Written By Rebecca Krämer, Germany
The room was loud and busy . . . packed with over 150 students gathered for Bible school. My instinct was to observe. In situations like this, my keen senses allow me to see beyond the organized chaos and eager shouts—so as I looked around the room, I saw 150 individuals trying to fit in, desperate to be seen and heard. I saw brokenness, loneliness, and students not knowing what they’re worth.
As a result of being in tune to the needs around me, my genuine desire to do my job and love the students well quickly turned into an unhealthy (and unrealistic) desire to solve every problem and be a champion for all of their needs.
I find myself in this type of situation a lot. When I see needs, I hope to meet them. I want to see people walk in freedom through my efforts. This impossible expectation, however, often leads me down a painful road of disappointments because my attempts don’t produce the change I expect—I simply cannot fix all of the problems I see.
This is a reality that we all must face. As we become aware of the brokenness around us, we have to learn how to respond in a way that doesn’t exhaust us and that serves others well. As with any gift we have, we must shape and train it so we can use it in a God-honoring way.
On my path of learning to manage my emotional sensitivity, there were three specific truths which nourished me. I hope they will also encourage you to harness your own gift and learn to exercise it productively!
1. Embrace it for what it is—a gift!
Although emotional sensitivity can sometimes be perceived as a weakness or an over-dedication to feelings, I’ve learned that it isn’t helpful to brush it aside as a weakness, or to ignore it. In fact, I find comfort in seeing how often Scripture records Jesus being moved with compassion (Matthew 9:36, Matthew 14:14, Matthew 15:32, Matthew 20:34, Luke 7:13). I’ve learned to embrace that God has gifted me with perception and when I am moved by the needs of those around me, it reminds me that my heart is beating and I still care about people and ultimately, about the world being a better place.
If handled properly, emotional sensitivity can actually be a great help to walking alongside people and loving them well! By openly welcoming our gift to the table, we can give thanks for it, and then evaluate how to handle it in a healthy, God-honoring way.
2. Take time to pray
One of the pitfalls of my emotional sensitivity is trying to do too much. There are so many people around me who are hurting that I can quickly get overwhelmed. But I am encouraged to remember that even Jesus took calm moments away from the crowds (Mark 1:35). I believe these times helped Jesus to re-center and focus on doing what His father wanted Him to do (John 5:19). This is a helpful reminder that I must take quiet time to reflect on what God wants me to do with my gift of sensitivity.
To protect from overexerting myself, I have found that it helps to listen and observe needs, but to not react in the moment. While it can still be uncomfortable to not intervene in a situation when we feel like we could help, it’s important to realize that we simply cannot go after every single hurting person or situation. First, we must take time to pray to determine if and how we should act on any given need.
3. Remember that I’m not the Savior
In the past, I invested a lot of time into listening and counseling people instead of bringing them directly to Jesus in prayer. I gave them advice on what to do instead of letting them seek Jesus and discover it themselves.
I found that acting to fill the needs around me sometimes caused people to look to me rather than Jesus for help. In order to know what my responsibility is, I need new glasses of discernment. My feelings are not always trustworthy, but the voice of the Holy Spirit is. The Spirit of truth guides us into all truth (John 16:13). Often, I need to listen to a silent whisper rather than a loud emotional prompting.
Ultimately, I can be assured that God cares for those in need, and He can work in mighty ways to save them. It’s not up to me to save them, and it’s definitely not only up to those of us who have the gift of emotional sensitivity! We must focus instead on obeying when God leads us to help, and rest in knowing He is doing His work.
These three lessons helped me to take care of my gift of emotional sensitivity.
As I’ve reined in and learned to train my responses to my emotional sensitivity, it means I no longer jump at any and every opportunity that comes my way. Instead, I’m trying to be more prayerful and intentional with where I invest my time and effort.
Since I’ve started putting these three tips into action, I’ve also seen a lot of good come from it. So, when I find myself in a situation like I did at that Bible school, I’m more equipped to not be consumed by the overwhelming needs around me, but rather love the students better while maintaining my emotional health in the process. I’m now better able to keep a good balance between investing in a student’s life, but also directing them towards God and trusting Him to work in their lives in His perfect timing! Ultimately, a life-long commitment to Jesus is worth much more than a short-term emotionally charged conviction.