[Christianity Today, April 24, 1994]
In a year which has seen many discouragements for the pro‑life movement, March 10 marks a particularly low point; it is the anniversary of the killing of abortionist David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida. When the pro‑choice movement tragically gained a martyr, they gained another boost in the fashionability of their cause. And those of us who oppose both abortion and murder must wonder once again why God allows these setbacks to occur.
Consider last month’s festivities in Pensacola. Headlined by the popular group Pearl Jam, the pro‑choice movement hosted a "Rock For Choice" concert, selling out the 10,000‑seat auditorium. Meanwhile, across town, youth pastor David Hutchinson struggled to pull off a "Positive Life" rally in a high school auditorium. He wanted to show the world that pro‑lifers are overwhelmingly committed to not killing anybody‑‑unborn babies or abortionists‑‑and want to help women find alternatives to abortion. A few hundred showed up.
The sigh that wells up from pro‑life chests at this scenario feels very familiar. Why are we always the small, weak, struggling movement? Why do we so often come off like nerds? Why can’t our leaders walk onto a stage to a burst of glittering lights while 10,000 applaud?
After 20 years of seeing success slip out of our grasp, maybe it is time to stop being surprised at the unfairness of it all. Maybe it is time to wonder if God has lessons for us to learn in this time of fasting from jubilant victory. While pro‑lifers feel deeply that God loves the babies lost to abortion, we may have forgotten that God loves us just as much. We may not recognize that love because we like to think of God as a pal, always trying to make us happy. We forget that he is our Father, who "disciplines whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." (Heb. 12:6)
For now, our chastisement seems to entail having to pay for a deadly mistake, having our words distorted and ridiculed, and seeing political victory repeatedly go to our opponents. It was, after all, within the power of God to give the pro‑life movement easy, early victory within months of Roe v. Wade. We cannot say why he did not. But as the long years pass without the victory for which we have hoped, perhaps we ought to look for blessings we never thought to pray for: humility, broken pride, loss of trust in our own power.
These are not the kind of blessings that make it to our prayer lists. We prefer the more utilitarian blessing of power to change things; power that is able to fix what is broken. Someone once said that when we imagine God dealing with the world, we think of a giant hammer driving a giant nail. This is, in fact, how God did heal his broken world. But he let that nail be driven into the hand of his Son.
When we dare to do God’s work, we enter into that same mystery: strength perfected in weakness, dying to self in order to live. Not that working in the pro‑life movement is such a grand martyrdom. Most of us still live in homes with VCRs and microwaves; we vote and order out pizza. (That God has not exposed us to greater trials may indicate his estimation of our generation’s capacity for endurance.) But we should learn to call even our small taste of disappointment a blessing, just as Jesus did: "Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake…Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you…" (Matt. 5:10‑11).
Our story doesn’t end at the point of loss and powerlessness, regardless of the celebration by our opponents in Pensacola. It ends at a banquet table, a gathering of joy. We may imagine that gathering, uniting pro‑life laborers with all the babies they saved as well as the babies they were unable to save. We may imagine people who shared the work in earthly life, old friends and strangers, talking about their work on earth done in the public eye and hidden in humble settings. And we can imagine them saying to each other with joyful amazement, "Remember how discouraged we were for a while?"
Throughout history, God has used the uncomfortable tools of rejection and persecution to change his people and to change his world. It was the path he chose, himself, on the Cross. Should we not expect to travel that path as well?