“Everyone is judging me.”

“I did this to myself.”

“How could I ever be worthy of a husband?”

“There is no redemption for me – I just want to die.”

These were the sorts of thoughts swirling in Diana Cahill’s mind and heart the day she decided to die. She was a young woman — a college student — raised in a Christian home. On paper, her life only showed promise, but in her heart she carried a deep burden of guilt.

Secret Shame

What Diana did seemed unforgiveable to her. It was her dark secret, her hidden shame.

When she was just an 18-year-old freshman in college, she discovered she was pregnant. She was terrified. What would her family and church think if they found out?

Feeling she had nowhere else to turn, she trusted her boyfriend’s advice and had an abortion. When her baby died, it seemed her shameful secret was also buried. But the abortion that promised relief from her shame only magnified it.

For years afterward, Diana struggled. Nightmares plagued her. She heard babies crying in her mind. She felt extreme shame and fear of people judging her everywhere she went, to the point that she developed intense social anxiety, a deep sense of unworthiness and hopelessness.

She became convinced her only path to relief was to die.

A Divine Moment

Behind the wheel of her car, Diana readied herself to drive it straight into a brick wall and end her pain, but then she clearly heard God say, “STOP.” She did not hesitate to obey.

Then she noticed her Bible lying on the seat. She opened it, immediately landing on Psalm 32:5: “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.”

There, in the middle of her immense guilt and shame, when she was lost and in despair, God found her.

His words of hope and forgiveness she read in Psalm 32 that day came to life as trustworthy and true, and Diana took hold of it all. She confessed her abortion to God and received His free and full forgiveness. After years of spirit-crushing shame, she was finally free.

“Those divine moments are what make God real to me,” Diana explains.

A Birth of Compassion

God did not just forgive Diana of her guilt from abortion; He used her experiences and her pain to cultivate compassion in her heart.

After she married Bill, Diana was blessed with another pregnancy — this time with twins. But after an emergency c-section, Diana and Bill learned one of the twins, Abby, was stillborn. Despite knowing she had God’s forgiveness, Diana’s immediate thought was that God was punishing her for aborting her first baby.

Shame briefly swept back in. But then she remembered Psalm 103:10, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”

Yes, apart from God’s mercy and grace, Diana knew she deserved punishment, but God reminded her He forgave her and would never give her punishment for her sins.

Diana felt that old guilt lift off of her.

Years later, tragedy struck again. Her middle son, Billy, died suddenly in a car accident. He was just 20 years old. It appeared Diana’s life was destined to be marked by loss — the loss of her first baby in abortion, Abby’s stillbirth and now Billy’s death.

Many in Diana’s shoes would be tempted to feel resentment toward God and view Him as capricious and unkind; however, that was not her response. Instead, those difficulties softened her heart and gave her even deeper compassion for others.

And that compassion is exactly what God used to bring her to her current ministry.

Walking With Women

Eventually, Diana’s life resumed a sense of normalcy. Her living children were thriving and growing, and she was satisfied working as principal at a Christian school and serving at her church. Then, one day, God surprised her with a phone call.

It was a friend calling to ask her about taking a new job as the director of A Loving Choice, a pro-life pregnancy resource center for abortion-minded women. Well, Diana was not looking for a new job, and this one, though noble, did not interest her. Even when the hiring committee contacted her, she avoided their emails and calls. But, after great persistence on their end, she finally yielded and agreed to meet for dinner just to get them off her back.

Eighteen months later, Diana is going strong in her new job as the executive director of A Loving Choice (ALC). Despite her initial resistance, Diana now says it’s quite obvious that “this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

All of her past hurts became the means for God to equip her to walk with women and train others to do the same. Diana and the other employees and volunteers at ALC work together to help abortion-minded women, to come alongside mothers and fathers in their parenting, and provide post-abortion care. Through ALC, Diana can now help provide men and women with access to free, confidential pregnancy testing and ultrasounds, parenting classes, counseling, baby supplies and referrals for services outside the scope of their resources.

Her ministry at ALC is so much more, though.

The women who walk through the doors of ALC are coming in with fear, shame and confusion. Oftentimes, they have no other support and are vulnerable. That need — the need for a supportive relationship, love and understanding — is where Diana loves to step in. Through the relationships she gets to form, she can show others the hope and healing Jesus gives.

Even though there are definitely hard aspects of serving at ALC, the blessing and reward coming out of it are absolutely worth it. That sweet reality is never more evident for Diana than when she has the joy of holding a baby whose mother chose life.

But it’s not just babies Diana wants to save — it’s women. She knows very well it is also women who need to be saved from abortion. Because she knows the heartache of abortion firsthand, it is her mission to prevent any woman from walking into that same suffering.

Of her own abortion, Diana says, “I have never sat in a room with any woman who’s aborted and said, ‘I’m glad I did it.’ ”

When she sees an abortion-minded woman, she sees a woman made in God’s image who is in pain. And, she says, “You don’t run from people in pain — you run to them.”

From Regret to Redemption

Diana’s past shame and losses are difficult. Although she wishes it were different — without deaths, post-abortion stress or guilt — she is comforted seeing how much God uses it in her current ministry to women.

Looking at her today, you would never imagine the hardships she’s endured. She is a beautiful, confident, tenderhearted wife, mother and friend. The only explanation for who Diana is now is that God healed her. Now, when she thinks about those hard things with regret, she remembers something: “I wouldn’t be who I am if God hadn’t changed me through some of those difficult things.”

“In the hardest moments,” Diana says, “search for God because He will be there.”