I posted a portion of what follows as a response to something said on another site, and, on reflection, think it and a little more needs to be said here. It has to do with the idea that there is something inherent in the authentic Christian life that requires personal suffering. What could be more unappetizing than that? In fact, there is a principle in pastoral psychology of maintaining a calm, non-anxious and “disinterested” presence in order to be of greatest help to those who come seeking it while also maintaining one’s own well-being. It means that the pastoral care giver is to be empathetically present to another’s suffering without embodying it himself or herself. It’s a great idea, and it works most of the time, but embodying suffering cannot be avoided altogether when you are being the light of Christ in another person’s broken and dark world. It is a holy suffering in which you may become a conduit through which that person’s suffering flows to God and God’s blessing flows to them. The problem comes when you are overloaded and the embodiment of suffering has a very real, painful and sometimes quite dangerous physical and emotional effect. There comes a point when the pastor has to say NO for his or her own well-being and in faith that there is someone else not far away with capacity to say yes. I have not learned where that point is and sometime suffer the consequences. But I am very good at advising others about it.