, If God is a just god, then I’m also a murderer and so man, I am in big trouble.  

At the end of the service he said, “Jesus died for even murderers.” I knew he was talking to me. He said, “There are probably holes in your heart that no one knows about. Just ask Jesus to come in and let His blood flow through those holes and heal them and make them whole again.” For whatever reason, at that moment, it was real. It was real to me. I just asked Him to please forgive me for anything I’d ever done, and I begged Him for mercy. I said, “I love you, and I am so sorry, just so sorry.”

I cried for probably two or three hours straight after that, but it was a joyful cry because it was like this freedom that I didn’t know. Even colors and things outside looked brighter, and it was true living. So now, it was the beginning of new life and that is exactly what it was. It was new life in Christ, and He made all things new. It was still mixed with a little fear, but as I poured into the Word of God and drew close to Him, I began discovering how much love and mercy He has, and so some of that fear vanished.

Leslie: As a new believer, Jennifer Smith was challenged to offer forgiveness to those who had wronged her. For instance, there was the father of the child she had aborted. She forgave him for an unwanted sexual encounter.

Jennifer: I think I carried around anger toward him because of what I endured. Because I felt for a long time, “It’s not fair that he can go on with his life like nothing ever happened, and I’m dealing with not only having gone through the experience of abortion, having killed my child, having lost relationships, but the walking around with the condemnation and the guilt." It felt like he was walking around scot-free; having no consequences for what he did in this, and it was heinous.

I had a lot of that in me and again, knowing Christ, knowing how much He loves us and wants to be in relationship, that is what I want for that man. I don’t want anything to happen to him other than for him to know Christ Jesus. I wanted him to be fully restored because that is the thing that will stop him from ever doing it again. It’s not going to be some set of rules he sets up for himself, it is only going to be knowing Him that will give him the power to do that.

Leslie: Jennifer also needed to forgive her soon-to-be-husband, Ray, who had left her when she was pregnant with his child.

Jennifer: Knowing how much I had been forgiven, to try to hold an offense against somebody just seemed unreasonable. I mean, it was like if I can be forgiven of this, how dare I hold something against somebody. It seemed like that was a worse offense.

I think once Christ is in your heart, His love is there to guide your decisions and your thoughts toward other people. So maybe He was supplying me with the ability to see Ray through His eyes. I remember praying that he would be saved. My concern more was that he would be saved, that he would know that freedom, and that he would understand how much God loved him even more than wanting to be reconciled to him, I wanted that.

Leslie: Once she came to know the Lord,  Jennifer’s life didn’t suddenly become easy. As she, her husband Ray, and their son Justus, settled into life together, she needed God’s strength for what was to be a bumpy ride ahead.

Not long ago, Jennifer wrote an account of this season of life. She said, “Because I was a new creature in Christ, I was most certainly not the woman my husband had known for so many years. He wanted a wild woman, not a wise one.”

Jennifer: He grew up in an alcoholic situation, so it was probably good for him as far as the drinking went. There were other issues where, like if he wanted to watch pornography or something and I wasn’t going to do that, it was almost like an offense to him because I was his wife.

Leslie: Jennifer also wrote this,

It wasn’t long into our marriage until he started being unfaithful. It didn’t just happen once. He was repeatedly unfaithful. Even though I was given the biblical grounds for divorce speech by several well-meaning Christian friends, I never had peace about divorce. I felt like I needed to be faithful to the vows I had made.

I would search the Bible for direction and come across verses like Ephesians 5:33, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (NIV).

Or, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (NIV).

Jennifer writes, “For me, being holy meant remaining faithful.”

Jennifer: Actually, I had people trying to fix me up with other people while I was in this process of separation. People desperately wanting me to be happy, and so they were going to try to provide a fix for me to be happy. God had already revealed to me that that is not the key to happiness, through a lot of other things.

So I wasn’t really interested in their offers. By that point I had a firm understanding that God probably knew the best course for me to take, and I wanted to follow Him. I knew that any other way was going to lead to devastation, so I was desperate to do it His way because I knew I wasn’t smart enough.

Leslie: Jennifer writes, “I have notes written all through the margins of my Bible where I prayed Scriptures over my marriage continually.”

NIV).

And this is out of James 4:1–8,

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and  he will come near to you. (NIV paraphrased)

Leslie: Ray confessed unfaithfulness and repented of his sin. Jennifer was again challenged about the issue of forgiveness. Would she truly forgive the man who had hurt her so deeply?

Jennifer: I would say, “After this one?" I was really kind of continually throwing it in his face. So in a sense it was justifying whatever I did wrong, I could always trump him with that. I could always say, “Oh yeah? Well, I wouldn’t be doing it if you hadn’t . . . Well, it’s because you did . . ." That was always my excuse to talk to him how I wanted to, to complain at him. I could always just throw that at him.

In thinking about that, there is nothing Christ–like. Thank God that Christ does not do that to us every day, that every time we face a circumstance that is negative, that He is not throwing that in our face and saying, “It’s because of this . . . because you did that . . . because of this, because of that . . .” Christ doesn’t treat us that way. I have no right at all to do that, to justify my behavior based on something he did.

Leslie: Jennifer writes,

To make a long story short, my faithfulness and the faithfulness of God finally got to my husband. He came to know the Lord. It has been fourteen years since the birth of our son, and my husband’s life has been radically transformed. He regularly tells people about Jesus. He shares part of Christian books that he’s reading with me. He texts me Scripture on my phone. He just blessed me with a text that says, “We are not perfect, nor on this earth shall we ever be, but on this earth I have a wife, and she is perfect for me.”

No one and no situation is beyond the reach of our almighty God. I am so thankful for His faithfulness. He gives us His Word and Spirit for wisdom and strength so we can stay true and wait for His solution to our problems.

When asked about her marriage now, Jennifer has this to say.

Jennifer: My relationship with Ray is incredible. I can’t even imagine not being with him now. He is leading our family. He is just an incredible man. Had we not stayed together . . . Because I know intimately the fallout that can happen from broken homes, I can’t imagine the devastation it might have had on our children, or the bitterness that might be residing in my heart. Really, it’s just a heap of devastation. I think that God can redeem those situations, and He can certainly rebuild out of broken marriages. He can certainly restore things. But I am extremely thankful to have stuck it out even in the hardest of circumstances, and I am very thankful that God has restored it so beautifully.  

It is better than what I could have asked for or formulated or contrived or done myself. It is way better having let God do it in His timing, with His hands at work and not forcing Ray to comply to a bunch of rules that I’ve set up for him to prove his love for me. It is so much better to just let God work in his heart and see what He’s done and then live with that. It is better than the things that I could have manufactured myself.

I had been going to the same church for quite some time, and so I had built some relationships and those are huge. I mean, anytime you’re going through any situation that seems hopeless or difficult it is very easy to draw back. I’ve seen this with friends of mine who have gone through similar circumstances.

This is almost a caution to the church, too. You feel like, “I don’t want to admit that I’m broken. I don’t want to admit there is something wrong, that things aren’t perfect, that things aren’t the way they look. If I send my kid to Sunday school, is he going to do a prayer request in front of the teacher and say, “My mom and dad fight all the time.” You know you don’t want that, so you tend to drop back.

If in any way possible to even just plug in with a Christian friend that you know you can trust. Obviously, you’re going to go to God, obviously you’re going to be on your knees in prayer first and foremost. But to have a Christian friend is a treasure that you can just pour into and know that the Word of God is going to come out of them.

Leslie: We’ve been hearing the story of Jennifer Smith. We heard how God transformed her and rescued her from guilt and sin. Then we heard how He gave her strength to endure long years of difficulty. If you’ve missed any of her story so far today or tomorrow, you can hear it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

That is also where you can get help if you relate to Jennifer’s story. Here is Nancy Leigh DeMoss to tell you more.

Nancy: Today we’ve heard about the freedom that Jennifer Smith and her husband found in Christ because He paid the price for your sin by going to the cross. You can be forgiven from all your sins and freed from your guilt. For Jennifer, that meant being forgiven for taking the life of a child. Perhaps you’ve experienced that sense of guilt. Well, we’d like to send you a Bible Study by Sandy Day called Living in His Forgiveness. 

This study will help you understand what it means to be fully forgiven thanks to what Jesus did on the cross. You will learn how to handle events that may trigger memories of your abortion and you’ll learn how to walk in forgiveness and experience freedom in the future.

If you’d like a copy of Living in His Forgiveness for yourself or perhaps to share with someone else who is dealing with this kind of guilt, we'll be glad to send that to you when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just ask for the resource Living in His Forgiveness when you call us at 1-800-569-5959. Or if you prefer, you can visit us on ReviveOurHearts.com. When you get there, you can make a donation and request copy of Living in His Forgiveness.

Leslie: This coming weekend many churches will mark Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. For years, Jennifer Smith dreaded this day. Find out why when she returns on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts
with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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