By / Oct 31

Most pastors likely answer the call to ministry with great expectations of what the Lord will use them to do. And while pastoral ministry is rewarding, many pastors can often find themselves in seasons of burnout and discouragement. Pastor Mike Minter, author of Stay the Course: A Pastor’s Guide to Navigating the Restless Waters of Ministry, has had a long and faithful vocation in ministry and shares words of wisdom and encouragement to pastors walking through turbulent waters.

Elizabeth Bristow: In your experience, what happens to bring a pastor to the point of burnout?

Mike Minter: There are a number of contributing factors that conspire to bring down a pastor. Too much self reliance can be a major issue. The mentality of “I can do this by myself” or the belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness, when in fact, it is a sign of pride. It can be lonely when you’re at the top, and without strong accountability burnout occurs in a matter of time. Carrying internal secrets leads to heavy burdens, and if a pastor is struggling and has no one to turn to, he is on a path to emotional trauma.

EB: What role does accountability play in helpful discussions surrounding ministry burnout? 

MM: The Lord has made it clear that we are to bear one another’s burdens. (Gal. 6:2) We can’t do that unless we share in them. Forty-eight years ago, a pastor friend of mine came to me over lunch and said, “This ministry stuff is hard.” We had both planted churches at the same time. I thought little of his comment at the time until he had a nervous breakdown the next day and never returned to ministry. To this day, I wish I would’ve acted on his comment. Perhaps I could have helped prevent such a loss. I trust this illustration shows the need for pastoral accountability.

EB: In the book, you say the state of pastoral burnout can lead to the imploding in moral failure. What steps should be taken to prevent this from happening? At what point should pastors seek help?

MM: “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). A pastor needs to seek help every day through prayer and introspection to see if he is progressing in his sanctification. If he realizes he is slipping, it is time to get help. Most pastors see themselves as specialists in giving help but often struggle to receive help. It’s crucial for pastors to take a daily inventory of their hearts to help keep them refreshed in the Spirit and stay alert to signs of moral decay.

EB: After your long and faithful career in pastoral ministry, what advice would you give to someone just starting out? 

MM: My number one piece of advice is to put away all expectations. Dreaming of having thousands come to hear you preach is like believing you will win a gold medal at the Olympics. The difference between expectations and reality is disappointment. Give your expectations to the Lord since he is the One who said he would build his Church. Secondly, seek humility above personal ability.

EB: How does today’s cultural climate, with all its vitriol and expectations, contribute to ministry burnout? 

MM: I believe the internet [can be] the greatest tool of the enemy’s attack. Social media has put many pastors in depression by reading about others who started a church in their basement a month ago and are now renting a 2,000-seat auditorium. Vitriol is not at all pleasing to Christ. I have never been on social media, and suppose it can be used for good, but I know many who have suffered at its hands. 

By / Jul 19

My father died Feb, 11, 2022, in the presence of family, but in the care of strangers. He was in memory care for his dementia. Although we were with him 12 hours a day, family members were limited in what we could do. We could not provide his medications, treat his symptoms, or offer a meaningful prognosis. We were not trained physicians, nurses, or caregivers, so we had to rely on strangers. They were, to a person, professional, compassionate, caring, and competent, but they were strangers nonetheless. Prior to his admission, they did not know my dad or us, and we did not know them. This is more often the case these days than not in the context of contemporary health care.

Prior to 1880, in what seems like another world, few people had even heard of a hospital, much less an assisted living community or memory care. When family members got sick, they were cared for by their kinfolk or a neighbor. If there was a doctor nearby, he might visit the home as needed, but he might be miles away. Only the largest of cities—Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston—had a hospital. With the growth in population in the United States and the development of medical technologies, however, more hospitals were needed.

As Charles Rosenberg shows in his volume, The Care of Strangers, The Rise of America’s Hospital System, in many ways the modern hospital owes its origins to Judeo-Christian compassion. Evidence of the vast expansion of faith-based hospitals is seen in the legacy of their names: Good Samaritan, St. Vincent’s, St. Luke’s, Mt. Sinai, Presbyterian, Mercy, Baptist, Methodist, and Beth Israel. These were all charitable hospitals, some of which began as foundling hospitals to care for abandoned children.

Similarly, in Europe, great hospitals were built under the auspices of the same tradition. Indeed, an ancient French term for hospital is hôtel-Dieu (“hostel of God”). In 1863, the Société Genevoise d’Utilité Publique called on Swiss Christian businessman Jean Henri Dunant to form a relief organization for caring for wartime wounded. Thus, the emblem of the Red Cross was codified in the Geneva Convention one year later. In Britain, Dame Cicely Saunders founded the hospice movement by establishing St. Christopher’s Hospice in the south of London in 1967.

In his impressive history, Medicine & Health Care in Early Christianity, Gary Ferngren observes: 

The Christian understanding of the imago Dei, viewed in light of the doctrine of the Incarnation, was to have four important consequences for practical ethics that became increasingly apparent as Christianity began to penetrate the world of the Roman empire (p. 98).

Those consequences included:

  1. The impetus for Christian charity and philanthropy.
  2. The basis for the believe that every human life has absolute intrinsic value.
  3. A new perception of the body and indeed of the human personality.
  4. A redefinition of the poor.

The concept of the church’s care of “the poor” argues Ferngren, 

was basic to the founding of the earliest hospitals. The hospital was, in origin and conception, a distinctively Christian institution, rooted in Christian concepts of charity and philanthropy. There were no pre-Christian institutions in the ancient world that served the purpose that Christian hospitals were created to serve, that is, offering charitable aid, particularly health care, to those in need (p. 124).

The “care of strangers” is an extraordinary legacy of the Christian tradition. Caring for those who are ill is foundational to an acknowledgement of every individual being made in the image of God, an expression of Christian hospitality, and an extension of neighbor love. These are virtues both deep and wide in Christianity. After all, the apostle John said, “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17); and James reminded his readers that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

To be crude, it’s one thing to aid a family member in the bathroom; it’s something else entirely to do so for a stranger. Over and over again, I asked my dad’s caregivers why they did what they did. Every one said it was a calling. They felt called to serve in such a sacrificial way those who could not care for themselves. And more often than not, they confessed that it was their love of Christ and love for those he came to redeem that was their greatest motivation.

I thank God for the rich legacy of Christian caregiving we have been entrusted by our forefathers and foremothers. Their service has shown us what it means to love God by loving our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37). Most of all, I am for those selfless strangers who were called to care for my dad in his time of greatest need. In so doing, they faithfully upheld the inherent dignity given to him by his Creator and gave our family an invaluable peace of mind that Dad was in good, kind, and caring hands. 

By / Jul 11

Your wife feels lonely after two years of COVID-induced isolation. Your husband was recently laid off and feels rejected and insecure. Your wife struggles with depression and is having a particularly rough day. Your husband just lost his father, and his heart is bleeding. Your spouse is emotionally suffering. What do you do? 

In a broken world that only seems to be breaking more with each passing day, the question is important. How do you minister to a suffering spouse who is riddled with heartache, hopelessness, anxiety, angst, disappointment, doubt, or despair? A spouse who is overwhelmed, overworked, or overstressed? A spouse who is battling fear, guilt, shame, exhaustion, grief, or a plethora of other soul-testing emotions? 

What do you do when your spouse is suffering on the inside?

What not to do

First, let me share three things not to do:

1. Fix. Don’t put on your relational tool belt and offer quick fixes. It makes your spouse feel like a problem to be solved, not a person to be loved. It’s dehumanizing. It certainly doesn’t mirror the way that God treats us in our emotional distress. He rarely gives us quick fixes. He meets us in our pain, links arms with us, and walks with us through our suffering. Do the same for your spouse. 

2. Make it about you. It’s easy to make your spouse’s emotional pain about you. How does the pain make you feel? What impact is the pain having on your life? How did you possibly contribute to the pain? STOP. Stop making your spouse’s suffering about you. It’s impossible to love your spouse well when your eyes are fixated on yourself. Adjust your lenses, and focus on your spouse. Not on you. 

3. Make it not about you. It’s also easy to check out when your spouse is hurting inside. Why do we check out? We don’t know what to say. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to help. So we walk away. Don’t. Stay connected. You are one flesh with your spouse (Gen. 2:24). Just like shedding a hurting body part is not an option, abandoning your hurting spouse is not an option.

What you should do: BLESS  

So what should you do when your spouse is in emotional distress? Allow me to provide a step-by-step framework. I call it BLESS. It stands for Be, Listen, Empathize, Speak, Solve. Before I explain, I want to share three disclaimers:

First, this is a framework—a rule of thumb. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. Every spouse is different. Every situation is different. People are complex. Life is complex. It won’t work for everybody—just most people in most situations.

Second, order is important. If you go out of order, you may frustrate your spouse at best or cause additional emotional damage at worst. 

Finally, you might only do the first one, two, three, or four steps. That’s okay. Not every situation calls for all five steps. Be prepared to stop at any point in the process.

Be: Sometimes all your spouse needs is your presence. Not your listening ear. Not your words. Not your actions. Your spouse only needs to know that you are there. You are not going anywhere. Your shoulder is there to cry on. Your hand is there to hold. You are there to hug and be hugged if necessary. You. Are. There. 

I suspect this might be tough—to simply be present without saying or doing anything. It is. It requires self-control. It requires patience. It requires you to relinquish control and know that God is God (Ps. 46:10); that his love and sovereignty are ruling and reigning over your spouse in that moment. It requires you to surrender your spouse into Christ’s hands, which are far more capable hands than yours.  

Listen: If your spouse speaks, close your mouth and listen (James 1:19). Concentrate on what is being said; not only the words but also the body language. Don’t think about what you are going to say. Don’t think about how your spouse should feel. Don’t think about how to make the pain go away. Don’t think about anything except what your spouse is saying. Just. Listen.

Empathize: If, and only if, you’ve thoroughly listened to your spouse, you may now open your mouth. What should you say? Precisely what your spouse said—in your own words. In other words, empathize with your spouse. Speak what you heard back in a way that makes your spouse say, “Yes, you get me.” If you aren’t sure what your spouse just said, ask questions to gain clarity. 

Why is empathy important? It makes your spouse feel known—the first half of the core human desire to be fully known and fully loved. It lets your spouse know that you are tracking, that you care, and that you are, once again, 100% present. It’s healing. It’s restorative. It says, “I know you, and you are worthy to be known.”

Speak: If, and only if, you’ve been present, listened, and empathized with your spouse, it may be time to speak words of life into your spouse’s heart (Prov. 18:21). You might share a passage of Scripture. You might offer a nugget of theological truth. You might give a word of encouragement. You might even (and tread lightly here) tell a joke! The point is that your words should be specifically calculated to build up your spouse (Eph. 4:29). They should infuse life. They should revive, refresh, and restore. They should heal your spouse’s heart.

Solve: If, and only if, you’ve been present, listened, empathized, and spoken life-giving words, it may be time to offer advice. Perhaps you suggest a list of action items that will assuage your spouse’s pain. Perhaps you point out ways that your spouse is unknowingly and unintentionally exacerbating the pain. Perhaps you offer a gentle admonishment if you see sin in your spouse’s life. Again, be careful. You don’t want to unintentionally wound your spouse with an ill-timed solution. One helpful tip is to ask if your spouse wants a solution. If the answer is yes, then proceed. If not, put your tool belt back in the closet. 

Conclusion

Be. Listen. Empathize. Speak. Solve. In that order. It’s hard. It’s unnatural. It takes discipline. You might not see immediate results. But that’s okay. It isn’t about results. It’s about love. It’s about incarnating the love of Christ and about being a blessing to your suffering spouse. 

Questions for reflection

  1. Why is it so hard to enter your spouse’s emotional pain without offering solutions? Why is it so hard for you to listen without speaking? What in your heart prevents you from following the sequential steps of BLESS?
  2. Have you ever been in a state of emotional turmoil, and somebody offered you a trite platitude or a quick fix? How did that make you feel? 
  3. Psalm 139 tells us that we are fully known and fully loved by God. He sees and understands us and still loves us. Why is this so healing? What can you do to make your suffering spouse feel this way?
By / Jun 27

Many ministry leaders live at a pace that is impossible to keep. Unrelenting busyness might feel necessary, but it can lead to chronic stress and burnout that hinders our love for God and others. Instead of adding more to our long to-do list, counselors Eliza Huie and Esther Smith seek to guide readers in how to think biblically about every aspect of life in their new book, The Whole Life: 52 Weeks of Biblical Self-Care. Huie and Smith hope to give Christians a framework for biblical self-care to help them live for Christ by stewarding well the spiritual, emotional, relational, and physical areas of life. Below, they discuss and right understanding of self-care and why it can enable us to minister more faithfully. 

Jill Waggoner: How is the term “self-care” so often misunderstood in the Christian community? In reality, why is it a biblical concept? 

Eliza Huie and Esther Smith: The term “self-care” has been broadly used in secular circles and wellness platforms in various ways. From expressing healthy priorities to using it as means to justify a self-centered and indulgent lifestyle, people’s understanding of what self-care entails differs. More self-centered forms of self-care have likely contributed to concerns that Christians have when they hear the term. However, another contributing factor is likely a wrong understanding that a life of self-sacrifice means you should not care about your own needs. This is not what the Bible teaches nor is it what Jesus modeled. 

Self-care is a biblical concept when we consider it in light of three things that are reflected in our definition of biblical self-care. We define biblical self-care as “the practice of drawing on divinely given resources to steward our whole lives for personal enrichment, the good of others, and the glory of God.” Biblical self-care is about stewarding everything God gives us. This includes resources such as our time, energy, health, relationships, skills, and abilities. These things enrich our lives so that we can do good to others and glorify God. 

JW: What have you seen in your counseling experience that confirmed the need for this book? 

EH & ES: Being in the helping field of work, we were both aware of the high levels of burnout experienced by counselors and caregivers. An article from The American Psychological Association states that 50% of mental health workers report high exhaustion and cynicism. Ministry workers don’t fair much better. One study completed by the Schaeffer Institute indicates that 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month. These pastors state their primary reasons for leaving is due to experiences of depression, burnout, and overwork. Statistics like these underscore what we know: it is very easy to put the critical needs of others above our own need for rest and refreshment. 

We also saw the need for this book in our counseling practice. Whether it was the college student feeling unable to keep up, the homemaker experiencing exhaustion, or the professional burning the candle at both ends, we saw people who had little concept of how to wisely care for themselves. When they did take steps to care for themselves, they often felt guilty about it. In light of all this, we knew a book like The Whole Life was absolutely essential.

JW: Personally, how did you come to realize self-care was a necessity? What are a few of the things each of you do regularly to take care of yourselves?

EH: For me, it is easy to say yes and hard to say no. Much of this, I believe, comes from a good desire to help others as well as having a natural entrepreneurial personality. I love being a part of building something. Whether I’m investing my energies into a project or a person, I jump in with both feet. But this is not without a cost, and I was starting to feel that cost. I began to feel overwhelmed, and stress started to impact my body. In addition, I felt the negative impact of the emotional stress I was carrying in various ways including difficulty sleeping and other health challenges. I started feeling like the act of spinning many plates was normal. As much as I hate to admit it, I did not want to slow down, but I knew a frenetic pace was not healthy physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually. 

A couple of things I do to care for myself so that I can serve others well are to get up early and read and listen to the Bible. Reading while I listen allows me to really focus on God’s Word. My mind can easily wander, so this is one thing I do to ensure that my time in the Word is not distracted. Undistracted time with God seems to set a tone for the day for me. I also try to spend time in nature as often as I can. I find breathing in the fresh air and noticing the beauty of whatever I happen to encounter on my daily walk revitalizes me. Sometimes my husband joins me on these walks, and we both have found it beneficial to our personal and relational health as it affords us time to slow down together. 

ES: Over 10 years ago, my life was interrupted by chronic pain and autoimmune illness. It soon became apparent that I would need to make major life adjustments to manage my symptoms. After years of searching for answers, I was diagnosed with lupus, and since then, I have found it necessary to slow down.

One area of self-care that is especially important for me to regularly practice is a balance between exercise and rest. Most days I find time for gentle exercise. Every day, I make sure I find time to rest my body. This combination of movement and slowing down is essential for my body and mind to function at their best. Another important self-care practice for me is reading. From slowly reading through a devotional to spending the afternoon with a good novel, I find that various types of reading are beneficial for my well-being.

JW: How was The Whole Life written to be used?

EH & ES: The book is divided into 52 short chapters. The chapters cover six essential areas of our lives including faith, health, purpose, community, work, and rest. Taking the time to go deep into each of these areas over the course of a year allows the biblical application of self-care to become embedded into our rhythms and routines. We did not want this book to be read and set aside. We hope people will read it with intention and create space to apply what they learn. While the book is meant to be read and applied alone, it has great potential to be useful in group settings as well. 

JW: Stewardship is a word you use often in The Whole Life. Usually, we think of stewardship in reference to how we spend our money, but how does stewardship apply to every part of our lives?

EH & ES: The Bible does not limit stewardship to our finances. We are called to be good stewards of God’s varied graces (1 Pet. 4:10). This includes ourselves, holistically. God gave us bodies that need care. He gave us souls that need attention. He put us in relationships that require time and effort. He designed us to think and feel deeply about our life circumstances, and we must wisely manage our responses to those circumstances. Being good stewards means we are aware of how we are doing in all these areas of life, not only how we spend our money but how we spend our time and energy. Stewardship includes all the various parts of our lives that the Lord has given to us. 

JW: Why do some of us feel like we have to keep pushing ourselves, even when we become physically burned out? How have we confused biblical admonitions to justify this behavior?

EH & ES: Pushing through to the point of burnout happens for a variety of reasons. One common reason is that people find themselves stuck in busy schedules and simply aren’t sure how to change. Our culture makes it easy to fall into overwork. To a large degree, peoples’ ability to work and be productive is equated with their value. Working hard makes us feel competent and worthy. At times, we push through out of false guilt, legalistic tendencies, savior complexes, or because we feel uncomfortable at the mere thought of not being productive. When signs of burnout surface, many people push forward because they underestimate the consequences of this choice or because they have never seen a more balanced life modeled to know what it might look like. 

The question we need to consider is this. Do we really think working in that way is biblical? Or do we just use that idea as an excuse? The most common Scripture people use to support pushing through to the point of burnout is Jesus’ encouragement to take up our cross and deny ourselves. As Christians we are to live self-sacrificial lives, give to those in need, and not grow weary in doing good works. We use these commands to justify overwork. In reality, these commands can exist alongside our human need for spiritual rest and physical refreshment (1 Kings 19:4-8). 

JW: Why is emotional health so often neglected? Why is there such an embarrassment and stigma attached to getting professional help?

EH & ES: Many people neglect emotional health simply because they don’t realize how important it is. Some Christians circles view emotions as dangerous or deceitful experiences that only serve to lead us astray. This fear can prevent people from discovering how important emotions are to our ability to connect with others and navigate struggles. It can also lead people to shut down their emotions or become frightened when they struggle to manage them. 

Professional help is stigmatized for a variety of reasons. The inability to handle emotional or mental problems is often associated with feelings of weakness and failure. Many people believe that if someone only prays enough or recites the right Scripture, then problems will be bearable. In this context, needing professional help feels shameful. People feel defeated that their faith was not strong enough to get them through the struggle. However, God never designed us to walk through life alone. He designed us to live in community and to find help and support from others as well as from him and his Word.

JW: How important is community to living an overall healthy life?

EH & ES: It’s hard to overstate how important community is to living a healthy life. Most of us take community for granted and don’t realize its importance until it isn’t available to us. For many people, the importance of community was highlighted as they experienced isolation throughout the pandemic. People saw that the inability to worship in person affects us spiritually. The absence of regular human contact increases depression and anxiety. Loneliness impacts our physical health. Long periods of isolation highlight how much we need community to live a healthy life. 

We weren’t created to be alone. On the contrary, we need each other. Conversations, physical contact, and human presence are essential parts of self-care. We need people to mourn with us, rejoice with us, encourage us, and stick with us through the ups and downs of life. Other people are essential to our growth and sanctification. Being in community is not only essential to our relational health, it is also a necessary aspect of our physical, emotional, and spiritual flourishing.

A version of this interview previously appeared at New Growth Press.

By / Jun 22

“Every single day, I sit in my counseling office with kids of all shapes and sizes who don’t like their bodies,” says counselor and author, Sissy Goff. She wants kids to think about their bodies the way God thinks about them. Goff explains that “We want them to see themselves as valuable at every level and deeply loved by God.” In answer to this pressing need, best-selling authors, Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have recently published a resource for families: God Made Me in His Image: Helping Children Appreciate Their Bodies (New Growth Press, 2022). This picture book helps even young children (ages 3-8) learn a Christian perspective on body image.

The Holcombs, parents to two daughters, have previously written similar books. The best-selling, God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies (New Growth Press, 2015) has provided thousands of families with ideas and resources for open communication about how children can protect themselves from abuse. And for adults, they wrote, Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Abuse (Crossway, 2011). Below, the Holcombs discuss their book and the realities of children and body image.

Champ Thornton: Please introduce us to your book, God Made Me in His Image.

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb: In a society overflowing with negative body-image messages, children’s body image is an urgent issue. Children need to know God made their bodies and made them special. Parents and caregivers have the privilege and opportunity to explain to their children that God made their bodies, and this is foundational for their self-image.

The message children need to hear is this: “God made you in his image. Every part of your body is good because God made every part and called them all good.”

We get to encourage children to appreciate their bodies and come alongside them to address the questions and shame regarding them. This is important because research regarding children and body issues are staggering and sad. Children are dealing with body-image distortion at an early age. Many young children are dieting or developing dangerous eating habits. Additionally, many trends in our culture lead to hyper-sexualizing of children.

CT: How do you explain to young kids what it means to be created in God’s image?

JLH: We think it is best to explore the specific passages of the Bible that refer to humans as made in God’s image. In the book, we give some of the historical context of the phrase “image of God” and the passage from Genesis 1:26-28. It is a term that communicates great dignity and honor, while also reflecting humility at the same time.

CT: The children in the story learn more about certain animals at the zoo who have unique physical characteristics. How does learning about the various animals help them accept their own differences?

JLH: Even though all of the creatures God made have different shapes, sizes, and abilities, they each have exactly what they need and serve a great purpose. When children see certain animals with unique physical characteristics, it helps them accept their own differences and insecurities. They see and learn that God has given each of us special gifts and to not miss the beauty around them. Their differences make the world a really interesting place to live.

CT: What age do children usually start having body image issues? What are some of the most common insecurities they have?

JLH: Researchers discovered that children begin to express concerns about their bodies as young as age 5. And at this young age, parents usually play a role in influencing their kids. As Common Sense Media notes, “You are your child’s first teacher,” meaning that kids can still pick up on subtle but negative body-image messages you give (even if you’re not harshly criticizing your body).

According to the report, one-third of boys (and more than half of girls) between the ages of 6 and 8 believe an ideal body is thinner than their current body size. And 1 in 4 kids have already tried dieting by age 7.

CT: At what age do children start worrying about their weight and dieting? Is that particular concern something that normally starts in school, or are seeds often planted at home?

JLH: These are just a few examples of the sobering statistics:

  • Five-year-old girls whose mothers reported current or recent dieting were more than twice as likely to have ideas about dieting than girls whose mothers did not diet. A mother’s dieting behavior is a source of her daughter’s ideas, concepts, and beliefs surrounding dieting and body image.
  • By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their weight or shape. Almost half of American children between first and third grade are worried about how much they weigh, and half of 9- to 10-year-old girls are dieting. Approximately 80% of all 10-year-old girls have dieted at least once in their lives. Even among underweight to average-sized girls, over one-third report dieting.
  • By the age of 10, around one-third of all girls and 22% of boys say how their bodies look is their number one worry. Age 10 is also the average age when children start dieting. Girls have always shown greater concern about their weight and appearance, but there is a significant increase recently in boys also worrying. Boys want to be tall and muscular—and they worry about weight too
  • Childhood obesity has tripled since the 1980s.
  • Virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women and men, including television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, the internet, and advertising. Children internalize this message.

Parents are one of the most powerful influences in children’s lives regarding their body image. Parents and caregivers can start the conversation now about the practical body-image implications of being made in God’s image.

CT: There is a section in the back of your book for parents. What kind of information and tips do you provide for helping parents talk more to their children about body image?

JLH: Encourage your children to do the things they love that are good. Spending time on worthwhile activities boosts confidence and builds healthy friendships.

With your children, make a list of new things they want to try, learn, or tackle. Learning how to use their bodies in new ways can give them a greater appreciation for its capabilities and remind them that God gave them their bodies to be used to do good things.

Set a positive example by not criticizing other people’s bodies. If children see their parents judging appearances, then they will be much more likely to do the same to others and themselves.

If you have insecurities about your appearance, don’t make offhand, critical comments about those perceived flaws around your children. Instead, intentionally talk with your children about how God has helped you learn to see your body more like the way he sees it, even though you still forgot to see your body that way sometimes.

CT: What are some ways parents can encourage their children to have a healthy body image?

JLH: Encourage your children not to compare themselves to their peers. Instead, help them give thanks to God for the gifts he has given to them, and ask God to show them how they can become more like him today.

If your child has a physical impairment, remind him or her it does not negate your child’s inherent worth as God’s image bearer, nor does it diminish the other qualities God has blessed your child with.

CT: Kids often bully one another based on appearances. What conversations do parents need to have with their children about bullying?

JLH: Help victims of bullying boost confidence by focusing on how much they’re worth because they are made in the image of God and by reminding them of the positive attributes God has given to them. Also discuss strategies for how they can respond to bullying the next time it occurs and seek out additional resources on bullying to help you support your children.

By / Apr 12

Every sector of our economy made adjustments over the past two years in response to the global pandemic, creating new norms and challenges for us all. Many of us experienced this change in virtual learning, increased Zoom meetings, or online worship services from our living rooms. I don’t want to debate the pros and cons of this shift, but I do want to highlight a change that many may not have even realized was happening in communities across the country. This silent but critical change involved abortion pills and the increased ease at which women could recieve them. 

Telehealth was once a privilege for a few, but is now a common practice for most. This makes life easier for patients, medical offices, and for the everyday American dealing with a full calendar. Telehealth, however, also makes abortion much easier to access, with little to no oversight, and allows for mailboxes to become makeshift abortion clinics in every corner of our country. This dangerous precedent, highlighted by Planned Parenthood’s telehealth expansion to all 50 states in 2020, will only further the upward trend we are seeing across the abortion landscape as chemical or medical abortion (abortion by pill) went from 39% of all abortions in 2017 to 53% of all abortions in 2020. We do not anticipate seeing these numbers decline anytime soon as the FDA continues to make obtaining these pills easier and the abortion industry seeks to make up deficits as more and more pro-life states are successful in restricting abortion access. 

Proactive planning 

This is why post-Roe planning is so important and must be front of mind for Christians and for those on the frontlines of this work in pregnancy centers around our country. As we anxiously await the decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, we must not sit on our hands. We must be prepared to act now. At Hope Resource Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, we have been proactive in offering virtual services for parenting education and mentoring. Many centers like us have also implemented their own telehealth options to connect and serve women in need. In addition, we have allocated large amounts of our budgets to reach women in our communities via digital marketing. We do not have the budget of the abortion industry, but that doesn’t mean we should disengage from the work at hand. Instead, we get creative, offer high-quality services, and provide free expert medical care to women and moms in need. 

We are on the cusp of a monumental court decision in the coming months. If and when Roe is overturned, we should celebrate. We should take a moment to honor those who have fought for this outcome, to mourn those we have lost, and to recognize the very courageous and bold decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in such a time as this. This victory lap, however sweet it will be, must quickly transform to action as we seek to continue to serve and love those in need. This action must involve digital engagement with potential patients via marketing, education, and efficient telehealth expansion. 

How you can help 

Traditionally, we have not focused fundraising or partnership efforts on having a digital footprint. The past two years have brought a pendulum swing in this area as we now must focus efforts in these areas. We have done this in Knoxville by producing educational videos housed on our website and played in our lobby to highlight what a patient can expect when they schedule an appointment with us. We have also allocated a large percentage of our budget to reach the abortion-minded patient in our area via digital avenues like social media, Google, and SEO or website content. 

A digital marketing focus takes time, talent, and treasure. This is where the Church comes in. We now have metrics available to us that prove this model works. These metrics, coupled with the playbook we are seeing implemented by the abortion industry, is the call to action we have been waiting for. This heavy lift can be eased by Church engagement via dollars, volunteers, and connection. 

If we have learned anything over the past two years it is this; abortion does not discriminate, it does not take a holiday, and it does not pause for a pandemic. We have made great strides in this work over the last 50 or so years, but our work will not stop if Roe ends. It’s a giant step in the right direction, but the only way we truly honor those who have spent their lives fighting to see abortion ended is to continue that work today and tomorrow as we take up the baton, adapt, and make way for image-bearers to be loved well as life is celebrated and abortion becomes a footnote in history books. 

We cannot do this work in silos or apart from each other. As the Church, we must unify and lead the way to a post-Roe era. Our organization in Knoxville would not have been able to find success these past 25 years without the consistent and bold support of the local church. We are able to fund, expand, and efficiently deliver services because of these partnerships. This need will only increase if we enter into a post-Roe future. Church, we need you. We need your prayers, your time, and your treasure as we seek to serve and love vulnerable babies, dads, and moms in our communities. I trust and believe that we are up for the task, and I am grateful to stand with you today. 

By / Mar 9

Do you remember what it felt like to walk the hallways of high school between classes or sit at the lunch table? Hallways and lunch rooms were the primary stages for social engagement in high school in years past. Sure, you talked with your peers in class, but most of the time you were paying attention to lectures or doing work. It was that time in between classes or while eating lunch that the social dynamics were most active.

Everyone, even the kids who say they aren’t, is performing in some way. High school hallways and lunch rooms are like little stages on which teenagers craft their personas and identities among their peers. It’s exciting and stressful, just like performing on any stage. In the 20th century, teenagers left the social stages when they went home. Unless they had plans to attend a social function in the evening or hit up the mall, the social dynamics of high school were left for phone calls with trusted friends until the next school day.

Today, as Derek Thompson says in his book Hit Makers, teenagers are always in the high school hallways. There is no escaping the social stages on which teenagers perform, because instead of walking the runway of the high school hallways for a couple hours a day, five days a week, teenagers have their personal stages in their pockets, calling them to perform every hour of every day with no opportunity to retreat to a social backstage for rest from their ever-present performance.

If you remember the social stressors of the high school hallways and lunch rooms, you can empathize with the feelings today’s teens have as they carry those performance arenas around in their pockets all the time. Is there any wonder, then, why teenagers are more anxious and depressed than before? 

The relationship between social media and depression

Mountains of data have been collected in the last few years that point to a clear relationship between increased social media use and increased experiences of anxiety and depression. Perhaps the most dramatic example of the correlation between social media use and symptoms of anxiety and depression come from the current teenagers that make up Gen Z or “iGen,” as they have been called by researcher and author Jean Twenge. Authors Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff cite one particularly troubling study in their book The Coddling of the American Mind. Research shows that, in the early 2000s, just more than one-in-ten girls aged 12-17 had a “major depressive episode” in the previous year. But, by 2016, nearly one-in-five girls aged 12-17 had a major depressive episode in the previous year. The rate of major depressive episodes among adolescent girls nearly doubled in less than a decade. Haidt and Lukianoff note that adolescent boys also experienced an increase in depressive episodes, but not as dramatic as that of girls.

Girls are more likely to become anxious or depressed because of increased social media use than boys because the root of anxiety and depression in girls tends to lie more in social dynamics than it does for boys. Whereas boys often deal with social conflict through direct, physical confrontation, girls are more likely to deal with social conflict in ways exacerbated by social media, which is one explanation for their increased anxiety and depression.

“Being a viewer in your own life”

Bo Burnham is a comedian, actor, and director. His career began when he started posting off-color comedic songs to a YouTube channel when he was in high school and YouTube was a relatively new platform. Burnham and I are roughly the same age, and I remember watching his videos in high school ashamed at how hard I was laughing because of how inappropriate they were (and are). Burnham’s 2021 Netflix special Inside is a comedy and a tragedy all wrapped into one hour-long program, and I could write pages about it here, as it is full of masterful commentary on the absurdity of the social internet. But instead, I want to call attention to a quote he gave when he was interviewed following the release of a movie he wrote and directed, Eighth Grade

The movie, which accurately depicts the most awkward aspects of the modern eighth grade experience, naturally features social media heavily. The film’s main character is an aspiring YouTuber, much like Burnham was when he was in high school. Burnham says regarding the social pressures young people face today that no one has ever had to face before:

What is the feeling of walking through your life and not just living your life, not just living your life—which is already [hard] and impossible—but also taking inventory of your life, being a viewer of your own life, living an experience and at the same time hovering behind yourself and watching yourself live that experience? Being nostalgic for moments that haven’t happened yet. Planning your future to look back on it.

Those are really weird, dissociative things that are, I think, new because of the specific structure of social media and how it dissociates ourselves from ourselves.

We find ourselves in a spot in which we feel we have to live our lives and create a documentary of our lives at the same time. We, as Burnham says, hover behind ourselves and watch ourselves live our lives while living our lives. Is it any wonder mental health crises are on the rise?

Another unfortunate reality is that this is not limited to teenagers. Data shows that social media use is adversely affecting the mental health of adults just as it is with teens. Sure, it’s safe to say that adults may feel less peer pressure to be as active on social media as teens are, but we’re all performing in the same way. With constant performance comes constant pressure. With constant pressure comes the gnawing anxiety that you’re going to fail in the spotlight at some point. How long can you really perform before you need to take a break? What if you feel like you can never take a break and log off?

Navigating the current technology and social media landscape as a parent, let alone as a Christian parent, is daunting. On one hand, outright banning all social media activity can unintentionally ostracize your child from his or her peers. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to show that social media can easily hurt young people. In the face of the fear and difficulty that comes with parenting amid such tension, we parents must run to the Scriptures and cling to our God, who says in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God is with us as we love our children and do all we can to lead them in the ways they should go. We must lean on him for our strength and our hope.

This article has been adapted from “Terms of Service” from B&H Publishing (2022). 

By / Dec 14

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year — one filled with joy and laughter. For believers, it’s supposed to be a reason to celebrate. So, why do I (and so many others) struggle with Christmas? Here are three reasons I’ve found to be true in my own life. 

Selfishness

Sometimes when I experience the Christmas blues, it is a result of selfishness. When this is the case, I need to remember the gospel and how it speaks to this struggle. 

I need to remember that Christmas is not about me. My perspective is oftentimes radically self-centered and prideful. I’m frustrated because I’m making Christmas about me. But our celebration of the incarnation shouldn’t be about the stress of finding the perfect gift or the annoyance of crowded shopping centers. Christmas is about Jesus entering the world, fulfilling the promise of God to redeem his people, and establishing God’s kingdom.

I need to remember that it is better to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 reminds us of Jesus’ own words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Our Lord and Savior lived this out in his own self-giving. Christmas is his holiday, and it’s about generosity. It’s about giving gifts — not because we have to, but because we genuinely want to share our joy with others.

I need to remember that Christ is the best gift of all. God has come in the form of a baby. He has lived a sinless life, died a shameful and undeserved death, and paid a debt I could not have otherwise paid to our holy and perfect God. Because he was resurrected from the dead, the curse of sin has been put to death, and he has made a restored relationship with our heavenly Father possible. That’s the best gift we could ever receive.

When we remember the good news of the gospel, it changes our perspective. Because we’ve experienced Christ’s love, we can extend grace to everyone. And when we’re reminded of this truth, we can combat the selfishly judgmental thoughts we often have running through our minds — the jealousy we feel when we think others are getting better than they deserve. When we think about what Christ has given to us, we can remember that a gift is just that — a gift — not something deserved, but a grace that is freely given. It’s a gracious demonstration of love, not an obligation.

Frustration

A second reason I struggle with Christmas is that I’m frustrated with a greedy and commercialized world. I desire to give my kids the good gifts they want without giving in to the greedy newer-bigger-better mentality that is rampant in the commercialized society all around us. 

We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all asked our kids to make a list of what they want for Christmas. Then we’ve taken that list and compared it to the budget we have for gifts. Sometimes it can handle the expectations; sometimes it can’t. How do we balance the level of expectation with our ability to provide? How do we lead our families through the rough waters of entitlement?

We can only navigate those waters by reminding our kids that it is more blessed to give. We can teach them generosity by giving them practical demonstrations of how to be generous and why. Here are some key truths to model.

Generosity involves a sense of fairness. Be careful to hear what I am saying and what I’m not. I’m not saying absolute equality. I’m talking about the kind of self-giving that does its fair share to meet the needs of others. Parents, we need to be living in such a way that our kids see us being generous with our time, talents, and treasures in order to meet the real needs of those around us. We need to ask (and ask our kids), “Are we doing our fair share?”

Generosity can’t be commanded; it must be voluntary. According to 2 Corinthians 8, there is blessing associated with voluntary generosity. So our kids must want to. We need to show them that when they cheerfully give, the joy comes from seeking the well-being of another, not from what they can get out of it. Ultimately, our generosity is motivated by how generous God is with us through Jesus. We need to ask (and ask our kids), “Do we want to give? Why or why not?”

Generosity remembers Jesus. Just as I need to remember Christ’s generosity when I’m selfish, my kids also need to remember Jesus when they are tempted by greed. Jesus loved us so much that he left the riches of heaven for us. His death shows us the lengths of his love and what generosity truly looks like. His resurrection removes the barrier of sin and death and provides the power through the Holy Spirit to be generous like he is generous. We need to ask (and ask our kids), “How have we remembered Christ’s gift to us today?”

Pain and grief

There have been times when my struggle with Christmas has not been merely a result of personal selfishness or worldly sin. Instead, my Christmas blues have been an experience of deep grief and pain due to the world’s brokenness. And when that’s the case, I must remember love. 

We need a place to process our losses in light of the hope we have in Christ. I’m thankful that the elders of my local church have begun to host an annual Blue Christmas service. This is a time when those who are hurting can come and lament. It’s a service to be quiet, still, grieve each year’s losses, and perhaps even prepare for the difficulties of a Christmas season without someone you love. The Blue Christmas service is for people who are grieving a death, who have spouses or family members overseas (in the military or on the mission field), or who have gone through a divorce. It focuses on finding hope in the gospel and the presence of Christ even in the midst of loss.

Why have we found this to be valuable? Our society doesn’t really like grief and suffering, and we want to rush people through it. We’re pressured to not show weakness. Even the church can be seen as a place where you are told how to feel or what to do. In both church and society, people feel like they have to hide their pain to be strong. 

The reality is that the opposite is true. It takes more strength to show your grief and pain and feel it than to run away from it. Our desire is to be a church that creates a space for people to grieve, to be a church that shows that suffering is real and people aren’t always happy. The Blue Christmas service says to our church community, “It’s okay to be broken,” and it says to the wider community around our church, “We are a place where it is okay to be where you are at any time”

When we are struggling with Christmas, we can help ourselves and others by remembering what Christmas is all about and by keeping our focus where it should be: on the incarnation and birth of the One who was prophesied, born of a virgin, and who lived and died to save us from sin. The good news of Immanuel confronts our selfish hearts. And it’s the message that motivates generosity and care for those who are in brokenness and pain. Christ is the one who leads us to hope and peace even in the midst of the Christmas blues.

By / Nov 22

Due to the pandemic, more emphasis has been placed on mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression are at the forefront of discussions. However, mothers have suffered from stress long before COVID-19 hit. Careers, parental responsibilities, household chores, and guilt — especially during the holidays — can leave moms feeling burned out. Outside factors (i.e., societal upheaval, finances, etc.) only add to stressful feelings.

As a mom, stress can negatively influence the parent-child relationship. Chronically stressed mothers are more likely to be emotionally unavailable for their children and have a higher risk of developing mental health issues. Dealing with chronic stress can free moms to better handle the big emotions of their children and the day-to-day struggles of life.

Signs of stress

Though we hear a lot about stress, many of us don’t talk about it or understand its effects. What is stress? Stress can be defined as our body’s response to pressure that causes feelings of physical or emotional tension. When we initially encounter a danger or threat, our bodies react with a flight-or-fight response, known as acute stress, causing our nervous system to pump adrenaline into our bodies. If the threat or stress doesn’t subside, our body releases stress hormones. The result of these physiological responses includes: a faster pulse, an increase in blood pressure, changes in airways, extra oxygen to the brain, heightened senses, and changes in blood vessels. These responses are beneficial during times of danger.1Bruce S. McEwen (2007) Physiology and Neurobiology of Stress and Adaptation: Central Role of the Brain. Physiological Reviews, 87 (3), 873-904.

After the stressful event ends, the parasympathetic nervous system will then “reset” the body, stopping the rush of hormones. Problems with stress typically arrive when stress doesn’t cease and our bodies continue to pump stress hormones into our bodies. Acute stress becomes chronic stress.2Sharma DK (2018) Physiology of Stress and its Management. Journal of Medicine Study and Research, 1 (1).

How do you know if you are experiencing chronic stress? Chances are you “feel” stressed, but here are some warning signs:

  • Physical: Chest pain, headaches, GI issues, fatigue, high blood pressure, heart issues, weakened immune system
  • Behavioral: Sleep disturbances, irrational fears, anxiety attacks
  • Cognitive: Rumination, difficulty concentrating
  • Emotional: Irritability, crying, angry, bitterness, mood disorders
  • Relational: Blame shifting, short-fused
  • Spiritual: Disconnected, unrepentant sin, anger toward God, complacency

9 stress-reduction tips

If you can identify with the warning signs, you may be living in a state of chronic stress. So, what can you do about it? You can start by acknowledging two facts: 

  • All stress won’t fully cease to exist on this side of eternity. Stress is a natural consequence of the fall (Genesis 3). Original sin brought the commencement of brokenness into the world, and brokenness causes stress. 
  • God designed us with limitations, and those limitations are for our good. Operating within God’s boundaries can help reduce stress.

With those two things in mind, I want to share a few tips to improve stress levels and live within God’s limitations. It may not be possible to accomplish every suggestion all at once, so start small. Pick one or two stress-reducing items, and do those consistently. You can build upon your progress over time by adding other stress relievers. 

Life-enhancing tasks: God has given us a brain to acquire knowledge. Learning a new skill helps stockpile cognitive reserves. Improvement in cognitive functioning provides a greater ability to deal with stress. For overwhelmed mothers with little free time, try to eliminate a life-draining item first (i.e., social media), and replace it with a life-enhancing task (i.e., educational audiobook).

Thinking patterns: A mother’s perception of her parental role and responsibilities plays a key factor in stress levels. Do you view motherhood as a God-given role or a burden? Believing motherhood is unimportant creates feelings of being trapped, which is stressful. Any thought regarding motherhood as insignificant needs to be taken captive, as it goes against God’s Word (1 Cor. 10:5) and harms the parent-child relationship. Thought logs and journals can help uncover negative thinking patterns or lies that trap us, while memorizing Scripture gives truth to combat negative thinking.

Physical activities: God created our bodies to depend upon certain physical activities. Those activities, as repeatedly shown in clinical research, also help reduce stress. Here are some of them:

  • Exercise: Our bodies were made for movement. Things like exercise lead to anti-inflammatory responses, better physical health, improved memory, increased attention, and overall better brain functioning. Do you have trouble exercising because you are always with children? Put them in a stroller or have them ride their bikes, and get moving with them!3Jackson, EM.(2013) Stress Relief: The Role of Exercise in Stress Management. ACSM’s Journal of Health and Fitness. 17 (3). 14-19
  • Sleep: Sleeping the recommended amount can be tough, especially for moms whose children don’t sleep through the night. However, it isn’t just moms with little kids who are sleep deprived. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 1 in 3 adults do not obtain the recommended amount of sleep, which is 7–9 hours. Sleep deprivation can contribute to weight gain, irritability, lack of concentration, fatigue, and health issues, all of which exacerbate stress. To get better sleep, try committing to an appropriate bedtime and nighttime routine, eliminating electronics an hour before bed, and consulting with your doctor if you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. And don’t forget to take naps.4https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1637336158909000&usg=AOvVaw2jSfg81f3A9rSXyFa7cCQz
  • Healthy eating: Our bodies need certain nutrients to thrive and feel good. A poor diet can lead to vitamin deficiency, creating a whole host of negative physical and emotional side effects. Eating healthy can reduce health issues, which in turn, reduces stress. 

Rest: Research suggests relaxation and meditation are two avenues to counteract stress. As Christians, we know God has called us to rest (Sabbath), pray, and meditate specifically on his Word. God even modeled the Sabbath for us when he created the world. It’s okay, even commanded, to rest from our to-do lists.

Community: Throughout Genesis we see all the good things God made, until his statement in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God created us for relationships. In fact, our brains are hardwired to need others.5Siegel, D., & Bryson, T. (2012) The Whole Brain Child. Bantam Book. Find other Christians to connect with so you can “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2 NIV). 

Enjoyment: God wants us to enjoy good things. He made the sunset beautiful, food delicious, and friendship necessary — for his glory and our pleasure. Pleasurable activities like vacations, date nights, and coffee with friends are all good things and can help reduce stress. The caution lies in making good things into idols. Moderation and right perception about pleasurable activities are key. 

Ask for help: Acknowledging that we do not encompass every spiritual gift or every skill frees us to ask others for help. Partnering with others reflects God’s beautiful design of diversity and gives others opportunities to utilize their God-given gifts. Trying to do everything independently creates stress, and can be a form of pride, so ask others for help.

Flexibility: Chaos feels hectic and stressful. Why? We were created in God’s image, and he is not chaotic (1 Cor. 14:33 NIV). To help reduce chaos and stress, create a flexible schedule for you and your family.

Finances: Failing to use our finances wisely is a major source of stress. God gives us principles in Scripture that help us steward what he’s given us for his glory. Obeying God’s Word and putting money in its proper place reduces stress. How we use our resources will look different from person to person, but there is no doubt that Christians are not to be slaves to money. The Money Challenge by Art Rainer, and Redeeming Money by Paul David Tripp are two recommended reads for financial management.

Motherhood is a profound, but sometimes stressful, God-given role. He will give you what you need to care for your children. And remember, even amongst the stress, God is using motherhood to sanctify you and your children to look more like Christ.

For more information from Dr. Sarah Rainer on “The Overwhelmed Mom,” check out The Mom Village Podcasts: part 1 and part 2.

  • 1
    Bruce S. McEwen (2007) Physiology and Neurobiology of Stress and Adaptation: Central Role of the Brain. Physiological Reviews, 87 (3), 873-904.
  • 2
    Sharma DK (2018) Physiology of Stress and its Management. Journal of Medicine Study and Research, 1 (1).
  • 3
    Jackson, EM.(2013) Stress Relief: The Role of Exercise in Stress Management. ACSM’s Journal of Health and Fitness. 17 (3). 14-19
  • 4
    https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1637336158909000&usg=AOvVaw2jSfg81f3A9rSXyFa7cCQz
  • 5
    Siegel, D., & Bryson, T. (2012) The Whole Brain Child. Bantam Book.
By / Nov 19

The rate of abortion-related emergency room visits following chemical abortions increased over 500% from 2002 through 2015, according to a new study. During that 13-year period, chemical abortions increased from 4.4% to 34.1% of total abortions.

What are chemical abortions? 

The two broad methods for legal abortions in the U.S. are chemical and surgical. A chemical abortion (sometimes referred to as a medication abortion, medical abortion, or pharmaceutical abortion) is a method that uses an abortifacient to stimulate uterine contractions and end the pregnancy in a process similar to miscarriage.

The method approved by the  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chemical abortions is a two-step process involving the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone (brand name Mifeprex) ends a pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone, which is needed to maintain a pregnancy. Because this hormone is blocked, the uterine lining begins to shed, removing the child (in the embryonic state) that was attached. The second step, which occurs 24 to 48 hours later, requires taking misoprostol which causes the woman to expel the child and the uterine lining in a matter similar to a miscarriage.

Major risks revealed in study

The FDA is currently reviewing the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for mifepristone and is expected to issue their decision on Dec. 16. An in-person screening for dangerous pre-existing conditions was added as a safeguard, but the Biden administration put a temporary hold on that requirement as part of their COVID-19 public health response.

The latest study, which was conducted by pro-life scholars associated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), was recently published in the international peer-reviewed journal Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology. The researchers used Medicaid claims data to conduct an analysis of 423,000 confirmed abortions and 121,283 confirmed subsequent visits to an emergency room within 30 days of the abortion by women over 13 years of age, with at least one identifiable pregnancy between 1999 and 2015. The study population resides in the 17 states whose official policies used state taxpayer funds to pay for abortions.

The study also found that the rate of abortion-related ER visits is growing faster for chemical abortions than surgical abortions. While ER visits following a surgical abortion increased 315% from 2002-2015, such visits increased 507% for chemical abortions. Additionally, chemical abortion makes subsequent abortions more dangerous. Women who had a chemical abortion followed by a second abortion of any type within the next 12 months were more than twice as likely to wind up in the emergency room.

“Not telling the ER of a recent chemical abortion could lead to costly, painful, or even fatal mistakes,” says Dr. Donna Harrison, a board-certified OB/GYN and a co-author of the study. “For example, a woman who had a recent chemical abortion will still have a positive pregnancy test. If the ER doctor does not see a pregnancy within her uterus, the doctor might take the woman for a completely unnecessary emergency surgery to look for an ectopic pregnancy.”

This study adds to the already numerous and well-documented studies in peer-reviewed medical journals that have demonstrated chemical abortions pose significant medical risks for women. For instance, one study found ​​women receiving chemical abortions were admitted to hospitals at a rate of 5.7% following the abortion, as compared with 0.4% for patients undergoing surgical abortion. The Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (APLOG) has also warned that “the abortion pill poses a four-times higher risk of complication than surgical abortion in the first trimester.” 

“The safety of chemical abortion is greatly exaggerated,” says Dr. James Studnicki, CLI vice president of data analytics.” In fact, the increasing dominance of chemical abortion and its disproportionate contribution to emergency room morbidity is a serious public health threat, and the real-world data suggests the threat is growing.”

As Christians, we should read this report with sadness, grieving the vulnerable lives that are taken and the mothers who, for myriad reasons, make that choice. The ERLC will continue to work alongside churches to help create a future where abortion is illegal, unnecessary, and unthinkable, and where mothers can turn to Christians to find support and the hope of the gospel in the midst of unplanned pregnancies. And, as always, we will advocate tirelessly in the public square to protect the right to life for every person — from womb to tomb.