Merry Christmas from the Steeres in the USA 🙂 We’re visiting family and some ministry partners and enjoying cold evenings by warm fires and Michigan winter joy 🙂
Most of you receive our monthly updates, so we won’t say much about ‘what we’ve been up to’ in this Christmas letter. (If you’ve not already signed up and would like to, click here).
Instead, we offer a reflection and prayer for you this Advent season.
2017 has been difficult for many people we know, whether because of personal suffering or that of others. Some of you might be experiencing ‘compassion fatigue’ – or the related ‘ego depletion’ or ‘burnout’. A level of fatigue that goes beyond mere physical tiredness; it’s often the result of effort and suffering outweighing joy and rest for a lengthy period of time.
I remember one morning in March this year. Mardi came home from the hospital for lunch, and had had three extremely ill children die already – before 10:00 am. That day, I felt there was more suffering around me than I could comprehend, let alone enter into with her. After several years’ worth of similar days, it’s taken a few months of rest, restoration and healing while home on furlough for me to re-center my soul in the reality that God is always present and working for good in our suffering, no matter how profound.
Dr Paul Whetham, a clinical psychologist based in Adelaide, points to research suggesting that compassion fatigue is inevitable – our bodies, minds and emotions have limits, and we can only live beyond them for so long. Whether you’re a soldier in World War II, a medical practitioner in Africa, or a stay at home parent in Australia, “depletion is inevitable, so restoration becomes essential” (Daniel Hahn).
We pray that this Advent season and Christmas is one in which you are able to create space to re-discover your center of love and compassion in the One who defines those concepts. We pray you experience an increase in your ability to love and have compassion for yourself and those around you.
Seven hundred years before Christ was born, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah described the future Messiah:
He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners (Is 61:1)
‘Com’ + ‘passio’ – ‘suffering with’. The core of the incarnation. Christ entered our world, ‘pitched his tent among us’ (John 1:14), was radically present to and participated in our suffering. May this Advent and Christmas season be one of rejuvenation for you, and may your willingness to enter into the suffering of others be restored. May we remember that we are called to love and suffer with the world–not hold ourselves apart from it.
“God’s love is an infinite source in which to root ourselves like oak trees, and through which to transform our anguish into a robe of justice. We can learn to be present to suffering; our own, other peoples’ and all that is engulfing our worlds. In doing so, always remember in community that we are indeed bound into each other; we are not alone.”*
We send our love and prayers for you all this Christmas, and are grateful to be in community with you!
Andy, Mardi, Riley & Liam
*The quote above is from the Advent devotional we’re doing as a family this season.