A long-distance race or a sprint?
I once prayed with a man whose life had been devoted to working with psychotic patients: he broke into convulsive sobs and shared that he was often tempted to commit suicide. This is a normal human reaction. When we share in the pain of our suffering world, we can be overcome by the enormity of its evil. When we see so much suffering, we find it hard to take time out to enjoy life: to go out to dinner, to play tennis, or to watch sunsets. These seem such a waste of time when Lazarus is starving outside our door (Luke 16:19-31). How can we be so heartless as to leave him, while we got to laugh and play?
The only way I have learned to deal with this guilt is by remembering something I heard many years ago in the seminary: "You have to decide whether your life is a long-distance race or a sprint." Early on, I decided that I could ultimately help more people if I treated my life and ministry as a long distance run (as best I can, realizing my life's length is up to God to determine), rather than burning myself out. I am a limited human being and the best I can do sometimes is to pass by this one person sitting outside my door so that I can have the energy and enthusiasm to answer God's call to minister to the ten, twenty or hundred that will be there tomorrow.
Yet that is so hard, isn't it? I need to pray to decide what to do in each instance, and not always be ruled by my heart. Not that my heart is always that tender: sometimes it needs to be warmed, but more often it leads me to do more than the Lord might be requiring in a particular situation....
We must learn to ask the Lord if HE has sent the people who come for help at inopportune times. Often he has not! Sometimes our pride is appealed to: "I have to talk to you. Only you can help me!" This is just not true. There is only one Savior and we are not him.