Pleading for Life Outside an Abortion Clinic
We live in a crazy world. There is so much going on around us—personally, communally, nationally, internationally—and it can be overwhelming. I must constantly reacquaint myself with the character of God and his sovereign work in all things, or I can begin to feel like everything is spinning out of control.
There are days when the questions seem so numerous and the answers so scarce. But I am coming to realize that answering the who question usually satisfies my desire to answer the why question. I can think of no place where my questions run more rampant, but my answer proves truer and more satisfying, than at the abortion clinic I sometimes visited in Orlando.
The Daily War Outside an Abortion Clinic
Before visiting the abortion clinic for the first time, I was greatly encouraged and sobered by the stories I heard of the daily war that rages on the sidewalk outside that building. Yet, such stories did not compare with the firsthand experience of being there. It is one thing to hear about spiritual warfare; it is quite another to see it.
The first reality that struck me was the truth of the apostle Paul’s words,
We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12).
I have never experienced the front lines of spiritual warfare in the same way that I experienced it there. The small front yard between the sidewalk and the front door of the clinic is indeed the meeting ground of light and darkness.
The Meeting Ground of Light and Darkness
Just to be clear, when I speak of spiritual warfare, I am not speaking of visions of angels and demons fighting, strange incantations, or exorcisms. What I am speaking of is seeing the devil's lies take hold of sinful hearts, urging them to take the lives of their children, hardening them to the truth of God's word, causing them to lash out at us as if we were condemning them rather than offering them hope, causing them to despair as those who are without the hope of Christ.
We do not see with our own eyes any demonic activity. We do not simply confront frightened, confused, and stubborn men and women who have decided to kill their children. Instead, we confront people who believe the lies of the one who hates God and who would have such sinners dwell in darkness forever. We are yelled at, cursed at, spit at, threatened, and receive every other manner of hostility, not because we are trying to save a life, but because we are trying to save souls—we are confronting the darkness with the most glorious light. The powers of this darkness are great, and they will not give up their prisoners easily.
Standing Up to Supernatural Opposition
This reality, on the surface, is most discouraging. How can we stand up in the face of such supernatural opposition? What hope do we have of success when we are speaking to people who are chained in such deep darkness? Why would I try to convince someone of the truth when the fruit of my efforts is more animosity? Such questions often arise as I read and pray and talk to people there. I have the most acute feeling of inadequacy from the time I step out of the car and walk up the driveway to the time I step back into the car to drive away. I'm afraid, overwhelmed, and uncomfortable.
Some days seem like a losing battle. Tens of women come to get abortions, and just as many leave having obtained them. The truth is spoken for hours to hearts with no apparent result; the ones who are willing to talk and pray with us and seem to be on the fence end up killing their babies. Yet, on those days, we are encouraged by the reminder of the most wonderful truth—the sovereignty and power of God.
Only the Power of the Gospel Can Save
Logic and convincing arguments do not save sinners; it is only the power of the gospel that can do that. We do not—or at least should not—stand on that sidewalk and plead because we think we are eloquent enough to convince these people on our own. If we were to do that, we would quickly find ourselves overwhelmed by the power of the one who strives to keep them in darkness. In ourselves, we have no light powerful enough to disperse the darkness we face in that building. We do, however, have Christ Jesus who is light, and nothing can resist his power.
John Barros, who leads the ministry at the abortion clinic, has said that if he did not believe in divine sovereignty, he could not do this work for more than a few minutes. After being there even a few times, I agree with him. If we believed that it depended on us to save these people and their babies from the darkness in which they stand, hope would quickly be lost. We stand there in hope knowing that God has ordained all things and he will make our prayers, hymns, and conversations effectual as he sees fit. The success of our efforts is not a matter of numbers, but is a matter of faithfully speaking the truth to those who sorely need it. The results are wholly in the hands of the Lord.
This does not mean that the results have no effect on our mood; the days of seeing no one respond to us are indeed disheartening and take their toll, but they do not cause us to despair. When we spend hours pleading with no result, we do not go home and look for a better method of going about our work. We simply go out the next time and faithfully speak the same word of truth. We have not failed when our labor bears no apparent fruit, for the one in whose name we speak cannot fail. Certainly, he works in mysterious ways, and we often do not understand how all things work for his glory. But the foundation of our operation must be one of full trust that he does all things well. If we stray from this truth, we will soon lose strength to carry on.
God's Spirit Working in Hearts
The examples of God’s power at work at this clinic are numerous, and a whole book could be written on them. However, I will mention just two here. The first is the power of God working through John Barros, the abortion ministry leader. He has seen many fruitless days go by—days when everyone turns away from and not to the Word, and his fervent prayers seemingly go unanswered. Yet, he preaches the same gospel and prays to the same God, undaunted by the hostility he faces. This is not because he has confidence in himself, as he has expressly said many times, but because he knows the gospel of which he is speaking and the God to whom he is praying. But it is not simply the confidence with which he speaks that displays the power of God, but also the humility and care he demonstrates when he interacts with others.
The second example is seen in those John reaches with the gospel. Usually, all of us pray for a while and John preaches. We pray again that the Word would be effective, and sing and pray some more. This seems to be the perfect order. Often when we are singing, the people inside keep looking through the curtains, and sometimes they come outside and listen to us. John says that it is the singing that really connects with the women inside. I remember one woman was quite unfriendly upon arrival and wanted nothing to do with us. I believe she even said that if we loved her, we would stay away and let her do what she wanted because we didn’t understand her situation. But as John preached and we sang, she came out onto the porch for a smoke, but it seemed the real reason was that she wanted to hear what was being said. Eventually she came over and asked John to pray with her, which he did, and at the end of it all she chose to keep her baby. There is something about having the Word presented and to be pleaded with to receive the gospel—and then to have that followed up by hymns—that works to soften hardened hearts. It is beautiful to see the powerful work of God taking place right before our eyes.
Standing Firm through the Power of God
At the beginning of this post, I quoted Ephesians 6:12, which states that we struggle against spiritual powers. This is the indicative—the reality of the battle in which we are engaged. However, this verse does not stand alone, and what immediately follows in the next verse is the imperative: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Eph. 6:13). How are we to stand firm against and resist this powerful enemy? By taking up the full armor of God. We do not go into battle on our own but only through the power of Christ Jesus who has defeated all His enemies and put them in subjection to Himself. He has secured the victory.
Through my experience at the clinic, though it has been limited, I have been given a new sense of just how powerless we are without Christ to defeat this enemy who constantly rages against us. He is not content to go quietly, nor does he easily surrender those who are in his grasp. Yet, I have also been given a new sense of just how powerful our Savior truly is. He is indeed the Victor and often gains the victory in the most profound way. I have been reminded that I am less—but also that he is far more. Praise be to God for overcoming the darkness with his most glorious light.