The Power of a Broken Heart

The Power of a Broken Heart

by Richard Stearns on September 28, 2018
Over the years I've learned a lot from the leaders who served before me at World Vision. The most valuable piece of wisdom is a timeless prayer of our founder and first president, Bob Pierce: "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."

It's a risky request. Most of go out of our way to avoid heartbreak. We'd rather not address the pain in our own lives, much less the agonies and injustices around the globe. When I contemplated becoming World Vision's president back in 1998, that's the very thing I feared most: following Jesus into the world's suffering.

But soon I realized that you can't do this job without a broken heart. It's very simple: A broken heart compels action.

In time it became clear to me that Bob didn't pray those words just once, but repeatedly, asking God to break his heart over and over again. You see, a broken heart can heal - and toughen. When the hurt is gone, the job becomes just a job. To be useful to God and effective in ministry, Bob needed his heart to stay tender to suffering in the world.

It was the same for me. Meeting Richard, a Ugandan boy who had been orphaned by AIDS, propelled me to ramp up World Vision's response to the pandemic. Talking with Ruth, a Bolivian girl who grew up poor yet dreamed of becoming a lawyer, I was inspired to help her - and other women and girls facing obstacles to their dreams. The heartbreaking plight of Haya, a Syrian girl living in a refugee camp in Jordan, compelled me to increase our relief response to refugees, focusing especially on children.

And just when I thought I'd seen everything, last year the suffering of children in northern Kenya in a drought-induced hunger crisis brought me to tears as I pleaded with our supporters to help and pray.

Sharing another person's pain has a powerful effect on us. It leaves us in the condition God can use: vulnerable, compassionate, and dependent on Him. And it brings us closer to Jesus, who selflessly entered the world's pain just to save us.

My successor and brother in Christ, Edgar Sandoval, understands the power of a broken heart. Over the past three years, as World Vision U.S. chief operating officer, he's traveled to some hard places and met children facing tremendous challenges. He reflected, "God breaks your heart not just to be sad, but to help you bring your very best, to spur you to action for children in need."

I know God will continue to use Edgar's broken heart in his new role as World Vision president.

What about you? In your work and ministry, do you have a tender heart? If you sense you've become closed off to the suffering around you, I encourage you to pray the words Bob Pierce made famous, "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God." And then trust Him to do powerful things with your pain.
Rich Stearns is retiring this year, ending his tenure as the longest-serving president of World Vision U.S. He is the author of The Hole in Our Gospel and Unfinished.

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