Compassion Fatigue

Dear Christian Counselor:

Working in ministry is tough and the hours and responsibilities are many. How do I set boundaries, yet still be loving and truly motivated for the cause of Christ and not for the notice of people?

– Pouring Out and Pooped

Dear Pooped:

I’m not sure there should really be a difference between working in Christian ministry and working in any other vocation; we are all called to love and serve wherever we are.  But as someone who has done both, I can testify that there really is a difference.  Part of the difference involves the demands we place on ourselves and the rest comes from others’ expectations of those in the helping professions.

We teach people what to expect by the way we respond to them.  Do you jump out of bed at midnight to comfort the grieving family you barely know on the other end of the phone?  Or do you pray for them and contact their closest friends to do the comforting?   I have a phrase I say often to myself, and I will give it to you, too: “They have a Savior, and it’s not me.”  The guiding rule of Christ is love for God and man, so the question is not how can I protect myself, but how can I love God and others well?   I know that I cannot do that when I am frazzled, exhausted and frustrated.

For me, the key is to look into the face of Christ and know that I am following the path that HE has laid out for me, not the path I have crafted for myself or that others have tried to construct for me.  When I know that I am OK with God, then I can say yes or no to others in greater freedom – even when they may be disappointed with my response.

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