Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, January 19, 2015.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision that effectively made abortion legal in the United States through all three trimesters of a woman’s pregnancy. Yesterday, many churches observed this anniversary by marking Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

Now for many years, Jennifer Smith approached Sanctity of Human Life Sunday with a sense of dread.

Jennifer Smith: Typically, prior to sharing testimony and working through things with God, I felt so sad. Most of the time I would skip it if I had forewarning. If I knew it was coming; I wasn’t going to church that Sunday because I just couldn’t take it. It was like reliving it even though I knew that I was saved and born again and made new.

It was like just over and over being pounded with your sin, and it just hurts so bad to know you were capable of doing that. And to just relive it over and over, it’s violent, it’s excruciating from even a physical sense, but mostly a spiritual and emotional sense that it just hurts so bad.

Nancy: Jennifer was the director of the Pregnancy Care Center in Niles, Michigan where Revive Our Hearts is based. We’ve been listening to her story this week. Today we’ll find out how she finally stopped dreading Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Perhaps you can relate to that dread yourself. I want you to tune in carefully to this story about God taking the broken pieces that we have to offer Him and turning them into something beautiful that can bring Him glory.

That’s what’s happened with Jennifer Smith, and I believe that’s what God wants to happen with you, as well. Before we pick up with Jennifer’s story, let’s review what we heard last week.

Jennifer: 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 how I got there. I had no idea what happened. I did know that something happened because there was physical evidence that something happened.

I took the pregnancy test at home and just about fell over. I remember crying in my car thinking if somebody would just take me out of this set of circumstances, sit with me in their house and just care for me, that would be the only way I could do this. If one person would just grab me, take me away, and live this out with me step by step, then I could do it. But I didn’t find that person.

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 that I ever spoke to that child.

After the abortion, I could not shake the guilt. It was despairing guilt. I remember being in church. At the end of the service he said, “Jesus died for even murderers.” It was real. It was real to me. I just asked Him to please forgive me. I didn’t have the guilt that I had before. I didn’t have the desires that I had before.

I wanted to live for God because I really appreciated that sacrifice. It meant so much to me—just the freedom and the relief from the pain and the anguish that I had felt up to that point.

Leslie: Jennifer Smith knows the joy of forgiveness after the devastating effects of immoral choices and abortion. She wanted to pass all that she’d learned in the process to others. But she was reluctant as well.

Jennifer: I think there is a big temptation to feel like you’ve failed, and it does hold you back. I think the biggest part of that is probably fear. Because you sound hypocritical to say, “You should probably wait till marriage,” when you didn’t wait till marriage. Or, "You shouldn’t have an abortion," when you did have an abortion. So you just pray that God will use the wisdom that He has given you through those things having failed so miserably and then wanting and desiring people not to follow that same pattern.

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday was never a favorite of mine to attend. It was excruciating before I told anyone about my story. There aren’t a lot of other sins that are focused on so publicly and in such a decisive, focused way as abortion is.

I think in those moments I felt a desperate . . . whether it’s abortion or adultery or whatever the sin is, I hope people know that Jesus died for them and that they’re forgiven, and they can be forgiven, and that they can be totally set free from that.

That’s where it fired me up in some way. I knew that there was some way that I could help other people. I just had no idea what that would look like.

I think that the very first time that I probably shared my testimony in front of a group of people was at a church service. And I was terrified because the back story right prior to my testimony was, obviously you have to see the truth of your sin, and it is horrifying. And so, to see that, to feel the horror of that sin and then to try to talk about it publicly and say, “Yes, I did that,” was really terrifying, because I could very well look like villain of all villains, you know.

Obviously, it was a church full of love and everyone was just absolutely kind and gracious. I’m sure it’s the enemy who doesn’t want you to share anything. So he doesn’t want you to encourage anybody at all. So I think that it was probably him that was whispering like, “Are you going to get stoned to death? Are you going to get condemned? Are you going to get kicked out of church?” All of those thoughts are racing through your head. “Is everybody going to be whispering about you and saying how terrible you are, and you are just going to be defeated?” I didn’t want any of that to be the result. But it was really scary.

Leslie: Jennifer knew it was likely that many women in the church service could relate to her story.

Jennifer: But statistically, I think it is somewhere near one-third of any church body has someone who has been involved in an abortion decision. And actually, if you took the number of one-third of the women in the United States will have had an abortion at one point in their lives, eight-out-of-ten of those women claim to be some sort of Christian. So that’s a high percentage of the women having an abortion who claim to be Christians.

I think a lot of that has to do with the guilt, the shame, and the condemnation. You can’t hide that one. I mean, your stomach is going to get bigger, so you can’t just brush it off and put on a happy face. There’s no hiding. I hope a woman who comes in who might be feeling that will leave knowing, “Hey, we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Let’s do something with this. Let’s see what God can do through this situation. It’s not all over, and we’re here for you every step of the way.”

Actually, I had a woman come up to me and share that she, too, had experienced an abortion and had never told anyone. I’m sure that it was probably out of that condemnation, that fear, all of that. And she is using that today to minister to women, as well.

It’s such a huge number of women and men—men are not out of that equation at all. I’ve talked to men who have amazing stories of grace regarding abortion—whether they encouraged a woman to have one; whether they’ve paid for her to do it, or just were involved in the situation that led to the unwanted pregnancy. It’s amazing to hear their grief sometimes, and I think maybe even more so for them.

There’s a silence, and there’s a, “I’m not going to tell anybody that,” for whatever reason. I think it’s really important that someone ministers to them. There are several men who do that. So I would encourage other men to be involved because it is something some men probably struggle with more than they know.

Years went by—a lot of years—ten, where I didn’t really share my testimony, especially that portion of it. I did share a lot regarding my marriage. But regarding the abortion, I still felt a lot of fear.

Leslie: After sharing her testimony publicly, it took a while for Jennifer to bring up her story again. But she had to while interviewing for a job at the Pregnancy Care Center in Niles, Michigan.

Jennifer: I didn’t want to. I was like, “Can’t we just bring that up later?” Because it’s hard. That particular morning, I was a mess. I was running late. I was having a horrible hair day. And I just thought, Lord, whatever . . . You know . . . We’re just going to do this. And Your will be done.

So I was driving over and I thought, “As long as I don’t have to share my testimony, I’ll be fine.” And then that was the first thing. “Would you mind sharing your testimony?”

And I was like,  “Oh . . . Okay . . .” You go into an interview and you prepare yourself and you want to give your work history and the skills that you have. You want to share all of that. And it’s like that just blew up. Of course, when you have to just share out of your life, you go, “Oh . . .”

I felt like I was damaged goods. The perception would be that only whole people who have it all together can possibly minister in this way. “How could you talk to someone about not having sex before marriage when you did that?” You know you are not a very pure person.

So, I thought all of that going in. I thought, Oh well, forget it! This one didn’t work out well. So I was really surprised to hear them call me back and ask me to come in and be an administrative assistant. I was very happy to do that.

I had to go through our post-abortion recovery class. That’s a requirement of anybody who is post-abortive, because it is kind of a long process to really get free and not wear around that feeling of shame all the time and not feel like you can’t minister because you’ve had too much go on in your past.

If I’m honest, it sort of felt like I get the special treatment or something because of this. But just in obedience and knowing that you are under authority, you do these things. I know now, looking backwards, that it’s protection over the ministry, it’s protection over yourself, and it’s a desire to see someone made whole.

Of course you don’t want to go back and go through how many weeks of talking about your abortion. You don’t want to do that. You have no desire to do that. But it is very necessary to get to a point where you can feel free in Christ to minister.

He does not want you to feel condemned. He doesn’t want you to feel like you can’t encourage people, that you’re disqualified in some way. He completely qualifies you and cleanses you and makes you whole. And you want to be walking in that so you can effectively minister to others. That’s what it’s about, and it was great to take the class.

At the very end of the class, you have a funeral. I chose to float this little flower down the river. It was a little, white rose that my instructor bought for me. I was just praying and reading God’s Word and then just letting that go watching it just be swallowed up by water. It was just so cool to me. And that was when I cried so hard. It was just finally letting that go and saying, “God use it.”

And then a through a number of different messages and radio programs, like Revive Our Hearts, and just different books I was reading, my Bible reading times, interaction with friends, God just kept hitting me from every side. So all of those means of grace that He gives us culminated into this, “Yes, Jennifer, I want you whole.”

Some of it took a long time,  and some of it was hard to hear. But God used all of that because it would prompt me to go to His Word. I would go to His Word, get more encouragement, and then maybe hear a message. It was just making me look around and see what He wanted me to see.

Leslie: Jennifer Smith was the director of the Pregnancy Care Center for several years, actively helping women who are in situations similar to the one she faced so many years ago.

Jennifer: We were getting ready for our annual banquet. So we were so focused on name tags and printing them out and all of that and the busyness of the next day. And we had a woman come in the door and just say “I need to get an abortion.” And we were like “Drop everything. Do ministry. That’s what we’re doing right now. We are walking back. We are going to have a talk.”

And just in talking to her, her circumstances were difficult and mired in all kinds of stuff. I think sometimes people think abortion is their only out, that there is no other choice to be made. “I have a problem. Here’s what I’m going to do.” And so all the other women there were just on their knees. On our in-take we ask if we can contact the woman by phone or mail. And in this situation, it was one of those things where we weren’t going to be contacting her again. So we had no idea whether she was going to choose life for her baby or not. So we just continually lifted her up in prayer.

In a couple of weeks, she came back. She was just adamant that the circumstances just dictated abortion. I know that she was a mother already. So we talked about the topic of, “You know what it’s like to be a mom. Even though we know it was really hard. And we know that your circumstances right now are really hard. But you’re not going to get rid of any of those kids. You’re going to do anything for them. This one’s here. We don’t know why. But you can do it. We’ve already seen you’ve been able to do it. And so let’s just see what God can do with this one.”

She had been hurt in church in the past. So the topic of faith was a little bit hard for her to digest at the time. So we kept things really, really basic. We were worried about her. What’s she going to do? She did show up for her ultrasound appointment. She said she actually walked to the abortion clinic. She walked up to the door and in her words, said she was “creeped out.” 

She came back to us and told us that she had decided to keep her baby. It was like, “Thank you, Jesus! Lord, we know You have good plans for this child and can do amazing things in this woman’s life.” We are so thankful to get to do that—to get to be part of His work. It’s so awesome. Even if you never see her again or see her child again; it’s like, “Thank you, Lord! Thank you!”

Volunteers do a lot. We have a lot of volunteers. Right now we have thirty-one who are just regular volunteers that are either counseling, managing our boutique. They’re folding clothes. They’re cleaning clothes. They’re sorting clothes. We have volunteers who change light bulbs and who handle the maintenance on our computers. We don’t have an IT department, so we have someone who comes in and volunteers his time to sort of bring things up to speed.

We have a board who oversees us, and they volunteer their time and give us the wisdom we need to move forward in the ministry. There are volunteers who help us with just about everything—prayer warrior lists, email, sorting and folding mail, and stuffing envelopes. It’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of important work. The very essence of our ministry is every life matters. Without any of these volunteers, we would just be hurting so badly. So we appreciate them a lot.

We would close if we didn’t have volunteers. Think about a house without a ministry. You have vacuuming to do; you have light bulb changing; you have window washing and lawn mowing, and all of that to handle. So if one person or four people are answering phones and taking messages and sending emails and paying the bills, it just could not happen—and doing the counseling. There’s no way. The more people that are involved, the more your outreach grows.

If you are like me, you look on TV and you just feel like what are we going to do? This is one thing you can do! Support a center. Do a baby bottle drive. Drop off some diapers so they don’t have to buy them. Go in and volunteer your time.

If you’ve been touched or wounded or hurt in a past relationship or had a pregnancy that was a struggle, you can offer that up to God, and He will so use that. You can relate to someone like some people can’t. He gives us mercy and grace, and He takes those things that are really ugly and makes them beautiful.

Even if you’re that pure person who’s lived their life pure and think, I can’t volunteer at the center because I can’t relate to somebody. But you know what? You’re an example. You’ve lived your life pure, and it’s possible. It’s like a shining example of what a possibility looks like. You can minister that renewed virginity. “Start today, and I’ll be here, and I’ll help you. And when you’re struggling, I’ve got this wisdom behind me that I can share.”

So it is a huge, huge influence that you are having and a lot of healing that’s being brought through that kind of ministry. So support your local center if you have a heart for that kind of change.

Leslie: At the beginning of the program, we heard how Jennifer Smith used to dread Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This year she’ll be speaking at a church nearby. And by God’s grace, things will be different for her.

Jennifer: It’s a lot easier now because of what God has done. My heart’s desire is to see that women are not deceived into thinking they have to have an abortion, that they’re not capable of being good moms, or that no one is there for them.

Leslie: We’ve been hearing from Jennifer Smith. God not only has forgiven her for aborting a child, He has now led her to a place of great fruitfulness in sharing her story and sharing freedom with others. And Nancy, I hope the programs will help many other women find that kind of freedom and fruitfulness.

Nancy: Like Jennifer, maybe you’ve known that your sins are forgiven in Christ, but you don’t feel truly free from your guilt. Well,  I want to assure you that complete freedom is available regardless of what sin you’ve committed. I want you to find that freedom. That’s why we are offering a special Bible study this week called, Living in His Forgiveness.

It was written specifically for women who’ve made the choice to abort their child. As you complete this study, you’ll appreciate the wonder of what Christ did for you on the cross. You’ll discover how to move into your future guilt free. And you’ll learn how to move from a place of brokenness to a place of calling and purpose and usefulness in God’s kingdom.

So whether you want to do this study yourself or you have somebody that you’d like to give a copy to—somebody that you think wants to find this kind of freedom—we’ll send you a copy of Living in His Forgiveness when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

As you make that donation, just know that you’re going to be helping others experience freedom and forgiveness in Christ. So just give us a call and ask for the study Living in His Forgiveness. The number to call is 1–800–569–5959. Or if you would rather give online, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, and when you do, be sure to request a copy of Living in His Forgiveness.

Leslie: Let's think about this: Do other people make you sin with your mouth? Mary Kassian says, "No."

Mary Kassian: What comes out of your mouth, what you say, how you respond to circumstances, that's your responsibility. Your husband doesn't make you say nasty things. It's you.

Leslie: Tomorrow Mary will begin a series on the power of words. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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