Healing abortion’s heartbreak


Healing Abortion's Heartbreak(view original article here)

Lyn Coles tells her story and how she now helps others

The ripple effect of one abortion can affect as many as 45 to 50 people.

Those people will include the mother, the father, the grandparents, the existing and future siblings, health professionals, abortionists, clergy, friends, co-workers, extended family members, future spouses – and so the ripples continue.

As believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are we equipped to come alongside those affected by abortion in our churches and in the communities in which God has placed us? Abortion is a mission field – but the workers are few.

Suffering in secret

Many women hide the secret of abortion deep in their hearts and they are suffering the consequences. They carry an incredible burden while wearing smiles on their faces. Both Christian and non-Christian women ‘choose’ abortion.

The rhetoric of ‘choice’ though, hides the reality of coercion. Women will not choose abortion if they have another choice. In a crisis pregnancy, coercion towards abortion comes in many forms – losing your relationship, income, home, or education; bringing shame on the family / church / yourself; misinformation on what abortion actually entails presented as fact – with no mention of the long-term, detrimental consequences on your life.

Christian women often choose abortion to hide sexual sin outside of marriage. Whatever the reason for choosing abortion, the disenfranchised grief is the same in each woman. The circumstances may differ, but the humanity and personhood of the pre-born child remains the same.

My abortion and PAT

I aborted my son Stephen on September 21, 1980 when I was 18 years old. I wasn’t a Christian and I was completely ignorant and naïve as to what abortion involved. I was told by those I trusted that it was a simple procedure, that my son was just a ‘blob of cells’ at 10 weeks gestation and that I had my whole life ahead of me to have children. I could have the abortion and my problems would be solved.

Little did I know that abortion, rather than solving my problems, would just give me new ones. I struggled with ‘post abortion trauma’ (PAT) for the following ten years and suffered in silence. Some symptoms of PAT are depression, anxiety, guilt, drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders and self-harming, to name but a few. Often anniversaries, like Christmas, birthdays, the anniversary of the abortion itself or the due date of the birth of the aborted child, trigger and exacerbate these symptoms.

Forgiveness and grief

I gave my life to Christ when I was 32 and I instantly knew that I was forgiven for all my past sin, including my abortion. So why was I still struggling with it? Through the grace and mercy of God, I was led to another Christian woman who talked me through aspects of PAT and I went through healing for my abortion. For the first time, I was allowed to grieve the loss of my son Stephen and recognise that he was a child, created in the image of God, and that abortion is never the answer to an unplanned or unexpected pregnancy. Ever.

That was 20 years ago and since then I have been involved in abortion recovery ministry on a voluntary basis. The elders of our church commissioned me and my husband Andy into this ministry back in 2006.

Setting women free

Surrendering the Secret (STS) is an abortion recovery Bible study rooted in the gospel. I am a ‘Certified Leader’ of the study, having trained under its author, Pat Layton, in the USA. I have been running this programme in Belfast for the past four years. It is amazing and such a privilege to be part of God’s plan in setting women free from the pain, shame and guilt of a past abortion. Jesus doesn’t want us to live a guilt-ridden life, whatever your secret sin, but instead he wants us to live a guilt-free life and live it to the full. If he sets us free, we are free indeed!

Over the years, post abortive women learn to live in silence and secrecy, stockpiling hurts they have buried deep inside. We struggle for years with repressed memories of guilt, shame and depression. Most women feel they are not allowed to talk about their abortion experiences because it was their ‘choice’. They carry a great burden of shame and failure, afraid to reveal their hidden pain.

Secrecy and shame are a destructive combination, as women are forced to endure long-lasting destructive effects in isolation. As with any traumatic event, many post abortive women experience physical, emotional and spiritual symptoms related to PAT. Often the medical community overlooks abortion as a risk factor in a woman’s physical and emotional health. One study in Finland showed that, in comparison to women in the same study who carried children to term, women who aborted were six times more likely to take their own lives through suicide.

Inspired to speak

In a recent American Family Association Journal article, David Platt (senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Alabama) confesses to have been ‘shamefully passive’ about the topic of abortion until some of the women in his church began to journey through the STS Bible study. Platt’s heart was stirred to take action by the women in his own church who came forward with their ‘deep scars, emotionally and relationally to experience the healing that the gospel provides when it comes to past abortions’. He was inspired to speak about abortion, combining biblical truth balanced with spiritual care for the soul. The women in his church have responded and are being set free from the heartbreak of past abortions, and future generations are being protected.

A generation yet to be born

‘They will come and tell a people yet to be born about his righteousness – what he has done’ (Psalm 22.31).

Healing occurs best in the context of a redemptive community. The gospel is all about redemption. Surrendering the Secret is an eight week course and includes a participant’s workbook and weekly DVD sessions and it is rooted in the gospel. Ideally the primary facil-itator of the group should be a woman who has had an abortion and been through recovery, but it is not imperative. If you can facilitate a Bible study and have a heart for hurting women, you can lead this course.

The demand is there, but women are not aware that abortion recovery help is available to them. In 2014 we hope to provide national training opportunities in the UK and Ireland for STS. Please pray and ask the Lord what he would like you, your pastoral team or your church to do about bringing hope and healing to your community.

Trouble and wounds are inevitable in this life, but we have the power to choose how we deal with them. Abortion attacks us at our very core – our identity as women. We believe the lies the enemy of our souls whispers to us and the secrecy enslaves us. God wants to set his daughters free from the choice of abortion. Our identity is in Christ alone. He gently walks women through the past pain towards repentance, healing, redemption and hope which is to be found in him alone.

Lynn Coles is a certified leader with Surrendering the Secret www.surrenderingthesecret.com

If you are interested in finding out more about how you or your church can facilitate an STS study, please contact Lynn on +44 7788 151339 or lynncoles16@gmail.com Please note that abortion does affect men, whatever our culture and society says, and help is available for men also.

 

This article was first published in the May 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online www.e-n.org.uk or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

Waiting on God


Waiting on GodLet’s be realistic and honest: waiting is a difficult and frustrating test in life.

But there are ways to cope and grow in testing times. Knowledge apart from application falls short of God’s desire for his children. He wants us to apply what we learn so that we will change and grow. We grow as our understanding of God’s Word increases, and as we apply what we have learned.

We tend to replace waiting on God with hurried attempts at pursuing growth on our own. We use chemical fertilisers in our gardens to force growth. So we settle for shallow roots destined to yield only mediocre growth. We have grown so accustomed to fast food restaurants that they are a way of life. We graft this attitude of hurry into our pursuit of God and it stunts the growth of our inner being. Trees that grow slowly are stronger and their annual rings are more densely compacted.

Biblical examples

God told Noah to build the ark in preparation for a great flood. Enduring his neighbour’s derision and perhaps his own doubts, Noah waited 120 years before that rain finally came.

Job lost his family, his wealth, and his health. One by one the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual supports for his faith were removed. But Job chose instead to wait on the Lord.

Abraham

At the age of 75, a very prosperous and settled Abraham left his native land. He was guided only by God’s promise to make him a great nation. Abraham waited on God a long time before the fulfillment of that promise became evident.

These ordinary people became spiritual giants because they chose to wait on God. If we are to grow in spiritual stature we must learn to wait on God. That stretches us.

Joseph endured 14 years inside a dark Egyptian prison cell for a crime he didn’t commit. But rather than withering and dying, he waited on God and trusted in his sovereignty.

Moses

Moses, the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, was well educated. But at the age of 40, he killed an Egyptian and was forced to flee for his life. For the next 40 years this leader lived alone in a desert learning to wait on God. It was a time when Moses learned to replace trust in himself (to get things done) with trust in God and waiting.

Paul was one of the greatest men the religious system of the Pharisees could produce. He zealously led the persecution of Christians. But Christ had other plans for Paul and intervened in his life on the Damascus Road. Paul spent the next three years alone, growing in his knowledge and understanding of his Saviour.

The Lord Jesus

Just before Christ’s public ministry began, Satan offered him all the kingdoms of the world if he would only worship him. Jesus endured three tests. Satan tempted Christ to receive glory and power in a way other than God’s way, which was to be through the cross. Christ, however, was willing to wait, to endure suffering, and to become the sacrifice for our sin, before exaltation.

Waiting is the rule

Waiting on God is the rule instead of the exception. When there are no open doors, we try to force the locks. All of us have a natural tendency to make waiting on God the exception and trusting in our own wisdom the rule. This seems to be our default mode. But we need to re-programme our settings to conform to God’s ways. Waiting requires confidence in God that is based on an understanding of who he is. Let us trust him in the silence and darkness.

We must learn to accept the fact that, in many areas of our lives, waiting will be the very process God uses to mature us.

Waiting on God is resting, not hurrying. The difference between waiting and worrying is focus. When we are truly waiting on the Lord, our posture and attitude are like Mary’s (the sister of Martha) as she sat at the Lord’s feet, giving him her undivided attention. When we worry, we’re more like Martha, who, although busy serving the Lord, was distracted and anxious. We may feel trapped and we may be hurting but we can join Mary at the Saviour’s feet at any time.

Scripture counsels: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4.6-7).

There are times when we must wait for God to direct our steps. We need reminding of this when we feel our hearts beginning to grow restless. Trust God to provide for your needs. Our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. This is especially true when it comes to trusting God to provide for us. We’re only too happy to lift up needs in the areas of our weaknesses. But when it comes to the areas of our strengths, our needs are reluctantly lifted up, only after we have exhausted all our skills in trying to provide for ourselves.

Waiting is not easy. It seems unnatural in a world where everything is expected immediately. So we need the supernatural grace of God to help in such times of testing. We grow strong through waiting. ‘They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength’ (Isaiah 40.31).

Two ways to wait

There are two ways to practise waiting. First, we can wait in silence. Some of the best times we may ever spend in prayer are the ones when we stop talking and simply listen. These are times when we meditate upon the things of the Lord through his Word. During these times God may bring to mind a needed truth or something to be thankful for, or a practical application of his Word that we had been missing.

Secondly, we wait with hope and confidence. A student once asked a teacher if there was a course he could take that was shorter than the one prescribed. Many of us, while waiting on God, have asked a similar question. Lord, isn’t there a shorter, less difficult route I could take?

But it’s only by waiting on him (trusting, praying and resting) that our roots will go deep enough for us to be as solid as an oak. Waiting involves trusting. How can I exercise greater trust this week? Waiting includes praying. How seriously have I poured out my heart to God? Waiting implies resting. Am I anxious, tense and worrisome? In what areas can I practise resting this week?

We need to confess our shortcomings in approaching our situations and ask God for help in being still. Ask him for the wisdom to wait. Daily duties continue while waiting on God. Difficulties may increase while waiting on God and so we can become impatient. Delays do not mean God will fail to come through. Never question in the dark what God gave in the light.

Take the advice of the psalmist: ‘Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!’ (Psalm 27.14). Let us be faithful while waiting. Let us expect God to come through in his time.

Kieran Beville is a Baptist pastor in Ireland and visiting professor at Tyndale Theological Seminary, Amsterdam.

 

This article was first published in the September 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Dear Jack: a letter to an abusive husband


letter to abusive husbandDear Jack,

I pray this letter finds you in good health, sound mind, and quiet heart.

I’m writing on behalf of your wife Jill, the elders, and all your brothers and sisters in the church family. We are all greatly concerned about your abuse and mistreatment of Jill. And I would like to take this opportunity to address you as a pastor, a man, and a father.

Zero tolerance

As a pastor, I want to lovingly communicate to you two messages. First, stop abusing Jill. As you know, our church family takes a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to marital abuse. Your hands were not made for battering your wife, but for beautifying her. It’s never permissible, under any circumstance, for you to raise your hand toward your wife in anger or abuse or in any way other than to caress her in love or help her in strength. Never. Under any circumstance. You must commit to no longer battering Jill, who is made in God’s image, who was purchased by Christ’s blood, and who is your sister in Christ. Continuing to sin against your wife in this way will result in further police involvement (I have already counselled Jill to file a police report) and the church pursuing corrective love. A better result would be a clear and tangible commitment on your part to stop abusing Jill.

Learning to love

Second, get help in learning to love Jill. As a church, we are committed to fighting for every marriage in our congregation. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to help the two of you enjoy a reconciled and fully loving marriage, as Christ intends. We’re prepared to do that over the long haul. With Jill, we have taken steps to make a safe place available for her to live. Her safety is our first priority, but it’s not our only priority. We hope also to support you both in experiencing the healing and wholeness Christ provides.

So, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to meet with me, any elder, or any one of the trained counsellors in the church who have from time to time helped others through this pattern of sin, anger, and control. If we need additional resources beyond the local church, we’re prepared to locate and provide them. We’ll put everything the church has behind you and Jill, if you’ll commit to getting some help. If you’re abusing your wife, brother, you’re not well. You need to locate the root of the difficulty in your own heart and learn to live in the grace and power that God provides. We want to help you do that. Will you allow us?

A father’s anger

Can I also say just a couple words as a father of two beautiful daughters? If Jill were my daughter, I’m afraid I’d be writing this letter from my prison to your hospital room. I know: pastors aren’t supposed to say stuff like that. But I can’t think of a better way to communicate how horrible and dark your treatment of Jill has been, and how sudden and violent God’s judgment would be as he looks on Jill, his daughter, and considers your abuse of her. I know my anger would be a pale and sinful picture of God’s. But that’s what’s most frightening: God’s anger would be perfect, just and omnipotent. I fear that for you, just as I fear for the welfare of someone who would harm my girls. My girls are 14 and 12. They’re bright, energetic, funny, quick to serve, curious and outgoing. I imagine those are some of the things you’ve admired in Jill.

As a father, I want my girls to be with a man who multiplies and nourishes those qualities in them. To do otherwise would be to slowly tread these beautiful creatures under foot, it would be to kill them slowly. The husband who does that is a gardener who tramples his rose bed with heavy work boots. I wouldn’t want such a husband for my daughters, and God doesn’t want that for his.

Finally, I also want to speak to you as a fellow man, a brother in the Lord and fellow traveller in this journey called ‘manhood’. I find being a man just about the most difficult and high-pressured thing in life. I feel like I’m often one step behind or one wrong decision from completely ruining everything. It seems to me that a lot of us live with a seething undercurrent of fear and anger. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but no temptation has befallen you that isn’t common to others of us. You’re not a monster, and you’re not alone.

But feelings of anger, control, and frustration express themselves in a number of ways: from abdicating responsibility to fleeing the relationship to abusing others. People often take out their frustrations and fears on those closest at hand — for husbands that can be the wife. We have to find a way to be sober, self-controlled, temperate and respectable. That’s really at the heart of what it means for us to be men.

Misrepresenting Jesus

Let me say something to you that you may fear hearing: as a fellow man, while I can identify with some of the pressure, anger, and frustration you may be feeling, I do not respect your abuse of your wife. The abuse misrepresents Jesus, misrepresents husbands, and misrepresents marriage. In saying I don’t respect your abuse as a man, I’m not trying to discourage you further. I’m trying to bring to light what you must surely be feeling about yourself. How can you respect yourself as a man if you’re resorting to beating the woman who loves you? Surely you can’t. And it’s pretending that you do respect yourself or demanding that others should respect you that will keep you locked in the entangling sins of anger and abuse. The pretending is a heavy blanket of self-deception. So, as a fellow man, I’m offering you a way to admit your struggles to one who shares some of them and to be free from the pretending that keeps us trapped. There’s nothing worse than pretending to be a man that has it all together while feeling inside everything is coming apart. One man to another: here’s a way out. Take it.

Hope in God

Know, Jack, that we stand ready to help you and Jill. We will stand with Jill to keep her safe, connected to the church family, and full of hope for her future with you. We will stand with you to live as the man of God he calls you to be, to repair your marriage, and to be free of the things that have led to this painful time. We serve a God for whom nothing is too hard. Let us walk by faith, obeying his word, and expecting his grace. Please do be in touch right away.

With hope and with Christ, Pastor T

‘Dear Jack: A Letter to an Abusive Husband’ is a post from Thabiti Anyabwile’s blog, Pure Church (http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/), and is used with permission.

 

(This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)