One of the most difficult aspects of abortion sidewalk ministry is dealing with the inevitable criticism you will encounter. The criticism is hard enough coming from the “pro-choice” group or the abortion determined families. We are sometimes blindsided by the attacks from fellow Christians. Surprisingly, many people who claim to love Jesus do not feel it is appropriate for Christians to be trying to speak to abortion-determined women at the abortion center.
The criticism is often the same: Don’t you have anything better to do with your time? Why do you think you should be allowed to harass women? Don’t you think they KNOW all their options/fetal development/what happens in an abortion? Why don’t you volunteer at places that stop women from coming here in the first place? Will you be paying for the baby’s college education when she grows up?
Criticism is certainly an attempt to deter us from being there. They are attempting to discourage us. The questions are barbs, aimed at making us question what we know God has called us to do. This strategy is as old as humankind when Satan first tempted Adam and Eve with questions that challenged the wisdom and goodness of God.
An even greater difficulty for sidewalk counselors occurs when the discouragement is ineffective and the opposition moves to intimidation. The intimidation is always verbal but is sometimes physical, as well. It can lead to outright aggression and assault.
This is not the best subject for attracting volunteers; however, it must be addressed. It is a reality for anyone engaging in sidewalk ministry. If you are considering sidewalk ministry, and the thought of constant criticism deters you, remember this truth: “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
While criticism is an ever-present problem, it is not one that should dissuade you from the call to serve as a voice to the voiceless. There are strategies that help overcome the discouragement and things to remember to keep your focus one of optimism in serving God.
Truths to keep in mind to fight discouragement
- Others’ opinions, actions, or words are not under your control: Focus on what you CAN control. You can speak as God has directed you. You can be prepared with information, knowledge, resources to feel competent in what you are offering. You can be a Godly witness in the face of opposition. You can show up in obedience to God!
- All biblical heroes faced criticism and opposition and struggle: David’s own son tried to usurp him. Hezekiah was taunted and ridiculed while rebuilding the wall. Paul was stoned, shipwrecked and jailed. Moses’ people grumbled and complained and disobeyed for 40 years. Jesus was rejected, scorned, criticized and crucified.
- Each of those heroes turned to God and recognized their struggle was not against flesh and blood: Attacks are often not personal. They are usually fueled by anger or convicted consciences that what is happening at abortion centers is evil. Poor understanding of theology or God’s call can fuel criticism, as well as guilt that fellow Christians are not doing what they should be doing to counter the horror of abortion.
- None of those heroes backed down but went on with what they had been called to do no matter what opposition or struggle they faced: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7. If you give up in the face of criticism, the devil wins. Hate him more than you fear the effects of criticism. Be determined to give God the victory. Ask for His strength and His guidance.
Practical ways to fight discouragement
- Find some way to reconnect with God (I kayak, walk, or bicycle alone in nature)
- Be in the word
- Be in church
- Share struggles with godly friends and counsel
- Encourage others: Force yourself to find the good in the midst of the struggle and spur others on with your motivating, optimistic words.
- Look for the miracles, no matter how small, that God displays when you are on the sidewalk. Might be something as small as a passerby giving a thumbs up.
- Always prepare each morning for battle. Immerse yourself in Scripture. Think of what God is telling you that day for the battles you will face that very day. Put on the full armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
Every day I go to the abortion center, I pray for specific outcomes:
- “Lord, bring me a conflicted woman.”
- “Lord, give me the opportunity to share the Gospel.”
- “Lord, help me to speak with the words you would have me speak.”
- “Lord, let me be a sign to someone who has prayed for a sign.”
This doesn’t always mean that God sends an answer specific to my request, but when He does, it is a tremendous boost to my faith! It also helps to remind me that ultimately, the Lord is responsible for the results and He deserves all the glory.
I have found over the years that the more confident I feel in victory on the sidewalk, the more victories I seem to be privileged to see. Our bold confidence in God is very attractive to a world that is hopeless and desperate. I also have learned that while I KNOW there is fruit and victory when we proclaim God’s truth, I may not always see it; however, I TRUST it is still there.
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.