Caught in compassion

You know the feeling.

The ache.

The sorrow.

The grief.

You feel compassion rising up, and you’re caught.

You can’t unfeel something.

You can’t unsee injustice…

You can’t rub away the blackness. The empathy. The dark realisation…

During my lunch-time at work I walk around the streets of Sydney’s Surry Hills. It’s a hub for brothels, and my heart breaks when I see the conveniently hidden, cloistered, unnamed entryways. I imagine the re-named women, the furtive men. The girls who convince themselves it’s just ‘work’. The workers who, on some level, want to get out… but feel they have no choice.

In Psychotherapy with Women Who Have Worked in the “Sex Industry”, Ariz Anklesaria writes: “Women involved in the adult sex industry who’ve experienced trauma often feel shattered and hopeless. Some escape the lifestyle, yet with limited resources many find themselves ‘trapped’ in the business. Many have been attacked, exploited, and humiliated, and mind-altering substances often are sought to temporarily mollify the physical and emotional pain. The most prevalent mental health symptoms are in the mood and anxiety spectrums, but are often coupled with addiction to substances. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is widespread in this subset of the population and usually is attributed to childhood abuse and/or sex industry-related trauma.”

Up the hill, I slip past the same woman every day, unsure whether she’s one of the re-named women or not. And I wonder whether to say hello. What difference would it make? Her eyes are shuttered. She looks blank, cut-off. Will I ever gather the courage? Will she ever realise that she’s seen? Prayed for? Loved… despite her anonymity?

I walk and I pray and I walk and I pray and I feel utterly, distinctly helpless…

I know praying does things, and one day God might turn my compassion into courageous action. But I feel uncomfortable in the blurry in-between. In the excuse period. In those moments of guilt and unrest and conviction, so easily erased by time and distraction.

I’m frustrated by the ‘us and them’ mentalities we perpetuate. The hypocrisy of saying  and thinking I care, but remaining dormant. Will my short life be whittled down to a series of best intentions?

And so I hand God the emotions, the visuals in my head, the questions and the shame – mine and theirs.

And I ask him to give me his wisdom, show me his heart.

His direction.

His dreams for the lost and the found, the broken and the half-mended.

The willing and the wanting.

Lord, so often we feel like there’s nothing substantial we can do. But we know we trust in a God who cares, and is able to save. We pray that your Holy Spirit would set free those in captivity. That you would give those in darkness a hunger for the light. And that your light would come to earth through us.



  1. Beautiful heart, Ali. And I love the new look of your site. Praying for you to “be Joshua” to our chained sisters and say hello. Sometimes the tiniest, simplest acts of obedience — including conquering our fears — create ripple effects we cannot even imagine. Love and hugs…

    1. Thanks Sheila 🙂 I’m praying for the courage and ability. And trusting God for those ripple effects… Amen. God bless you as you follow his lead today.

  2. Such a heart-felt post. You do have a beautiful heart.

    Often times I wonder about the people I see who are stuck in a situation that turns their life topsy-turvy, and I think to myself should I say this, should I do that. I believe many of us have the best of intentions to help in some way, shape, or form. It can be hard to take the first step. But sometimes even a friendly hello can be enough to set things into motion. Maybe this woman is aching to have somebody notice her. To acknowledge her very existence.

    Beautiful prayer you posted, too!

    1. Thanks Lizzy.
      Yes, it’s so hard to know what to do or how to help. A smile or a hello is a start for sure. I’m praying I’ll have the courage for that initial connection. Well said, maybe she is.

      1. I will pray for you as you reach out to her as well as for this woman. The Lord will give you the courage you need! And the healing she needs.

        Blessings to you!

  3. Thank you , Ali, for being who you are in Christ and encouraging each of us to do that thing, take that step that He has brought us to. God bless you as you walk and pray !

  4. Jesus was moved by compassion and He acted. The mere fact that you are moved and are stirred to stop for the one is wonderful. The courage and the boldness will come. The right words will flow, for God’s heart will pour from you and they will respond to Him in you. I truely believe we are given compassion when we have the authority to move, to heal etc … youre a mighty woman of God and I bless you for having the heart to see, taking the time to pray, and for contemplating stopping for the one as Jesus did …
    God is Good!

    1. Thank you for your words 🙂 I’m praying that God would do that, and that I would see him working. It’s great to remember that we have that authority to act lovingly in Jesus’ name as the Spirit leads. Thank you for your encouragement. God is good!

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