Compassion Fatigue: Life in the Trench

Some of us are living life “in over our heads” meeting critical needs of others morning, noon, and night. Boundaries blur. The call of duty is relentless.

  • Disaster Relief Workers
  • Trauma Care Staff
  • Understaffed Organizations
  • Parents of Special Needs Children
  • Relatives of Aging Adults

For some it’s a season. For others it’s been a “steady state” spanning years, or even decades.
The call of duty is clear, but burnout remains optional – if we take four truths to heart.

  • A Truth
  • A Promise
  • A Means
  • An Invitation

A Truth: Jesus Loved Martha
I hate the bad rap Martha seems to get in Luke 10. God loves do-ers. He loves the movers and shakers of this world who see a need and mobilize themselves (and sometimes others), and meet that need empowered by the love they have for Jesus. Are you a hard worker? Jesus loves you! (He also loves those of us who are not yet there!) Truth be told, we are not saved BY good works, but we are saved FOR good works, work He prepared in advance for us to DO. Ephesians 2:8-9. Good job, faithful worker. You are dearly loved.

A Promise: I Shall Lack Nothing
Psalm 23 holds a promise we sometimes forget.

The Lord is my Shepherd I shall lack nothing.

That promise, if taken to heart, blows me out of the water.
When I survey my life, I SEE, FEEL, EXPERIENCE plenty of “lack.”
When I see this “lack” I am forced to ask myself, “whose fault is this? Mine or God’s?”
God is not a liar.
Too often we divorce verse 1 from verse 2 and 3. Read it now. Add the word, how.

The Lord is my Shepherd I shall lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me besides quiet waters, He restores my soul.

Selah. Pause and ponder this remarkable promise.

A Means: Take My Yoke
Matthew 11 dishes out an invitation to take all, any, and every burden I carry and bring it to Jesus. This includes my exhaustion. Chronic levels of fatigue is a pressing concern and real-life burden for those who roll up their sleeves every day and give those in need, “all they’ve got.”

Matthew 11:29-30 tells us how.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden in light.

Overextended and burned out for years, this verse felt deceptive to me.
All I saw (among the leaders around me) and all I knew was exhaustion. It never ended.
I decided that “rest for my soul” would one day be mine in heaven, but not a day before.
Jesus was a man of rhythm and rest. He knew the joys of Sabbath, personal prayer, and personal retreat. He sat down when he was tired (John 4:6) and he knew the blessings of a restorative nap (Luke 8:23).
Jesus modeled a pace for life that we typically ignore.
What if . . .
What if I allowed his way, to become my way?

An Invitation: Grab Your Empty Jars
Are you empty? Bone-dry empty?
God is familiar with this problem and knows the remedy.
Read 2 Kings 4:1-7.
The woman was desperate.
She knew where to turn.
She was willing to withdraw . . . to close the door on all demands and distractions.
God met her there, miraculously and mysteriously.
That quiet time, behind closed doors, filled her up.
Grab your emptiness, every bucket, every dream—dashed or alive, and get away with God.
Be bold. Seek the help of another. You can’t do it alone.
Go! Close the door.
Get outside.
Get away.
Get with God.
An hour.
A day.
A weekend.
A week.

Our prayer for you, the Marthas of this world, “May God make a way in the desert.”
Isaiah 35.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.
My hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5 (NIV ’84)


This post is part three of a three-part series:

After the Hurricane Hits
After The Hurricane – The Messy Middle
Compassion Fatigue: Life in the Trench

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