Empathy fatigue….?

Today a friend in an office I visit regularly was telling me that her grandaughter’s baby died at birth today- a sad event for their family. It was her grandaughter’s first child. Another couple that I know are sitting by their 7 week old grandaughter’s bed in a hospital near here where she is fighting meningitis. Last week the 8 year old daughter of a couple who are known by many in our church died of a brain aneurysm. Such tragedies seem to be part and parcel of life, but lately there seem to be so many more of them. Is it a function of my life being intertwined with so many more people now than in years past? Or are communications just better now with email distribution lists and prayer teams hastening news along to involve more people in prayer?

About 10 years ago we were in a group at a church in which everyone shared their personal prayer requests as the first order of business and that sharing sometimes took up all the time of the group, eventhough that was not its explicit purpose. Somehow, the sharing of one anothers’ burdens that was such a part of that group’s fellowship was more than I could bear. We left the group after a few weeks. Perhaps my boundaries were too poorly constructed and I entered too much into the pain that I heard expressed by the members there. Perhaps it was that I had recently come off of a time in my life where I had myself been heavily engaged over a number of months in prayerful intercession on behalf of someone dear to me who was suffering greatly. Can one suffer from empathy fatigue?

There are times now when I feel overloaded with the cares of others and I just have to ask the Lord to forgive me for not wanting to hear any more. It makes me wonder how in the world pastors and counselors go on day after day hearing about so much pain.

Sometimes I just want to sit down beside someone and say, “Tell me something good!”