By Melissa Ohden
Editor’s note. As most of our readers know, Melissa survived a saline abortion in 1997. But what has happened in the years since is in some way almost more miraculous. She has testified before Congress, spoken all over the world and at many National Right to Life conventions, and founded The Abortion Survivors Network.
A friend asked me this recently, and I thought it was a great question to reflect upon.
“Do you think it’s okay that I feel like I HAVE to do this, not that I WANT to do this?”
If we’re being honest with ourselves and others, I think we’ve all been there, or maybe we’re there right now.
We feel like there is something we should do, something that we’re feeling called to, and we understand the importance in following through with it, for our sake and the sake of others.
Along with the interest in being obedient, there’s an absence of joy in doing it—at least initially.
As my friend and I talked about where she felt like God was leading her, she shared her ambivalence about doing it. She loves Jesus, but she’s also well aware of how following Him right now will up-end her life, yank her out of her comfort zone, and challenge her mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
I couldn’t help but smile as she poured out her heart to me, looking for my advice. I smiled because I’ve been there. Probably more times than I can count.
I know the feeling of being excited about where God was leading me, but feeling unsure and frankly panicked about it all, rather than particularly joyful. At least initially.
When I first shared my story publicly years ago, I did it because I knew that God had called me to it. He orchestrated so many details in a short span of months in 2007 that there was no denying where I was being led. Although I felt some joy in following Him, I didn’t feel joy in sharing my story back then. I was a nervous wreck. I cried when I spoke. A lot.
Some of that was from the fresh pain of the journey I was on in finding my birthparents, but looking back on it, part of that was also anxiety and fear. I was used to listening to other people’s stories in my role as a social worker. Having other people listen to me was a whole different experience, one that made me uncomfortable.
And there I sat in my discomfort for a few years. I did interviews, spoke at events, voice shaking, hands clamoring. As I started to speak more and more, though, a funny thing happened.
I found joy in it, even when facing individuals, organizations, and media that were openly antagonistic to me and my experience….
I found more and more clearly defined purpose.
I found peace about who I am, who God created me to be.
I found healing by connecting with others who can empathize with my experience.
And I realized over time that as much as I questioned God about calling me to be a public speaker, I actually have the gifts and talents necessary to be an effective witness for Him. The shaking and clamoring have been replaced with a smile and laughter, an ease with who I am and what I’m called to do.
You may not be called to the same purpose that I have been. But whatever is your calling, we all get that nudge or sometimes, shove, from the Holy Spirit that calls us to cooperate with God’s will.
Don’t let the absence of joy in initially following Him deter you from doing just that.
In my experience, it’s perfectly normal for our doubts and fears to far overshadow any other feeling, at least initially.
The beauty of God’s grace is that as we follow Him and grow deeper into our relationship with Him, the more joy, peace, and healing we experience.
What begins as simply one step in obedience will likely lead to a place of incredible blessing for you in many areas of your life. Like me, I believe you will likely find a wealth of gifts and talents that you didn’t even know you possessed. And because of the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, you will become an even greater version of who He made you to be.
If you’ve been wrestling with this, yourself, I hope that you find encouragement in knowing you’re not alone in it. And trust me, if I can find the joy that I have in fulfilling God’s purpose for me, you surely can, too.