Some days I get really tired.
A kind of soul-weary tiredness that goes way beyond the physical. It can’t be fixed by quick remedies or magic phrases. It’s a weariness that doesn’t need or want words, but rather craves rest, peace, understanding and time for silence, reflection and prayer.
As a chaplain, it is a rare day when I am not sitting down beside someone who is weary. Sometimes it is the exhaustion that comes after hours of weeping over the loss of a loved one. Sometimes it is the desperate weariness of someone who keeps searching for a way to stop living. Often it is the numbed fatigue of a soul who feels no love, no hope, no potential for a life beyond the pain, rejection, loss and sorrow that their life has been defined by.
Each patient who crosses my path has a weariness that extends into the realm of emotional and spiritual suffering.
At the Vision Ministries conference, we talked about compassion as entering into the suffering of others. Truly entering into someone’s suffering is not easy to do. It means feeling another’s exhaustion, their desperation, their numbness, their pain. It hurts, it gets messy, and it has no easy solutions.
More frequently than we care to admit, the Christian response to suffering involves a fearful circling of a person without entering into the depth of that person’s world. It is so much easier to respond to someone who is suffering with advice, admonishment, endless chatter, or avoidance, and denial. For many Christians, weariness and suffering are seen as issues to resolve from the outside, rather than places of sacred connection and shared sorrow experienced from deep within.
In contrast, Isaiah 53 describes the coming Messiah as a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. That Messiah enters fully into our suffering, weariness and sorrow, and does not try to ‘fix’ us, but rather, whispers gently “Come to me.”
He offers caring eyes when the world looks away. He brings gentle hands to people who no one else wants to touch. He listens carefully to voices that have been forgotten. And He brings wisely spoken words to those who have suffered through a barrage of thoughtless verbosity.
When I consider how to provide spiritual care for people in mental health settings, I think often of this description of Jesus. He is a compassionate and gentle Saviour who does not fearfully circle around those who are weary and suffering. Instead, He envelops each of us and enters fully into whatever we are experiencing.
It is in His compassion that I find rest, and it is through His compassion that I am able to enter more fully into the suffering of others.
Jessica Baker is a chaplain with Covenant Health in Edmonton, Alberta. She’s an endorsed chaplain through Vision Ministries, has a M.Div. from Tyndale Seminary, and is a certified Specialist in Spiritual Care with the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care. She’s passionate about the intersection of spirituality, mental health and trauma care.