I wasn’t born a deeply compassionate person.
I do care about people very much, but feelings of compassion aren’t a common occurrence for me.
In the past few months, I have found myself with even less feelings of compassion and empathy than normal.
Being a childcare worker, that can be quite an issue.
Before I share about the lack of compassion I’ve felt, I should give you some context to the story of how I got where I am today.
I grew up as the youngest sibling and was usually surrounded by people older than me. As I came into my teen years, I remember feeling disgusted by the idea of babysitting, or being around kids in general. I did not want anything to do with them. I avoided serving in kid’s ministry at church, and avoided children for the most part.
After a cross-country move and some very big changes in my life, I found myself at a new church. I attended the church for a few months and before I knew it, the Lord convicted my heart that I needed to be serving in His house. While in prayer, I asked the Lord what team He wanted me to serve at the church, and it became clear that He was leading me to serve in the kids ministry.
I was afraid.
I had barely ever spent time with children, so how was I supposed to know how to help teach them about the Lord?
I will never forget the first day I served in the kids ministry. I was in a classroom of 3 and 4 year olds. I had no idea as to what I was doing. I remember just doing my best to be engaged with the kids and keep them on task. I committed to serve once a month, and so I showed up.
I rarely felt any feelings of compassion, and really only felt overwhelmed for a long time.
But I showed up, and I didn’t stop showing up.
Somewhere in that time, and without me even noticing, I began to feel a deep compassion and care for these children I was helping teach.
One day I looked up, and instead of being overwhelmed by the chaos around me, I felt overwhelmed with the deep feeling of love and compassion for these children that I barely knew.
Before I knew it, I was deeply involved with the kids ministry at my church. So much so, that when they launched a daycare I was hired as a teacher! I felt like I was on top of the world. I had the privilege of teaching kids about Jesus for a living. I was teaching classes on weekdays and on Sundays.
But slowly, the feeling of compassion, and my passion for that matter, faded away.
I found myself with a plate full of teaching children, yet no compassion to fuel it.
Don't get me wrong, I still deeply loved the children I worked with, but my fuse was short, the spark was dim and I found myself reacting to the children in a way that I didn’t like.
I was tired, and I didn't know why I was feeling the way that I was.
In order to figure out how I was feeling, I took a sabbatical from serving on Sundays. I spent time with the Lord, and I asked Him what I should do. And you know what happened? Nothing. I still felt exhausted at work. I still had a short fuse and absolutely no feelings of compassion for the kids.
Though I didn't realize it at the time, I was suffering from compassion fatigue.
Can I be completely transparent? That is where I was at as I sat down to write this devotional. I was tired. Tired of the day to day, the demands and pulls that my job and these kids put on me. As I began to write my story, I could feel the Lord showing me His faithfulness through many less than ideal situations throughout my life. He spoke to me something valuable:
“If showing up and being consistent, no matter what, was your way into the feeling of compassion, it will also be your way back.”
Another thing He showed me is that He is the author of compassion.
When I lack compassion, He does not. He is only a question away from helping me. His Spirit is with us always. He reminded me of something that I teach my kids to say when they are struggling, “Holy Spirit, help me.”
It’s the simplest and yet most powerful of prayers. The Holy Spirit is our Helper, He is our source, He is with us in every moment. His presence doesn’t take bad situations away, but gives us the strength to go through them.
Maybe those of you reading this are feeling similar, tired, burdened, or not yourself. Maybe feelings of compassion are something you rarely feel. I want you to know that you are not alone. God has more than enough compassion for you, and for those around you. He cares. He cares when you don’t.
And if we allow Him, we can express His compassion to others, even when we don’t feel anything.
His compassion, after all, is more than just a feeling.
Finally, I decided to come to Jesus with my compassion fatigue.
It hasn’t magically disappeared, but I can feel the Lord empowering me through it. As I have matured in my relationship with the Lord, I have begun to realize that there is often much more beauty in Him giving me the strength to walk through a hard situation, than in Him removing the situation.
When I look into the eyes of a child who is throwing a fit about nothing for the tenth time that day, I am finding God’s compassion for them.
The beauty of God’s compassion is that it requires nothing of me, but to be a vessel for it.
If you feel any of these things I am sharing, I encourage you to pray this prayer:
I give you my burdens, my burnout, my tiredness, my emptiness. I ask You to fill me. Fill me with Your Spirit, and fill me with Your compassion. I ask You to give me what I don’t have, to give to others. Holy Spirit, help me. Make me more like You. Thank You for Your faithfulness in every season, even in this one.
~ Amanda McRoberts