There are too many heartbreaking things to list in this world. Empathy invokes powerful connection and response, but at times vulnerability and grieving leave us unproductive and inefficient, or feeling helpless. How is one meant to respond to the injustices of the world? How is a Christian to have a heart broken by what breaks God’s heart?
Living anywhere, we encounter painful and unfair circumstances. Living in Uganda, I encounter racism, sexism, poverty, and people lacking access to quality education, healthcare, and jobs. I encounter suffering and disease and death. I encounter my privilege and the way it shields me from certain experiences or grants me certain opportunities every hour of every day.
I only once have set foot in a (government-run) Ugandan hospital. My friend was in a boda accident. Once I heard, I immediately made arrangements to go visit him. Upon leaving, not only my friend’s condition and the details of the accident (he got robbed while lying unconscious in the street) had shaken me, but the abysmal quality of care in Gulu Referral. Without realizing it, I had set a subconscious barrier and rule for myself — limiting my exposure to such places. However, the reality of such a place — a place my Ugandan colleagues and friends must go to receive treatment, is not to be ignored. Facing it and sitting with it and questioning it strengthens my resolve and my faith and my understanding. But not without first putting me in a hard place.
Allowing myself to be broken, to feel feelings, to engage with empathy is not weakness. While steeling myself to the pain being felt around me is essential to being an effective, happy, whole person able to perform at work and live life in a developing country, it’s not always the most wise choice. God grant me the peace to sit with the hard things and still be resilient to pursue grace and justice and equality.