Whether you had an abortion ten years ago or yesterday, you’ll find hope and healing in this Christian counselor’s advice on how to deal with the guilt and grief of a past abortion. These words of wisdom are actually from a Bible-based counselor and a Christian author. Both have helped many Christian women heal spiritually and emotionally after an abortion.
You are not the only Christian struggling to forgive herself after a past abortion. A surprisingly high number of Christian women have abortions! According to Biblical counselor Julie Ganschow in Forgiveness After An Abortion, one million women each year in the United States have abortions and 200,000 of them are Bible believing women (Christians who identify themselves as born again evangelical, charismatic, or fundamentalist Christians). Different women have different reasons for ending a life, but almost all have one thing in common: they struggle to forgive themselves after having an abortion.
The only way to find true, deep, permanent healing after a past abortion is to be filled with the love, grace, peace, freedom, joy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. He died for you, so you could be forgiven and accepted. Ironically, His death on the cross is the key that will bring you life. God accepts and loves you at your worst — and that includes having an abortion even if you were a married Christian woman at the time.
You can live in freedom, joy, peace and healing after a past abortion — if you learn how to see the cross and yourself the way Jesus does. This probably won’t be an instant gift of healing and insight (though you might get lucky!). More likely, healing of guilt and grief after an abortion will require you to spend time in God’s presence, asking the Holy Spirit for strength and faith, and allowing the true meaning of the cross to sink into your heart and spirit.
Healing the Guilt and Grief of a Past Abortion
I’m currently writing about the Beatitudes (the Sermon on the Mount) in Matthew 5:3-10. In my last article — What to Remember When It’s Hard to Follow Jesus – Matthew 4 — I offered encouragement for Christians who struggle to stay strong in their faith.
In this article, which was inspired by a Tim Keller sermon on the Beatitudes called Coming to Christ, I describe four things I learned about forgiving yourself after an abortion:
- You aren’t the only one
- You’ve already done something worse than have an abortion
- God accepts and loves you at your worst
- How to forgive yourself for having an abortion
This is a long article, and will take some thought and prayer. You might want to share it with a Christian counselor or friend you trust. Ask for help and insight, for prayer and wisdom as you discern how it applies to your walk with Jesus Christ.
You aren’t the only one
“So many women are living with a past abortion that haunts their present life,” says Biblical counselor Julie Ganschow in “Forgiveness After An Abortion” on the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors website. “There are women who have been suffering, in some cases, with post-abortion effects for decades. The greatest number of women having abortions are in the 19-24 year-old age range. These women typically wait 7-10 years before reaching out for any help after their abortions. Many times they live for decades with the pain and the agony of post-abortive problems.”
Julie adds that the two biggest issues that all post-abortive women struggle with are guilt and fear. And, both guilt and fear are directly connected to God and being forgiven by God.
“Guilty feelings are a typical result of sinning against God or man, and we believe that a post-abortive woman has to deal with the real guilt that goes beyond just how she feels. In most cases, having an abortion is at the end of a long train of sinful decisions. So she has to begin by biblically addressing the things that lead to the pregnancy. Things such as being sexually immoral, lying to her parents or authority figure, perhaps lying to the boy or man with who she conceived the child. Chances are that she is making selfish decisions or is simply living a duplicitous life; acting one way in front of her church friends and family and then another way in the private areas of her life.”
If you’re tired of feeling constantly guilty about having a past abortion, it might be wise to talk to a Christian counselor about the spiritual and emotional causes that led to your pregnancy. But more important than the reason you got pregnant — and even the reason for having an abortion — is the reason you are forgiven and free in Jesus Christ.
Why Christine — a married Christian woman — had an abortion
This story is from Becky Pippert’s book, Hope Has Its Reasons: The Search to Satisfy Our Deepest Longings…
Years before, Christine and her fiancé (to whom she was now married) had been youth workers at a large conservative church. They were a well-known Christian couple and had an extraordinary impact on the young people. Everyone looked up to them and admired them tremendously. A few months before they were to be married, they began having sexual relations. That left them burdened enough with a sense of guilt and hypocrisy. But then she discovered she was pregnant.
“You can’t imagine the implications of admitting this to our church,” said Christine. “To confess that we were preaching one thing and living another would have been intolerable. The congregation was so conservative and had never been touched by any scandal. We felt they wouldn’t be able to handle knowing about our situation. Nor could we bear the humiliation.”
So Christine and her fiancé made the excruciating decision they have ever made: to have an abortion.
“My wedding day was the worst day of my entire life,” says Christine. “Everyone in the church was smiling at me, a bride beaming and innocent. But do you know what was going through my head as I walked down the aisle? All I could think was You’re a murderer. You were so proud that you couldn’t bear the shame and humiliation of being exposed for what you are. But I know what you are and so does God. You have murdered an innocent baby.”
Christine said she couldn’t believe she had an abortion, that she could do something so horrible. “How could I have murdered an innocent life? How is it possible I could do such a thing? I love my husband we have four beautiful children. I know the Bible says God forgives all of our sins. But I can’t forgive myself! I’ve confessed this sin thousand times, and I still feel such shame and sorrow. The thought that haunts me the most is, how could I murder an innocent life?”
You’ve already done something worse than have an abortion
Becky took a deep breath and told Christine what she was thinking: “I don’t know why you are so surprised. This isn’t the first time your sin has led to death, it’s the second.”
Christine looked at her in shock.
“My dear friend,” said Becky, “when we look at the cross, all of us show up as crucifiers. Religious or nonreligious, good or bad, aborters or nonaborters — all of us are responsible for the death of the only innocent who ever lived. Jesus died for all of our sins — past, present and future. Do you think there are any sins of yours that Jesus didn’t have to die for? The very sin of pride that caused you to destroy your child is what killed Christ as well. It does not matter that you weren’t there 2000 years ago. We all sent Jesus to the cross. Luther said we carry His very nails in our pockets. So if you have done it before, then why couldn’t you do it again?”
Christine stopped crying. She looked Becky straight in the eyes and said, “You’re absolutely right. I have done something even worse than killing my baby. My sin is what drove Jesus to the cross. It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there pounding in the nails, I’m still responsible for his death. I came to you saying I had done the worst thing imaginable. And you tell me I have done something even worse than that.”
God accepts and loves you at your worst
Christine realized that the cross reveals that she is far worse than she had ever imagined — and so are we. The cross also show that our evil has been absorbed and forgiven. If the worst thing any human can do is kill God’s son, and that can be forgiven, then how can anything else — even an abortion — not be forgiven?
“This time Christine wept not out of sorrow but from relief and gratitude,” says Becky. “I saw a woman literally transformed by a proper understanding of the cross.”
What was it that changed in Christine? How was she able to find healing from the guilt and grief of an abortion she had more than ten years earlier?
“I believe her deepest pain, even more than over her guilt and the death of her child, came from her deception,” writes Becky. “There were two parts to her deception. Why was she so dismayed by what she had done? It arose from her thinking, How could someone as nice and good as I do something so terrible? So the first change came in her basic understanding of herself. The second deception had to do with the nature of evil itself. Evil is hard to see because in its early forms it seems so innocuous and mundane. Who would’ve guessed that concern over what others would think of her (pride) would have led to the death of an unborn baby?
Evil always takes us by surprise. It always seems so small and inconsequential at the moment of choice — later leaving us amazed by the enormous ramifications of our choices. That is why Jesus’ cross brought Christine such relief. She saw its paradox: God’s amazing, extraordinary love insists on highlighting our evil so that it leaves us in no doubt that we are forgiven.
“Amazing as it sounds, we come with remorse and guilt over one thing and the Bible tells us we are far worse, much guiltier than we could ever have imagined,” writes Becky. “In the cross God demonstrates the deepest law of acceptance. To be convinced that I have been accepted, I must be convinced that I have been accepted at my worst. This is the greatest gift and intimate relationship can offer — to know that we have been accepted and forgiven in the full knowledge of who we are, an even greater knowledge than we have about ourselves. This is what the cross offers.”
Forgiving yourself for having an abortion
Learning how other women experienced healing and forgiveness after a past abortion may help you move forward. Reading books like Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion can be helpful because they give you different perspectives on God’s forgiveness.
In Worthy of Love Shadia Hrichi combines the power of storytelling with inspirational bible study. Each chapter begins with the author sharing a part of her own journey, followed by personal reflection questions, Scripture assignments, memory verses, prayer and journaling.
Jesus reveals through the cross that you are far worse than you ever imagined and yet forgiveness is offered to you.…even if you’re having a hard time forgiving yourself, even if you’re struggling to deal with grief and guilt after having an abortion, and even if you don’t think you’ll ever feel emotionally or spiritually healthy again.
“A woman who says she can’t forgive herself will say things like, ‘I know God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself,’” says Julie in Forgiveness After An Abortion. “This is ultimately a lack of faith in God. It is as though she is saying to herself and to God, “Your sacrifice was good enough for that sin, but not for this sin.” In doing so she is effectively negating the power of the sacrifice of Christ in her life…The Lord doesn’t say you are forgiven if you feel forgiven. And the Lord doesn’t say you are forgiven if you forgive yourself. He says, ‘You are forgiven.’ This is something that must be believed and received.”
The depth, mystery and heart of Jesus dying on the cross isn’t easy to understand — especially when you’re struggling to forgive yourself after a past abortion. Aborting a baby is traumatic and the emotional and spiritual consequences last for years. Get help. Read books like Becky’s Hope Has Its Reasons: The Search to Satisfy Our Deepest Longings. Talk to wise Christian counselors who have experience helping women heal the grief and guilt of past abortions.
Your comments — big or little, in agreement or not — are welcome below. What do you think about the idea that you’ve already done something worse than have an abortion? Do you believe God accepts and loves you at your worst? Can you forgive yourself for having an abortion?
With His love,
P.S. Are you struggling to find more freedom and joy in your life? Read How to Live Like You’re Forgiven and Free in Christ.