Resisting Compassion Fatigue

In my last post I wrote about Compassion Fatigue – the emotional weariness that we feel from overexposure to the plight of the poor and needy. In America we are exposed to so many appeals – many, if not all of them, legitimate needs – that we become insensitive to the suffering of people around the world. We become indifferent, even calloused from seeing too many starving, malnourished babies, too many victims of disasters, too many people picking through the garbage dumps of the world to find something to eat. With remote in hand it’s too easy to change the channel so we’re not confronted by another emotional appeal. It’s easier to watch a commercial about the newest BMW than to confront the poverty of a starving child in Uganda.

But as Christians we’ve been given a responsibility, a mandate to care for the poor and needy. The Apostle James makes our responsibility clear:

My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead! (James 2:14-17)

As Christians we don’t have the option of ignoring the plight of the poor. Our faith demands action. But we’re still human and that means that we can still suffer from overexposure to suffering; we are still prone to Compassion Fatigue.

So what do you do when Compassion Fatigue sets in? Here are some simple steps:

First confess it for what it is – sin (1 John 1:9). Any time we fail to live in agreement with the Word of God (see James 2 above) it is sin.

Second agree with God that everything we have has come from His good hand and in reality still belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1, James 1:17) – this removes the barrier of ownership which often leads to selfishness.

Third ask God to give you a heart that reflects His heart (Deuteronomy 10:18, 15:11, 82:3-4, Proverbs 14:31, Luke 6:36, Acts 20:35 – for those who protest the use of OT passages that related specifically to Israel I would simply point out that the heart of God has not changed).

Fourth, realize that God has not asked you to solve every problem in the world. You can’t feed all of the hungry or cloth all of the naked or provide for all of the needy. So, stop feeling guilty – unless of course you are not feeding any of the hungry or clothing any of the naked or providing for any of the needy.

Fifth, rejoice that God has given you an opportunity to minister His love, in His name, by His grace.

Don’t allow Compassion Fatigue to rob you of the joy of giving (1 Corinthians 9:7).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve


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