Recently I read Ann Voskamp’s beautiful, heart wrenching post about the situation in Iraq. In it she outlines the impossible choices children face there – girls sold into sexual slavery, forced to have their virginity surgically remade only to be taken again and again. Children denied an education. Babies as young as three years old being executed by ISIS. The situation is dire and it’s difficult to think about.
As I read about the abhorrent conditions there, I couldn’t help but feel a familiar feeling in my chest. It’s not disbelief. I know that the situation is real and awful and demands action. It’s not apathy. I care deeply about the suffering of other people, especially mothers burying their babies and girls forced to give up their childhood for someone else’s sexual pleasure.
The feeling is fatigue. It’s knowing that as awful as this story is, there are endless terrible stories across the globe even as I write this – the displaced and hungry after the earthquakes in Nepal, the families in the West Bank who wake up each morning wondering if this is the day that violence will overtake their city. And in my own neighborhood, lonely foster children are still hoping for a place to call home.
On and on the list goes. In an age of instant connection, we all share the dark reality of the immense amount of human suffering in our world. But I can only do so much. My calendar is already pretty full and our budget is tight. What am I supposed to do with all of this suffering?
I can’t just throw my hands in the air. I take my role as a child of God seriously. Those who suffer are my brothers and sisters and I’m called to offer love and compassion and help.
In the face of constant and overwhelming need, here is how I resolve to respond to my spiritual siblings’ suffering around the world.
1) I resolve to care. This is no small thing. In a world where stories of children trafficked as sex workers in Thailand show up in your newsfeed underneath pictures of your cousin’s new puppy, it’s easy to just scroll by and tune it all out as noise. But when I find myself confronted with the realities of impossibly difficult experiences, I commit to hear their stories and to consider how God might have me respond.
2) I resolve to pray. Prayer moves God’s heart. It also changes ours. It is one way I can stand with those who suffer. Honestly, in this season of my life raising little kids, my private devotional times are sporadic. But we make a point to pray at our meals, and as we thank God for what feels like the absurdly incredible blessing of a warm home and a full table, we can remember the hungry and hurting.
3) I resolve to talk. Compassion includes inviting my neighbors to care about suffering, too. I talk about what I care about – my kids, my husband, my hobbies. I want that list to include those I’m praying for. I can share a hard story on Facebook, stop to pray at a park date, or use a book club meeting to write letters to survivors of domestic violence. I won’t be silent.
4) I resolve to give. I can’t give to every cause. But because that’s true, I often assume I can’t support any cause. Though we live on what feels like a tight budget, I’m aware my family’s wealth is vast compared to many around the world. The extra things I take for granted – meals out, new clothes we don’t really need, desserts and treats – can and sometimes should be sacrificed help where it’s needed most.
Will you fight compassion fatigue with me? It’s time to stay awake to the pain of our brothers and sisters who need us to rise up in love.
This post originally appeared at http://venn-magazine.com/fighting-compassion-fatigue/