The buttons arced upward and then showered down upon the counter. I had grabbed my shirttails and reefed outward creating the tensile force necessary to launch the fasteners from their threaded silos. I wasn’t keeping pace with the needs of the church I served and going ballistic vented my frustration.
The toxic brew of emotions roiling that day points to compassion fatigue. A caregiver becomes depleted by the needs of others they are seeking to help. They experience both physical and emotional weariness. Although the person wants to be empathetic towards another, they no longer have the capacity. Compassion fatigue can show up in many ways including negative emotions, poor self-care, and damaging attitudes.
Jesus did not suffer from compassion fatigue. The incessant needs of others did not depress him, drain him or make him caustic. On one occasion, his disciples return from a ministry assignment eager to report what had happened. However, there is so much commotion around Jesus that neither he nor his disciples have a chance to eat. They set off for a quiet place but many, recognizing them, run on ahead. When Jesus arrives, a large crowd awaits. Did he go ballistic on his robe as I had on my shirttails?
No! Mark records in his gospel this response: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things” (Mk 6:34 NIV).
Jesus practiced a spiritual rhythm that shielded him from compassion fatigue. The unending needs of the crowd did not deplete nor depress him because his inner life was recharged by spending time alone with his Father. After Jesus had cared for the above crowd, we read this: “After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray” (Mk 6:36 NIV). This solitude with God was not a ritual, a duty nor a pious performance. It was facetime with his Father, a sincere connect marked by love, conversation and empowerment.
Spending facetime with God can likewise fuel our compassion and capacity to minister to others. Our stillness in his presence gives us opportunities to feel his affirmation, to know that God loves us. That is restorative. Quiet solitude creates a learning environment. Our response to overwhelming needs is reframed. Our role is not to be the ultimate problem solver for people, but to be a faithful messenger of Jesus’ love and compassion. He is the Messiah, we are not. That is empowering.
What do you do to create some sincere facetime with God?