Billy Graham’s Main Regret: Not Enough Time with Family

Found this quotation in a touching Christianity Today interview with evangelist Billy Graham (link by JT):

CT: Do you have any regrets as you look back on your life?

Graham: I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my family; I’m sure Ruth and the children paid a heavy price for all the times I was absent. I always tell younger evangelists not to feel like they have to accept every invitation they get, or be absent from home so much. We can do so much today through modern communications.”

I don’t share this to heap shame on Billy Graham–far from it.  I believe the evangelist to be an eminently honorable man who worked tirelessly for the same kingdom I serve, and who did far more than I will likely ever do to advance that kingdom.  No, I didn’t read Graham’s words with spite or malice.  I found myself profoundly thankful that a major Christian leader confessed his faults in a public way.  It is a commonplace that evangelical leaders (as with all leaders) often spend too much time away from their families in service to their vocational call.  Yet very few would speak as humbly as Rev. Graham and admit their failing.

Along with tons of other young would-be pastors and teachers (and Christians of all callings), I am aware of a similar bent in my own heart.  Reading Graham’s words calls me and my peers once more to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before.  At an early age, we must ask ourselves, “How can I serve the Lord without neglecting my family?”  Or better yet, “How can I glorify God by putting my family first and then glorify God in my calling?”  We must answer these questions; we must pause for reflection on them in the midst of our busy, ambitious lives; we must invite close friends and fellow church members to help us think these things through.

These are tough questions to answer, and many of us will make many mistakes in seeking to do so.  One hopes, though, that we will find a Spirit-inspired balance of torrential labor for our Lord and excellent, involved shepherding of the precious families the Lord has given to love and to love us.  May Rev. Graham’s words help us to learn from his example and honestly say at the end of our lives that we cared very well for our families in the midst of very busy lives.

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  • Jeff Trauman

    I once made a time budget of all I thought I was supposed to do—all my duties and responsibilities as I thought I was assigned by God and His Son, as I understood them at that time. The budget worked out to 36 hours/day–or so. I had felt in my conscience that I was responsible for those things so how could it be that I didn’t have enough time. I felt like it was my duty to continue to strive to do my duty even though, not only did I not know the answer, the answer seemed impossible. I have concluded, that the answer is to combine the assignments, not to treat them like they are separate. It doesn’t seem to me like it is God’s will that I should not properly water, weed, keep pest free, fertilize, keep the proper amount of sunlight on, and if necessary, move to different soil all together, the souls that have been entrusted to me (my children and my wife’s), so that I can seek after other duties I think are assigned to me. I was convicted by the 6th verse of Jude that there were serious consequences for abandoning what God had assigned me. Also, it was eye opening to me that Eli was held responsible for allowing his sons to sin. Convicting me again in this area were two other verses, Malachi 4:6 and Luke 1:17, both concerning the turning of the hearts of the fathers back to the children. If all we did was disciple ourselves, our wives and our own children–should they choose to want to follow God the Father and His Son—with the same problem solving and effort that we put into our hobbies, or technology, or looks, and our possessions, and to teach ourselves and them to obey all that Jesus had commanded the apostles and for them to do the same with their own families, what would the population of the earth be like in235 years—the same time frame as the age of the United States? We’ve grown wildly in the areas of economic wealth and technology, but in godliness, to please God our Father and His Son, do we make the same effort?
    It was at a Billy Graham Crusade 23 years ago that I first repented and believed in the gospel. I will always be thankful to him.
    In Christ Jesus

  • jim carlin m d

    he that troublith his house shall inherit the wind
    both parents engaged in full time ministry leaves nothing for the children
    abandoning your children to service in the ministry is the greatest lie
    and the statistics of mental illness in preachers kids atest to that fact
    there is no freedom without responsibility
    jim c
    2nd generation preachers kid-both parents


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