For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin (Psalm 32:3-5).
I doubt David, the writer of the psalm, is speaking figuratively here. It has long been known (and medical science confirms this) that there is a strong link between our spiritual/psychological welfare and our physical well-being. David is certainly not alone in feeling himself waste away, his strength drying up, under the burden of guilt.
Our culture says much about the health risks of smoking, sugar, fried foods and high-fructose corn syrup, obesity, stress, and the like. We don’t hear much about abortion, despite that roughly 1/3 of American women will have had an abortion by age 45. But consider the following. Physically speaking, over 140,000 annually women have immediate, and serious, complications from abortion. Abortion leads to an increased risk of breast, cervical, ovarian, and rectal cancers, of complications in future pregnancies, and possibly infertility. Psychologically speaking, women who have undergone abortion are four times more likely to die in the twelve months following an abortion than those who bore children, and are six times more likely to commit suicide. Abortion leads to a higher incidence of drug and alcohol use, insomnia and nightmares, and eating disorders—all of which have obvious, visible, physical effects.
Abortion is heavy weight. And it is a weight often borne alone. Silently. But its effects are loud. They cry out in addiction, depression, anxiety, despair, isolation, and anger. If roughly 1/3 of the women in our congregations over the age of 45 have undergone abortion (to say nothing of the younger women of childbearing years), how many of these addictions and depressions and anxieties might find their root there?
The good news is that the Gospel lifts heavy weights. Jesus came to give rest to the weary and heavy-laden. To lift burdens, not to impose them. In that vein, let me make two suggestions.
First, make it plain that Jesus forgives abortion. Specifically. Sometimes our reluctance to speak about abortion as a sin comes from an understandable concern not to burden women who are already burdened by guilt from abortion. However, that is the point—the burden is already there. By being clear that abortion is sin, we make it equally clear that there is a Savior who died to bear the sin of the world, including abortion. Or, to say it another way, by failing to speak of the sin of abortion, we withhold the message of a Savior from a massive group of weary and heavy-laden women and men, who are literally finding out that the wages of sin is death. But Jesus came to bring life.
Secondly, we need to understand who we are in Christ. Notice the final sentence of the psalm. “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Who are the righteous? Those who trust the Lord. Make sure that our people who have confessed their sins, whatever those sins are, know that they are, in Christ, the righteous. Then, and only then, will we will be able to shout for joy.