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The streets were mobbed yet hushed. Few people looked at me; no one spoke to me. Hundreds stood at car-less street corners, obediently waiting for “GO”. Clothes choice seemed to be limited to grey-brown or brown-grey.
For someone brought up in rambunctious, sociable, rebellious, colorful Glasgow, Hungary in the late 1980′s was a really weird experience. At least initially. But as I slowly got to know many Christians in the privacy of their own homes, I gradually came to admire the resilient beauty of the Hungarian character, and to love the people of that long-suffering country.
As some of these persecuted Christians shared their physical, mental, and emotional scars, I also came to understand the public hush, fear, suspicion, and desire to blend in with the crowd. Decades of communist oppression had done its personality-destroying work.
Eastern Europe Spring
However, I also had the privilege of living through the “Eastern Europe Spring” when countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary took advantage of the weakening Soviet Union to throw off the shackles of Communist party rule and embrace long-lost democracy and freedom. Heady, unforgettable, tear-filled days!
But, at least in Hungary, these days were also tinged with deep concern and fervent prayer for neighboring Romania, still under the iron fist and foot of Nicolae Ceauscescu. As Hungary’s freedom blossomed, my work focused more on helping the refugees who were fleeing Romania, and also to getting basic food and clothing into the country, especially the Western area of Transylvania (yes, it’s a real place), where many Hungarians had friends and family.
Eventually, after a year or so, I had to return to Scotland. But as I told the story back in Scotland, many churches and individuals pressed money into my hand and urged me to return to pass on their love-gifts. Thus in December 1989, two poor Scottish students jumped into an ancient mini-car and drove 1600 event-filled miles to the Romanian border.
From euphoria to depression to euphoria
But our euphoria at arriving intact was soon turned to depression as we were turned back at the border despite having all our visas in order. We tried two more borders with the same result. We noted that the guards seemed more jumpy and aggressive than usual – some of them accusing us of being Western journalists – but thought little of it. We did comment that almost everyone else was turned back too.
We left the money with a Hungarian pastor to pass on to his Romanian contacts, and started on the long, weary, quiet journey home.
As we drove off the ferry and on to British soil, we turned on the radio to hear: “Ceauscescu has fallen.” Shivers tingled our spines and tears washed our faces. As we listened, we realized that the place we were driving to, Timisoara, had become the center of the Romanian revolution. Unknown to us, in these pre-cellphone days, while God had mercifully shut the door on us (1000 people died during the uprising), He had powerfully opened the doors of freedom to the Romanian people. A few hundred miles later, we heard the never-to-be forgotten news: “Nicolae Ceauscescu is dead.”
I often use that “God-of-the-impossible” memory to motivate prayer for the suffering people of North Korea. And I found my prayers further kindled this morning as I read New York Times editor Bill Keller’s piece, The Day After North Korea Collapses. Keller points to a number of factors that evidence widespread weakness in the present regime, and traces this to “human influences” like “market forces.” However, as we survey some of the providential developments in and around North Korea over the past few years, including “market forces,” we cannot but conclude: “This is the finger of God.”
Friends, we may be on the cusp of great times for humanity, freedom, and the Gospel in North Korea. Let’s daily encircle that weeping nation with prayer until “the walls come tumblin’ down,” and another despot hears those irresistible divine words: “Let my people go!”
The fragrance of heaven arising from the stench of death
Moving video and powerful illustration.
Stop working more than 40 hours a week
“There’s a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.”
Head, Heart, and Hands
Wish I’d thought of this. “Thinkers need feelers. Feelers need doers. Doers need thinkers.”
“The person that reflects most of Christ, and shines most with His love and grace, is best equipped to attract the attention of a careless, giddy world, and win restless souls from the fascinations of creature-love and creature-beauty. A ministry of power must be the fruit of a holy, peaceful, loving intimacy with the Lord.”
Ever heard of “compassion fatigue”? Neither had I…until very recently. But now that I know about it, I have definitely experienced it. Probably you have too, especially if you’re involved in ministry or caregiving.
Compassion fatigue is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. Common among caregivers, it was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s.
Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and a pervasive negative attitude. Detrimental effects include decrease in productivity, inability to focus, and development of new feelings of incompetency and self doubt.
Some argue that the media shares a large part of the blame for the current prevalence of compassion fatigue “by saturating newspapers and news shows with tragic stories and images of suffering, causing the public to become cynical, or become resistant to helping people who are suffering.” In extreme cases it can lead to such a hardening of the heart that carers turn into abusers.
Contrary to what you might think, it’s the most sensitive and sympathetic who are most likely to suffer from this. Charles R. Figley, co-author of Compassion Fatigue:
There is a cost to caring. Professionals who listen to clients’ stories of fear, pain, and suffering may feel similar fear, pain, and suffering because they care. Those who have enormous capacity for feeling and expressing empathy tend to be more at risk of compassion stress.
And yes, there’s a website. At the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, you can even take a Compassion Fatigue Self-Test! Apart from education and raising self-awareness, the path to wellness includes the old faithfuls of exercise, eating healthy foods, drinking plenty water, just say no, being proactive instead of reactive, friends, etc.
But I’d like to add another remedy, and that’s the consideration and experience of Christ’s compassion. “He took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses” (Matt. 8:17). That does not mean that He suffered all the weaknesses and sicknesses that we endure. It does mean that he felt them as if He endured them. That’s what compassion is, isn’t it. It’s an ability to enter into another person’s life and to so imagine the agony of their suffering that we feel the pain ourselves.
Jesus was able to enter every painful situation – leprosy, blindness, deafness, bereavement, etc – and feel it as if he was the leper, as if he he was blind, deaf, bereaved, etc. In fact with his perfect human sensitivity, he was able to feel the pain of these conditions even more excruciatingly than the actual sufferers themselves!
No one was surrounded by so many sick and sorrowful people as Jesus, as hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands were brought to him for healing. Yet he never once suffered from compassion fatigue.
Did it exhaust Him? Of course it did. He was so shattered at times that He needed to withdraw and recharge his batteries. However, though tired out by compassion, He never tired of compassion. Though it exhausted Him, He never stopped experiencing it. If anyone ever felt the cost of caring, He did; yet He continued to pay the price even when the objects of His compassion returned the favor with cruel ingratitude.
Pastors, caregivers, sensitive souls, bring your compassion fatigue to the ever- and always-compassionate Christ. Envelop yourselves in His refreshing care, recharge your batteries by connecting to His tender love, and resensitize your hearts with His kind grace.
Proverbs for Christian Blogging
Mike Leake provides 10 principles to consider when deciding when to “contend for the faith” on the Internet.
A Call and Agenda for Pastor Theologians
Douglas Sweeney (constructively) shakes up the relationship between Seminary Professors and local Pastors and churches.
15 Ways to Improve Clarity in Preaching
Especially want to underline #2, 3, 4, 9, 15.
Get your towel dirty
“So my challenge to you is twofold: 1. Accept that you can’t repay the mentors in your life, whoever they are. 2. Let your gratitude overflow to people who can benefit from your help. Or, phrased differently, get your towel dirty. There are a lot of dirty feet out there.”
A video game designed to treat depression worked better than counseling
Not good news for Counselors!
Make that digital elephant disappear
Seems to be quite a few elephants around these days. Nathan Bingham with some tips on how to make one of them extinct.
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