Jesus once told the story of a rich man who often wore purple–a color signifying royalty in Jesus’ day because it was expensive to dye cloth purple. Every time I hear the story I think of another person in the Bible who dealt in purple cloth. Her name was Lydia. She’s remembered as a generous, faithful pillar of the early church. She was the epitome of giving to Christ’s mission. The rich man, not so much. Daily he saw a beggar named Lazarus, but showed no mercy. Lazarus would have been content with crumbs from the table of the rich man. But, the rich man was neither generous or compassionate–until the day he died. On that day the rich man found himself looking over a wide chasm. On the other side was Lazarus–eating well, perhaps wearing purple, while the rich man did not even have water to cool his own tongue.
At that moment, in his own suffering, the rich man suddenly had compassion for his family. “Warn my brothers, so they don’t end up like me.” “Send Lazarus to tell them. If someone goes to them from the dead, they will change their hearts and live.” Abraham came to the rich man and said, “If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then they won’t be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:19-21)
Sometimes fear wins out over compassion like the rich man who placed a gate between himself and Lazarus. Sometimes arrogance overrules compassion. Sometimes weariness when the amount of human need seems beyond our ability to fix. It’s literally called “Compassion Fatigue.” No doubt you’ve felt it when mass shootings or natural disasters come really close together. Even though Jesus’ greatest commandment is love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, sometimes we fail, especially if compassion fatigue sets in.
One way to sustain compassion in such times is to remind ourselves we aren’t called to fix the world, just to show compassion to one person at a time. Another way is to ask for help in sharing compassion. For example, visit the Upper Room Prayer Wall. If you have a friend, family-member or stranger whose problems you can’t fix at the Upper Room Prayer wall you can simply share a first name of someone you’re praying for, the state you’re from and what you’re praying for. It’s free of charge and an Upper Room Prayer team holds your prayers in their hearts, and anyone who visits the virtual prayer wall can do the same. Simply visit the wall by clicking on the link: http://prayer-center.upperroom.org/prayer-wall
The Upper Room is one of United Methodism’s most powerful ministries–with many videos and books to sustain and grow Jesus’ followers. Also, keep your eye out and your ears open for others who may be experiencing compassion-fatigue. Asking someone, “is there anything you’d like me to keep in my prayers” can be a wonderful gift to a weary soul.