Posted by: 15shekels | September 29, 2009

Who really wants his heart broken?

“Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, once prayed, ‘Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.’ But who really wants his heart broken? Is this something to ask of God? Don’t we pray that God will not break our hearts? But as I look at the life of Jesus, I see that He was, as Isaiah described him, “a Man of sorrows… acquainted with grief'(53:3 NKJV). Jesus’ heart was continually moved to compassion as He encountered the lame, the sick, the widow, and the orphan. I try to picture God’s broken heart as He looks today upon the broken world for which He died.” -Richard Stearns, The Hole in our Gospel; page 9.

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” -Hebrews 13:3

I recently read The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. A brilliant testament to God’s presence and comfort in the darkest places,The Hiding Place Cover The Hiding Place is the autobiographical account of a 50-year-old watchmaker who became an unlikely leader of the anti-Nazi underground during the Holocaust. The light consistently shining through the book’s often gloomy pages is God’s commitment to equipping his followers for the greatest and most dangerous tasks as they fight for His causes. I read about miracle after miracle, as God supplied and led Corrie and her family to protect, comfort and minister to hundreds. As they endured imprisonment, beatings, and sometimes death, the ten Booms tasted and proclaimed God’s goodness.

I finished The Hiding Place on a train, as I traveled into New York City to have lunch with a friend. I wiped my eyes, shaken deeply by what I had read. “How can I go make small talk after encountering such suffering?” I thought. “Shouldn’t I be telling people about this? About how we could be living?”

Ten minutes later, I was sitting over an expensive salad, chatting about the highs and lows of twenty-something life, laughing and carefree. Corrie’s world had vanished in an instant.

It gets worse. On the train ride home, I picked up Good News about Injustice, by Gary Haugen, founder of The International Justice Mission. I read about the millions of children every year who are kidnapped and forced into prostitution, the widespread corruption of police and judicial systems, state-sponsored torture, and religious persecution. Once again I was angry, motivated, inspired.

Two hours later, lying in front of the television with my new husband, I couldn’t quite recall why it had mattered so much.

Why is it that we are so quick to forget about pain and suffering when it isn’t in front of our faces? I tell myself that were I in Corrie’s shoes, answering my door to frightened and persecuted Jewish families, I would respond. I would have to respond. And yet I read about other horrific abuses and tragedies going on, as we speak, around the world, and I do nothing. Is Corrie just braver than me? Or was her action against injustice a product of being right in the middle of it? Surely just knowing about those 9-year-olds in Southeast Asia who are kidnapped and sold to brothels should motivate us to action. Are we immobilized by helplessness? Or is it a case of Kitty Genovese syndrome—we all expect someone else to intervene? Why is it that we can’t even donate twenty dollars to these causes, let alone drop everything and go fight for them?

28384890In Good News about Injustice, Haugen addresses this phenomenon of our social justice amnesia. He compares our attention span for injustice to the inability of infants to recall objects when they are out of sight:

“I must confess that this is very much the way my mind often works when it comes to maintaining an interest in the reality of injustice in our world. I read about innocent people being slaughtered in Rwanda on page A1 of the Washington Post, and I am appalled. But my mind moves on to other things with amazing speed and thoroughness when I read on page D15 that the movie my wife and I were hoping to see actually starts a half hour earlier than we thought…I can move from torture on the evening news to touchdowns on Monday Night Football with almost the same mental and emotional ease as my channel changer.” (Good News about Injustice, page 38)

Haugen calls for a conscious developing of what he calls “compassion permanence—a courageous and generous capacity to remember the needs of an unjust world even when they are out of our immediate sight.” (page 39) To some degree, he admits, it is a good thing that we are able to enjoy the blessings of a safe and comfortable life despite encountering the pain and suffering of others. However, we are called to remember those in prison (Hebrews 13:3), seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the fatherless and plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:17). We are also called to feed and clothe the hungry and poor as if they were Christ himself (Matthew 25:35-40) In His Word, God does not add qualifiers to these imperatives such as “if a fatherless child appears on your doorstep.”

We are not all called to quit our jobs and move to Africa. Yet imagine what we could accomplish if more of us kept these causes before our eyes and hearts—

“The whole gospel is a vision for ushering in God’s kingdom—now, not in some future time, and here, on earth, not in some the-hole-in-our-gospeldistant heaven. What if two billion people embraced this vision of God transforming our world—through them? Imagine it. Indeed, what if even two thousand people took their faith to the next level—what might God do? Two thousand years ago, the world was changed forever by just twelve. It can happen again.” -Stearns, The Hole in our Gospel, Introduction, page 5.

The glorious comfort in stepping into painful and fearful situations, is our knowledge that we know the outcome of the cosmic battle between good and evil. On the cross, Christ defeated death, released humanity from the bondage of sin, and promised those who would follow him a salvation that is unshakable. We can hold onto God’s promises that He is redeeming the world to himself, and will complete what he began on the cross. Good has won (John 19:30), to die is gain (Philippians 2:21), and our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). And so we can enter the pain in the world with the courage of the ten Boom family, the hope of glory, and the sustaining knowledge that we fight for the winning team.

Before we can enter into the pain, though, we need to want to; we need to care. I challenge you not to be content with the attention span of an infant. I challenge you to pray for something greater than safety or comfort. I challenge you to pray for a broken heart:

“Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I have to your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity…” -Hillsongs United, Hosanna


  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

  2. Excellent, Heather.

  3. Bring on the broken hearts!

  4. I found your blog when I searched for that Bob Pierce quote. Right now, my heart is breaking for the women and children of the Congo, and for all the people being trafficked as slaves all around the world. Heartbreaking, and yet I fear that many of my Christian friends don’t care. Out of sight, out of mind.

  5. […] one full year ago, I posted my prayer for a broken heart, echoing the prayer of Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision— “Let my heart be broken by […]

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