I've had a lot of friends tell me that I should watch the show "This Is Us." But I just can't bring myself to do it. It feels too much like real life and I've got enough real life going on right now. If I'm watching TV, I'd rather watch stuff with laser beams, viking ships, or dragons. My mind needs a break.
It seems like there is a lot heavy stuff going on right now. It's easy to be overwhelmed and become numb to it. Our compassion can only go so far, and with instant access to all the global news and tragedy and injustice, it's hard to know where to even start. What can we possibly do that would even make a difference? We can be overwhelmed into inaction.
I have to imagine when Jesus came on the scene and saw the mess we had made of the things, it was a little overwhelming. Matthew says it like this, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." What did he do with his compassion?
In this instance, he got his friends together and sent them out to do something about it. (Matthew 10.) I think there is something about being connected to a community that is passionate about the same things as you so you can encourage each other on when the going gets tough.
In some other stories, he directly attacked the systems that brought about injustice. (John 2.)
More often than not, though, Jesus dealt with brokenness on a personal and individual level. He stopped whatever he was doing and allowed the interruption to be the thing. While he saw the big picture of brokenness, he fought against it in small, practical, daily ways. One way to avoid burnout is to approach things from a micro level rather than the macro level. Small acts of compassion made over a long period of time can make a significant impact.
Another key to Jesus' consistent compassion was his commitment to solitude. There is one story where Jesus is staying at Peter's family's house. He stays up all night as people from town bring their sick and their broken. He helps and heals as much as he can. Here is what happens next:
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (Mark 1:35)
Jesus took time to get away, clear his head, get perspective, and recharge. He did this a lot. Luke mentioned that, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
When the noise seems to be drowning and draining, turn it off. Get away. Get alone. Reflect. Take a deep breath. Get focused. It’s easy to burn out. It takes work and intentionality to stay healthy and be in it for the long haul. Find and fight for your solitude. You may think you are too busy. You may think there are so many demands that there is no time to waste. But brokenness and injustice and pain were still around once Jesus left. It's not on your shoulder to fix everything. Do what you can.