Facing Compassion Fatigue
In a world of daily crises, how are we to respond?
Better yet, how are we to even be able to function?
It seems as if every day brings a tragedy worse than the day before. And some days, it can seem as if the nightly news will (or is) announcing the end of the world. Honestly, some mornings feel like the day after the end of the world.
And with so much need, so much pain, so much brokenness, what are we to do?
I am reminded of a conversation with some friends one night in college where, as we sat in the back of a pickup truck looking up at the stars, one of my friends posed this question:
"It feels like any good we do is constantly counteracted, I mean sometimes it feels like there is nothing we can do to make the world a better place. Are we making a difference at all?"
If we're being honest, we each feel this way at some point in our lives. We invest ourselves into what we believe is most important. And if we invest our lives into making the world a better place and uncovering the beauty inherent in all of creation, the pervasiveness of darkness and evil can be discouraging or - worse - debilitating.
All of this can lead us to compassion fatigue, where we begin to question our impact and ask, "Does caring matter?"
We believe that a better tomorrow is possible, but it is sometimes hard to see where it is hiding at today.
But we must keep up the good fight nonetheless. We keep fighting for those who can't:
For the marginalized.
For the refugee.
For the orphan.
For the minority.
For the immigrant.
For the widow.
We do what we can because there are others who cannot do what they are able to do. They cannot yet achieve their full, God-given lives because of the brokenness of humanity and our global/local societies.
And, for those of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ, we keep moving forward because we believe that Jesus was serious when He said that His kingdom is near. It is here at work in our world today. He initiated the redemptive return of God's Kingdom where, one day, everything will healed, everyone will be whole, and justice and love will reign.
This is painted beautifully for us at the conclusion of the Bible:
God is making everything new.
And that healing, beauty-unleashing work has already started.
We, God's followers, are invited to join in on this work.
And that is why we must face compassion fatigue, the perpetual crises in our world, and the brokenness around us. Because we know the outcome of history and we believe that everything is being made new.
So if you feel worn out, slow down and look at your life. Make a list of things you are thankful for. Write down the ways you've seen God at work in the last week. As we slow down, we can see God's movement that we might otherwise miss.
And as you experience "God moments" and victory stories, make sure to find a way to remember them when times get hard (ex. I have an "Awesome" file in my email and an "Awesome" box in my house). These mile markers of God's faithfulness will help you strengthen your endurance and encourage you along your journey.
You are making a difference. Don't ever forget that.
We make a difference - together. With God and with others around us.
We can live out the compassion of Jesus. It is not easy. But we do it together.
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