16 July, 2008

Compassion Fatigue in Ministry

Recently I attended a workshop on Compassion Fatigue. During this time we did a Compassion Fatigue test that helped us to identify our levels of burn out, job satisfaction and compassion fatigue. When completing the test my results indicated that I should stay in my job but learn to cope with the emotional toll it takes.

When I was reflecting on this, I realised that as a Christian, living with a soft heart makes us compassionate and to desire mercy. Because of this we may often feel as if we can’t go on caring, as if this world hurts to much as we are attuned to the suffering that takes place and mourn those whom suffer because of fixable problems, such as hunger and colds.

Matthew 25:40 and 45 tell us what Jesus expects of us “I assume you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers, you did for me…..I assume you that whatever you did not do to the humblest of my brothers, you failed to do for me.” This may not be the verse that others would use, but it reminded me that Jesus lived with a soft heart, one that continued to care and one that took refuge in his father. Jesus was perfect and I know we never can be, but if we are walking with God, taking refuge in him, he will provide the strength to keep going, even when our compassion fatigue is high.

Many workers, ministers, prophets, evangelists experience burn out and fatigue. It has become a common job hazard in the church and helping professions, but I wonder if we were as aligned with God as we think we are, would Compassion Fatigue be so high in our field. I am not judging anyone who has left, experienced depression or fatigue, I know they are very real illness’ but what type of environment is being created if this type of fatigue and mental stress is on the rise.

God placed us here not to use and abuse us but to love us so we can love others and in that he gave us Grace and Mercy, something we often forget when we are dealing with certain clients or staff or congregation members. Our agenda and our needs get in the way as we expect them to be fulfilled by what we do, not what God is doing for us and through us.

We talk about taking care of ourselves so we can take care of others, but are we letting God take care of us? So, we can be who he needs us to be and provide all our strength. We need to be an outworking of God, not imploding because of the devastation and brokenness we see.

Many of us work in passioante environments, whether you are in ministry or not, there is always something driving people to do what they do. When this passion is ministry or for people we need to ask where God is placed, as often we forget about God because we are to busy doing and too busy being there for everyone else. This can be were things go down hill.

We are reminded, that we are weak and it is God who makes us strong and able to do the things. When we forget this we are at greater risk of burn out, compassion fatigue and other things that are thrown our way. Don’t be at risk, be with God so when your compassion is high you know God is feeling it to, but the great thing is that he has it all worked out, but needs you to keep doing your part.

Thanks for reading



armybarmy said...

there is a strong connection in scripture between freely receiving and freely giving... I think alot of us compassion giver types have difficulty receiving love and compassion for ourselves.. we are often our hardest critic...

even the two greatest commandments are about this really - without a living and vibrant relationship with God where we are connected to a source of intense and holy love... we cannot possibly love our neighbour as ourselves... it won't be enough.
Great reminder Robyn - thanks.

Anonymous said...