Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, was quite literally born into heartbreak and tragedy. Even still, he said there has been “something optimistic in me always.”
That disposition, he explained to CBN’s Faithwire, is evidence of God’s grace.
In 2005, Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, asked Daly to take over as CEO, a position for which Daly felt “very inadequate,” particularly given the upbringing he had, abandoned by an alcoholic father and, soon thereafter, orphaned by the death of a cancer-stricken mother.
“I came from such brokenness,” Daly said. “But it does suggest that the Lord has it all. This is all His — the broken parts and the things that are going well — and it really gave me a certain confidence to walk into the role and try to do the best job that I could do in bringing Focus on the Family forward.”
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Focus on the Family’s adoption and foster care wing, Wait No More, was launched in 2008. It was an initiative born out of Daly’s own life story. Before that, the Christian organization launched its Option Ultrasound Program, which Daly said has “saved almost 500,000 babies from abortion.”
“What I’d like to make sure people hear is, you know, a kid who came from a broken home with a single-parent mom, there’s hope for everybody,” he said. “The probabilities can be stacked against us when we have a breakdown. But I’m an example that we can rise above those things, especially by giving your life to the Lord.”
As for Daly’s salvation experience, he said he gave his life over to Jesus thanks, in large part, to the work of another Christian ministry, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. When he was 15 years old, Daly said his football coach took him to an FCA camp, where the keynote speaker spoke directly to kids who had been let down by their earthly fathers.
That was exactly the message Daly needed to hear.
“[The speaker] said, ‘Come forward and accept the love of a Father who will never let you down,'” Daly remembered. “And I said, ‘Yes, yes.’ And I would hope all your listeners and viewers would investigate that, if they don’t know the Lord.”
The turbulent times that punctuated his childhood have undoubtedly served to make Daly more compassionate and understanding toward those experiencing familial trials and tragedies.
“I remember having this discussion with the Lord, ‘I can’t do this. I’m not qualified. I’m not good enough,’ all those doubts that come in,” Daly said. “And I just felt the Lord say in my spirit, ‘Hey, I have given you every family type so you know how to speak to it.’ I had the normal dysfunctional family, then I had the single-parent family, then I had a stepdad, then I had foster family, then I had a single-parent father for a year, then he passed away when I was 11 and I moved in with my brother through junior high and high school. So it is kind of unique.”
“He did prepare me by allowing me to experience, as a child, just about every family type you could live in,” he continued. “I’m grateful for it. It was painful. It was lonely. I cried myself to sleep at night. And yet, at the same time, God was merciful. He showed me grace, He brought great mentors around me, and obviously, it made all the difference.”
Daly has carried many of those lessons into how he has raised his now-teenage children.
As CBN’s Faithwire previously reported, he said he’s taught his children that the best way to learn to sympathize with and understand the experiences of others — especially those with whom you disagree — is to engage with them in day-to-day life.
Getting involved in volunteer work, he said, is a great way to stave off anger and bitterness toward a culture increasingly turned against the things of God.
“For us, it’s one thing to bark at the culture — let me be kinder, to speak truth to the culture,” he explained. “It’s another thing to roll up your sleeves and to get involved and that’s what we’re going to need. All of us as believers need to get involved, need to go down and volunteer at the pregnancy resource center in our community, to talk to your pastor about engaging and maybe being a church affiliated with a pregnancy resource center so some of their needs can be met.”
He concluded, “The church needs to engage, continue to speak truth winsomely, but engage those women where they’re at.”
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