The church was quiet, except for the soft worship music the pianist was chording for atmosphere. Around me, many of the worshippers were sitting as I was, with heads bowed, searching our hearts for something that may stand between us and our Creator.
Out of the passion of my teenaged soul, one fervent prayer went up to heaven:
"Lord, show me how to love like you."
Ever since, God has been answering my prayer. I have been presented with more opportunities to care, and been shown more ways to help, than I saw or realized. But as time has gone on, I have seen more of them and done more about the ones I have seen.
And still, I struggle with the questions: "Do I care enough? Am I doing enough?"
Lately, the question in my mind has been, "How do I know when I am caring enough? Where is the healthy boundary?"
I ask this when I receive an unsolicited letter from a fellow soldier in Christ who lives in poverty in India but spends all his time spreading the gospel among his countrymen, and all he needs is a little help. Or when I hear of the travesties that happen to young girls sold into sexual slavery in Russia and India and Ukraine. Or when I read about the abuse of women, children, or anyone different or weaker that happens right here in my community.
"Do I care enough? Am I doing enough?"
How do you care without bleeding out? How do you protect yourself without becoming callous? How do you draw the line between "making a difference in the world" and "being healthy and whole for me and my family" when your heart breaks every time you hear about the damage done to one of the least of these?
As I was pondering this, I started thinking about how Jesus behaved. No one in the whole history of the world cared more than he did. He never turned away anyone that asked for his help. But he was human while he walked this earth, with human limitations in strength and stamina. So how did he keep caring so much without being sucked dry as a raisin?
5 Ways to Protect Your Passion:
- Prayer. Jesus relied on the Father for everything, including the strength and stamina to keep giving and giving to the many that came to him, day after day.
- Priorities. Jesus took time to nurture himself and rest in many ways, from spending solitary time praying, to a Sabbath dinner among friends, to putting some distance between himself and the needs of the many after dealing with thousands of people to the point of exhaustion, just so he could catch a nap. (If he was sleeping on a boat in the middle of a storm, you know he had to be pretty tired.) We need to allow ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities we have to rest from meeting other people's needs--from a weekly sabbath from everyday labours, to a time of relaxation among friends, to simply being alone to refresh and rejuvenate and be in communion with the Father.
- Purpose. Jesus "came to seek and to save that which was lost", and he did that every single day of his ministry. He went where people could find him, and where he could talk to those he came to minister to. He never turned away people that came to him for help. But he didn't travel to China looking for others that needed it, either--that was not the mission he was meant to do in his three years' ministry. That's not to say that no one should ever travel to help another person. God gives us all a mission and a ministry, and for some of us, it involves helping people on the other side of the globe (including China). But once we know our mission and ministry, we should remain focused on that. We do not need to be hunting down other ways to minister to the detriment of our own well-being and the current mission. (Nor should we feel guilty for not doing so.)
- Proximity. Jesus had different sizes of "circles" that he ministered to with different levels of intimacy: family (his mother and siblings) and intimate friends such as Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; intimate disciples such as John and Peter, his larger group of intimate disciples ("The Twelve"), a very large group of disciples (the ones he sent into towns and villages, among others), his thousands of followers, the general masses, and those that opposed him. He was real with all of them, and showed compassion to everyone, but he did not display the same level of relaxation and intimacy with those in the outer circles of intimacy as those nearest to him. We do not need to bare our souls and let down our guard with every person that is put in our path. There are layers of emotional distance that we can observe as a measure of self-preservation of our spirit. But we do need to love them all in appropriate ways, and help them in the ways we are capable of.
- Persistence. Jesus completed his mission by consistently doing the things he had been called to do, never running away from or turning his back on those who needed him, and ultimately giving up his own life on the cross to redeem the people he loved and cared about so much. He kept going until he had reached the end, and did everything in his power to finish the job. Yes, we need to rest, and protect ourselves, and do our work in steps. But we also need to faithfully give our lives to the needs he has given to us to minister to.
Now that I see what Jesus did, I can more easily focus on the needs that are actually my responsibility, and through the grace of God, protect myself from becoming drained of energy by things that are not.
Do you struggle with "caring too much" too? Do you weep at headlines and want to do something about every injustice you hear about? What steps have you taken to prevent emotional burnout?
(You can download "Let Me Love" from the Fields of Grace collection.)