Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy” (Psalm 86:1).
Years ago, pregnancy care centers were typically called “crisis pregnancy centers.” I am not sure why most centers dropped the term “crisis,” but I suspect it had something to do with letting women know that these were places where they would find care—and peace—as they wrestled with difficult decisions and circumstances. And while I suspect that the renaming was wise, and perhaps necessary, the term “crisis” remains apt. An unexpected pregnancy is a crisis, or at least feels that way to many women and men in the midst of one.
Psalm 86 is a prayer of a man in crisis. Throughout it we hear the pleas of David: “Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy . . . preserve my life . . . save your servant . . . be gracious to me . . . listen to my plea for grace . . . in the day of trouble I call upon you . . .” Here is a man who often experienced crisis, several times having to flee for his life. He had two sons who separately sought to usurp the throne. And there was his adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband, to say nothing of the constant pressure of being a king. In other words, life was far from smooth sailing for David. And David is not alone.
Crisis is normal for the Christian life. It is normal for life, period. Failure, disappointments, the death of loved ones, broken relationships, addictions and bad decisions, insecurities and depression, and health crises are all part of the world in which we live, and therefore a part of our own lives, regardless of who we are or how close to God we may (or may not) be. One way to speak of the difference between the church and the world is to observe that, while all live in the midst of crisis, the Christian knows where to turn. In fact, not only does the Lord want His people to come to Him in crisis, He requires them to do so: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). Delivering His people is what it means for the Lord to be God. What is so encouraging about David’s life is that he came to God in all kinds of crises, even those of his own making. And the Lord received him, for that is what the Lord does. The name Jesus, after all, means salvation—“you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Before He is anything else to His people, the Lord is a savior.
Yet there is an impulse among many Christians—although certainly not all—to think that having come to Christ means we should now be free from crisis, and in particular crises of our own making. Usually this impulse is rooted in pride, our not wanting to admit that even as we have been claimed by Christ life is not always smooth. We still deal with sin. We are not yet who we want to be or know we ought to be. So we pretend things are well, even when they may not be. Not only does such pretence rob the church of peace, it erects a wall in front of those who are in real crisis, especially those with crises of their own making. But what is the church if not those of us who experience crises, even self-inflicted ones, and have found peace—not because we’ve been good, but because we’ve been delivered. We are people who are learning to trust God in the midst of crisis, even when a crisis may not be readily lifted.
What does this have to do with abortion? Not every woman in a crisis pregnancy has access to a pregnancy center. But she should have access to a church. Or a Christian neighbor or friend. Will she come to us? Does she know that God has loved messy, tired, and rebellious people—like you and me—in Christ Jesus? Is the fact that Jesus is a savior evident not just in the doctrine of the church, but in the lives of her people? Does the woman in crisis believe that the church also knows crisis? If she does, she may turn in our direction. If she doesn’t, she may turn elsewhere.