They Do Exist.

Boundaries, Compassion Fatigue & Facing What You Can’t Fix.

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Christina Bacino about boundaries while working in ministry with victims of human trafficking and exploitation. She works in South Africa and originally posted this on a blog: It Was For Freedom. Thank you, Saskia, for sending it to us. – Lauren

It’s amazing how quickly life can change. Just a few weeks ago I took pride in my “failure is not an option” mentality. Now, I can’t believe how silly and prideful that is. This idea of not wanting to fail has gotten me into a lot of trouble recently. I probably still don’t have full self-awareness on this, but I am in the middle of redefining what failure is- particularly in relation to counter-human trafficking work.

My job involves a lot of running around, phone calls, and speaking on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves. When dealing with broken people in a broken system, it is very easy to take responsibility for all of the gaps. I mean, people’s lives are on the line, after all. Someone has to fight for them, right? For example, a trafficking victim has escaped her trafficker, she wants help, but is heavily addicted to drugs. There is no available rehab for those without money. Safe houses won’t take victims who are addicts. The only free rehabs have waiting lists of up to a year. What do you do? What do you tell her as she sits across from you willing to go to rehab in an instant, but the doors are all closed? You have tried. Do you walk away knowing you did what you could, but the system has failed her, or do you take matters into your own hands? Do you take on the “failure is not an option” mentality, or do you say, “I am sorry, I cannot help you any further.”

Photo by Hannah Says Hello Photography / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

Not long ago I would have taken on the responsibility instantly, without a thought. But I have had to learn the hard way that this is not necessarily always what God has called us to. Now I know, I may not be the most popular freedom fighter after this, and I am happy to hear different experiences. And I also want to clarify that sometimes God leads us by his spirit to be persistent. But I am not talking about that. I am talking about the times when need and injustice are staring us in the face and our sense of urgency and responsibility take over –  leaving us to function in desperation and in our own strength. And God takes His blessing and hand off of what we are doing, because we have left Him out of it. We have taken matters into our own hands.

Those of you who have experienced this before know how painfully exhausting it is to work from your own strength. You work, and work, and work, and work only to see little to nothing happen. Why do we fall into this trap? I think there are many reasons: We like to feel needed. We like the feeling of helping people. We think that if we don’t do it, no one else will. You can fill in the blanks….

How long do we bang our head against that wall until we realize that God is not in that? He said His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I cannot take responsibility for the freedom of every trafficking victim in Africa. If I did, I wouldn’t last past this year of work. I would literally go crazy. I would make bad decisions, because I was lead by my emotions rather than by His spirit. I would make promises I couldn’t keep. I would work from a sense of urgency and desperation that would exhaust me to my core.

I am learning that relinquishing this responsibility may mean saying things like, “I am sorry, but I cannot help you any further.” Saying this won’t seem like failure anymore, because my hope is in Him and His ability to set the captives free, not my own.

I am thankful for this realization. God has been gracious, gentle and loving to show me this early in life. I pray that His spirit will always nudge me when I have taken on responsibility for things that I shouldn’t. I pray that I always trust Him enough to lay something/someone back down before Him. I pray that failure is taken out of the equation, because the battle is ultimately His.

I will leave you with this thought and prayer from my devotional this morning as it was so timely: “If we are honest, we will admit that we never have misgivings about ourselves, because we know exactly what we are capable or incapable of doing. But we do have misgivings about Jesus. And our pride is hurt even at the thought that He can do what we can’t. My misgivings arise from the fact that I search within to find how He will do what He says. My doubts spring from the depths of my own inferiority. If I detect these misgivings in myself, I should bring them into the light and confess them openly- Lord, I have had misgivings about you. I have not believed in your abilities, but only my own. And I have not believed in your almighty power apart from my finite understanding of it.”

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19 Responses

  1. Jordana

    such a good post! makes me think of proverbs 19:2 — Desire without knowledge is not good— how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

    this is a verse, i have to repeat to myself and meditate on regularly. i try to justify relying on my own strength with thoughts like, "but i'll be helping someone," or "but who else will do it," or "God wants this person/situation to be fixed." and not until very recently did i even realize that i was ignoring God and trying to take control of almost every situation in my life. it was so eye opening and God has been speaking so gently to me about my faith in Him and our relationship. i've kind of being trying to one-up God (ewwww, so awful).

    so again, thank you for this post – it is a great reminder for me and brings lots of encouragement!

    April 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

  2. laurendous

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for venturing and falling where you had to to have this realization. As a Christian studying International Development, I've been trying to understand what our role is in social justice and entrepreneurship. In a field that is dominated by humanistic perspectives, I've been grieved to see so many Christian organizations join in and allow for the "WE CAN BE THE CHANGE" and "WE CAN DO IT" and "IT'S UP TO US" mentalities, instead of that which says: "I am but an empty vessel, ready and available for His leading and His power." Your post is such a great encouragement to me, and I pray that I would remember these things when I'm in my career. Again, thank you.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm

  3. If you had known how difficult this past week has been than you would know how truly thankful I am for this post. I definitely needed this reminder. I've been so focused on my power and abilities and not really trusting God that what I can't do is okay because HE CAN. Thank you so much! God bless you!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm

  4. Thank you so much for writing this! It is exactly what I'd been praying for insight on in recent days…what do you know? God is STILL faithful! Haha. God is God, we are not.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm

  5. Mikayla

    What is the devotional that ending prayer came from? Must have.

    Thank you so much for this post. Ugh. Every time I think GWP couldn't do a better job choosing posts & topics, you do it again. Love this community so much.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm

  6. Christina

    Hello Ladies! So glad to hear that this post encouraged all of you:) It is incredible how God can take moments that feel like failure and completely redeem them in teaching us lessons and blessing others with encouragement. He is so good!

    The devotional at the end came from Oswald Chamber's book My Utmost for His Highest. Definitely worth getting!

    Love to all. Be encouraged; He is able!

    April 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm

  7. Christina

    Hello Ladies! So glad to hear that this post encouraged all of you:) It is incredible how God can take moments that feel like failure and completely redeem them in teaching us lessons and blessing others with encouragement. He is so good!

    The prayer at the end came from Oswald Chamber's devotional My Utmost for His Highest. Definitely worth getting!

    Love to all. Be encouraged; He is able!

    April 11, 2012 at 5:15 pm

  8. Christina, I really resonate with what you are writing about. I have spent the last year doing therapy with girls who are victims of sex trafficking/expoitation in the states and was definitely relying on my own strength at the beginning of my time with them. Honestly, I was crying every day because of how much it seemed like I was facing and that there just didn't seem to be any end in sight. In a much similar way you write about, I was able to surrender the girls to God and in doing so I have been able to handle so much more than I ever thought possible because the strength I was exhibiting wasn't coming from me but from God. Thank you for the post…it was timely and much needed!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm

  9. Kelly

    Thank you so much for your heart and words, Christina! You are doing incredible work with an issue that is by no means an easy one to fight. As a fellow-Christian who worked for a non-profit that approaches human trafficking from the policy side with grassroots movement, my heart goes out to you. I can't even count the number of times I ran into the very same wall. STAY STRONG. Just remember…let God break your heart for what breaks His. Fill yourself up before sending yourself out so you don't get burnt out. It can quickly become exhausting emotionally and physically if you are not keeping your heart in check. And as you were saying, don't forget that it is ultimately God's fight. Don't let that deter you, but let it propel you. Realize that He has given you the courage and heart to be His hands and feet here on Earth to fight this injustice. Keep up the good work!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:20 pm

  10. Allison

    This post just opens up a million new questions for me. :( It's a wonderful post, definitely wonderful. But I don't know how to go about NOT trying to fix it. When someone is looking at you and saying "I need help" and you could technically pull out all the stops and help them, how do you keep from doing that and still feel ok? In my mind they deserve all the help I can possibly give. I don't know how to keep from doing that and burning out. Er, help? If anyone has any suggestions?

    August 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm

  11. Thanks you for sharing your experience during your work. I do agree with you that failure is the way to success. I know that working in a corporate world involves a lot of stress and it is very difficult to manage your time.

    July 4, 2013 at 7:16 am

  12. Yes I am totally agree with the commenter above me. I would be very hard to manage all the things in tough routines. Anyway Thank for sharing such a real personal experience.

    February 27, 2014 at 6:58 am

  13. A post which reminds me to be a faithful servant as "Abraham" the Father of all righteous which exemplifies me that having trust on the Almighty in all thick and thin will lead towards eternal peace, on the other side its also said that GOD help those who help themselves, as you are working in an organization which is standing against "human trafficking" you should try things which can help such as tools that monitors things around there are several application which are handy today such as spy software or mobile spy apps they can be really helpful to you. Visit this link I am sure it will help you

    February 28, 2014 at 6:21 am

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