Please consider, that this is a continuation of a previous post, Compassion Fatigue (Part I).
So, we’ve established what it means to have “Compassion Fatigue”. We’ve discussed it’s symptoms. We talked about the difference between “Burnout” and “Stress”. Both are deadly. Not necessarily physically, but in our own lives and hearts and our availability to be used of God. Whether you Stress in a crisis and try to fix everything through over-engagement, or whether you Burnout and run from the pain and hurt you feel by disengagement, makes no difference. Both are a reaction to the pain you feel. Or to the pain you feel for others.
There is a high cost to compassion. It will reach out to help someone, while risking being stabbed in the back in the process. It’s vulnerable. It’s painful. It’s risky. And it isn’t something we can just “get through or get over”. There’s always someone hurting. There is always someone who needs help. There’s always someone who needs Christ’s love. There’s always someone to show compassion to, making a difference. And escape from compassion is not an option. You cannot decide to not care. You haven’t been given the liberty to stop loving someone. Not, that is, if we are serious about obedience to Christ.
But, dear heart, I would like to encourage you. While pain in inevitable, and the high cost of care is certain, God has made a way of escape. It does not have to destroy you- unless you let it.
“…but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Corinthians 10:13)
We are NEVER, let me repeat, NEVER alone in bearing sorrow. Whether that sorrow is our own, or someone else’s. Why? Because GOD IS FAITHFUL. “That ye may be able to bear it.” You might certainly feel like the person who is about to get drowned in the process of trying to rescue someone else…but you aren’t the one responsible. God is. He is holding the situation in the palm of His very capable hand. Does this negate the part we play? Certainly not. But it gives us the ability to actually play that part.
Here are a few KEY TOOLS to help keep you accountable:
- Remember that joy is not the same thing as happiness or pleasure. Life is hard. It isn’t always easy. It isn’t always pleasant. Dealing with other people’s hurts and sorrows, especially, is not a “flippant” or “lighthearted” thing. It’s okay to be serious. It’s okay to be down. It’s okay to need time alone to think, to process, to pray, to heal. Don’t let the opinion of others discourage you, either by disregarding what you feel or misunderstanding the rule it plays in your life.
- Don’t take everything personally. It’s always helped me in my life, to remember that “hurting people, hurt people”. They just do. It isn’t always a personal attack…sometimes you are just the person closest to their shooting range. Forgive. Let go. Press on.
- Limit your time spent around negative people or those who are always in pain. This is a hard one. Sometimes you simply can’t limit that time, because they are always there. In which case, God just gives more grace. But it’s helpful to be around those who will encourage you in Christ. The friends you can share your heart with. The people that are safe to talk to, to “vent” on if need be. Who do you know will tell you the truth, and will do it in love? Or who are you certain will inevitably point you to Jesus? Who will be faithful to pray for you? Get around that person. Make time for good fellowship. It’s important.
- Make time for rest and refreshing. This is super important. Ecclesiastes 10:10 talks about an axe that is dull, and how not taking the time to stop and wet it, only requires then more strength than if he’d stopped to refresh it. This is true of us too. Get alone with God. Read His word. Pray. Write out what He’s showing you, what you are thinking, what is happening in your life, if necessary. Get your appropriate sleep. Everything seems more exhausting when you haven’t gotten enough sleep. Slow down if need be.
- Pay attention to your own physical needs in diet and exercise. Maybe this one is obvious, but it’s often the first thing that is neglected. It falls to the back burner, but is certainly important for sanity, clear thoughts, and availability to be used of God. If you are dying premature because you didn’t take care of your health…how is that spiritual? Obviously, some sickness cannot be helped, and God uses it, but I heard it said once that, “It’s a sin to be sick, when you could have been well.” We are to glorify God in our bodies, which are God’s.
- Learn to assess your life situations and prioritize accordingly. This one is challenging sometimes. Sometimes you are just pulled in too many directions…and you snap. I’ve done this too many times to count. Figure out what God expects from you- and do that. And let everything else fall to the side if need be. I know that is easier said than done…but life is too short to carry around everyone else’s expectations too. Paul said, “lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us“. To “press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
- Seek to give all your burdens to Jesus. This one is the most helpful to me. It’s an amazing thing, when circumstances don’t change- but God changes you. He is ready to carry our burdens…if we’ll only tell Him what they are. He’s ready to give the victory…if we’ll ask Him for it. There isn’t anything too big for God. And there isn’t anything too small either. He cares, for us, about us, more than we do. He cares about the people we love, more than we do. He cares about the person you are trying to reach, more than you do. He’s a friend. He’s trustworthy. Tell it to Jesus!
I recently made a “Personal Stress Prevention Plan” for myself. After writing out a list of the things in my life that constantly threaten to drown me, or the people that threaten to drown me, I needed a fall back system to keep me accountable. While God certainly gives us grace to handle “Compassion Fatigue”… it is helpful to understand yourself. To know your limits. To set boundaries and actually KEEP them. It has helped me and I would encourage anyone who is constantly battling Compassion Fatigue, whether you are emotionally tempted to Burnout or overwhelmed by Stress, to do the same. Here are a few things that I hope can serve as a somewhat helpful guideline. (Obviously, everyone’s own list would be personal to them.)
“Lynea’s Game Plan“
Take all my burdens to Jesus
Start going to bed earlier and getting up earlier
Limit my tea/coffee/caffeine intake
Make more time for devotions.
Never forget to pray in the mornings.
Pray about everything I have/need to do
Pray specifically and fervently for specific people
Learn to say “NO”.
Cast down imaginations and bring thoughts captive
Take time to step away and breathe in the fresh air when necessary
Remember to enjoy the simplicity of life sometimes
Make time to read good books
Be faithful to take care of my heath
Trust Jesus with everything