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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Whose heart is broken?

subtitle: Is Life a Balancing Act?

(Warning: questions ahead)

From comes an article on World Vision founder Bob Pierce.

As a Youth For Christ evangelist, Pierce started out on faith alone: “God’s work overcomes all obstacles.” Motivated by personal grief at the sight of extreme need in China, he rallied support from American churches with self-made footage of hungry Chinese children. In 1950, World Vision was born.

Pierce was described by journalist Richard Gehman as someone who “cannot conceal his true emotions. He seems to me to be one of the few naturally, uncontrollably honest men I have ever met." (1959) Pastor Richard Halvorsen wrote that Pierce "prayed more earnestly and importunely than anyone else I have ever known. It was as though prayer burned within him. … Bob Pierce functioned from a broken heart."

Pierce wrote these words in the flyleaf of his Bible: "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."

Clearly, Bob Pierce was a deeply sensitive man who loved God. But...what about broken hearts?

His passion for helping needy children worldwide also led to conflict with the World Vision board, especially over the issue of committing finances before they had been secured. (Remember “God’s work overcomes all obstacles.”) Did this conflict break God’s heart as well?

Pierce also neglected his family. His rationale: "I've made an agreement with God that I'll take care of his helpless little lambs overseas if he'll take care of mine at home." He traveled a great deal, apparently preferring travel to being home. How many sides were there to his agreement with God?

Was Bob Pierce addicted? Was he addicted to the great good he could and did accomplish for those “little lambs overseas?” Was his compassion selective? Did he turn his compassion for the suffering children of the world (in place of his own?) into an idol?

Did he run himself ragged chasing a faulty pursuit of worth? In 1963 Pierce had a nervous breakdown. In 1967 he resigned from World Vision, apparently “bitter at those whom he felt interfered with his organization.” In 1968, his daughter Sharon committed suicide. At that point he was hospitalized long-term. In 1970 he separated from his wife, his memory “badly crippled” and his mind “frequently unclear.” He died in 1978.

How utterly tragic. Is this the kind of sacrifice, both self- and other-, that God asks of us?

Why did Bob Pierce sacrifice his family, and himself, in this way?


What is God’s heart's desire for us to take care of first? I’m sure most of us would answer: our families, and, to a certain degree, ourselves. But which comes first? (Or can we say, similar to Pierce, "I will trust God to take care of me if I give of myself to others"?...this question probably deserves its own post.) But what other “good work for God” do we do to the detriment of our familial and other relationships -- detriment that we may rationalize away?

Parting questions (big ones):

1) How does the Christian spouse and parent balance work (not necessarily career) and family in service to God?

2) What constitutes self-care as opposed to self-sacrifice?

I ask these questions both to challenge the reader and to court response, as they are questions I mull myself.


  • This ia really tough issue that I have been pondering for a long time. Most recently, I was reminded of this dilemma when President Reagan died. Documentaries and biographies of his life refer to the fact that his duties as President caused his family life to be very difficult. The famous conflicts in his family made me wonder if some people really DO just have to make big sacrifices. What would the world look like if he hadn't made the Presidency his priority? I feel guilty to say this, but I'm glad we'll never know.

    On the other hand, my father was always putting church activities before family. I definitely resented it and felt that it couldn't possibly be God's will for him to neglect us in that way.

    I have no answers, just thoughts.

    By Blogger Adrianne, at 4:26 PM  

  • Hi Bonnie,

    As the father of two girls, I not only need to tell them what is the right thing to do, I need to explain to them why it is the right thing to do, and I need to model the behavior I expect from them. If I serve my neighbors (in a Biblical sense), but ignore my family, I have not modeled my beliefs. The opposite is also true; if I serve my family, but ignore my neighbors, I have also failed to model the moderate behavior I expect from them. It is a balancing act that prevents us from living in the extreme and on the edges.

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 7:27 PM  

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