I believe compassion is something that we all experience at some point in our lives. When we open ourselves up to feel deeply for the people God has placed on our hearts, we also open ourselves up to the possibility of overextending our compassion to others. As a chaplain I often had to exercise my compassionate boundaries and had to learn how far I could care for someone, and at what point I needed to trust their care to God. It can be easy to give ourselves to others for the sake of their needs, but if we are not able to maintain healthy boundaries, then we run the risk of becoming emotionally drained and burned out. If we come to that point, we no longer have the capacity to care for others.
There will always be needs to be met, and people to care for. Jesus' ministry could have been unending if he had allowed himself to constantly give, and care for those in need. Although Jesus knew there had to be boundaries. There are many places in the Bible where we see Jesus withdrawing from crowds to be alone so that he could pray to the Father.
Like Jesus, we too must recognize and maintain our boundaries so that we can continue to have our hearts open to others and care for their needs. Take a moment to close your eyes and bring to your mind the face of a person whom God has placed on your heart to care for. As you pictured that person, breathe deeply. As you inhale ask God, "teach me your compassion and boundaries", and as you exhale, "so I can care for others."