This week I met with a friend – let's call her Liz – who asked me to pray for the political crisis in Ukraine. With Russian phrases peppering her language, she told me about her visit to the region last year, when she fell in love with that harsh corner of the world and the brave, stubborn people who call it home. She told me how it broke her heart that protestors burned in the streets while President Obama and the international community postured and made threats, with all of us moving closer to a war that everyone fears and no one seems able to stop.
If I can be frank about this, it felt like wading through molasses. My generation came of age when the World Trade Centers fell in 2001, and since then we've had Bin Laden, Hussein, Kony, Katrina, Somalia and Sudan, and now Crimea.
The molasses at work here isn't new. Medical professionals know it as secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD), and it's a real problem for care professionals who deal with physical and emotional trauma on a full-time basis. Psychologists call it compassion fatigue, and it can be a serious detriment to charities and missionaries trying to pay for making a difference.
We lay folk call it being just plain tired. And I'm sorry to say that everyone deals with this. Everyone with a TV, a radio, or an Internet connection is constantly inundated with images and stories that display the tragedy of an entire world's brokenness. (I recently subscribed to the Twitter accounts of three major news networks – then reduced that number to one after they completely obliterated my homepage.) Most of it tugs at our heartstrings by design. But there comes a point where caring is no longer possible.
And that's where I found myself on the issue of Crimea—struggling to fulfill the words of Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good.”
What I've learned since is that God's compassion begins where ours ends.
“My strength is made perfect in your weakness,” God said to Paul. If you're finding it hard to love, to give to charity, or even to just plain care anymore, spend time taking in God's acts of love and grace toward you. Experience His power to care beyond what you would have on your own. I'm not saying it's a cure for psychological problems, but it is helpful to me as a husband, a Christian, and a citizen of the world.
Liz inspired me that day by reminding me that the world is bigger than me. And I need Someone bigger than me to deal with it.
Lucas Zellers is a regular Axis contributor and former intern.