From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Simon Lee
Dear brothers and sisters,
The pandemic that has devastated us for the last year and a half may soon have run its course, at least we hope so. It has been too long, too tragic, and too sad, for too many. We have all been put to the test in our faith, and we all wonder who will be left standing at the end of the long period of desolations we have to endure. Personally, this past many months have been most trying as I have never experienced anything like it in all my years of ministry. The challenge came in the form of COVID hitting my oldest daughter which also led to Lydia and I having to be self-isolated for 14 days. It came at the same time as the loss of many of my closest colleagues and classmates, and esteemed teachers and veteran pastors due to different illnesses. Also, the difficulties of the ministries seemed to be compounded and more overwhelming when one cannot deal with them face to face, or rely on the knowledge and past experiences one has accumulated. But ultimately the pandemic put to the test on who I am as a person. How I and we all fare at the end depends on what we are made of, whether we are just living a Christian form of life or whether we are truly living the Christ life, the authentic life of faith, lived in the way Christ lived.
It is inevitable that when we go through any trials, whether physical, mental, spiritual, or relational, whatever the nature of the trials is, and even when we are doing things out of care and compassion, fatigue inevitably sets in over time. For those who are the business of caring for others, psychologists call this “compassion fatigue.” The concept comes from “metal fatigue” in big, engineered machines like airplanes that are made of the best metal alloys that are sturdy and last for a long time, even after countless hours of flight. However, after logging thousands and thousands of hours of flight, eventually, even the strongest material starts to become more fragile and run into risks of breaking down, causing terrible accidents.
The concept of “compassion fatigue” is applied to loving and devoted caregivers and health and service providers including those who are in ministries. It is different from “burnouts” which now refers to the results of being overworked and the experience of overwhelming pressure in different situations. It often happens before a person fall into in a burnout situation but is already on the verge of it. In fact, the reason for not quite falling into a burnout situation is the care and compassion the person has that keeps the person going despite the real need of slowing down, resting and resetting. Therein lies the danger for us as Christians, we know that we need to live by faith and serve with compassion, but despite our best intention, because we are but human, we will experience physical and compassion fatigue, especially when we try so hard against all odds.
Even Jesus with all His compassion had to fight physical and compassion fatigue at the end of days of ministries of teaching and caring. He had to take time off on His own to pray to the Father till the early hours of the morning (Mt 13, 14). But at the end of all his trials, Jesus was able to walk on water, unlike Peter, the disciple “of little faith” who wanted to be like Jesus but doubted and as soon as he moved his eyes away from Jesus and saw the wind and the water, he sank and cried out desperately for help. There are many lessons we can learn from this familiar story, especially when we are hopefully seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in this pandemic, but I would just like to focus here on one, “compassion fatigue”, learning from Jesus to take rest. (Continue next week)
Rev. Simon Lee