Patrick Stewart has the role of a telepath - one who can read minds, and so endures the inner suffering of every person he encounters. Hating and fearing this gift, he takes a serum (close to a drug addiction) to numb himself, and thus loses his ability to read minds and feel others' pain.
Later, he meets his older, wiser self (don't ask how) who tells him "It's not really the other people's pain you fear. You fear your own pain, unleashed by their pain. But if you allow yourself to feel their pain, it will not destroy you - it will make you stronger, wiser, a better person, capable of doing so much more for others."
I understand wanting to avoid other people's pain. It's easy to say to myself, "I've had enough of my own pain lately." And I have - with the recent death of my son, a friend's suicide, a mother with dementia, daughters and a sister who need surgery, I'm wiped out, emotionally exhausted. Even numb. Part of me is afraid of losing what's left of me if I try to help others carry their pain.
But then I hear of a friend in a hospital, a friend whose son has died, a friend in Hospice, and my heart pulls me to go to them. A woman religious, a counselor, whom I went to frequently in the last year, counseled me "When you choose it's a right time to visit another, God will give you the strength."
God does! When He places a desire in our hearts to help others, He will equip us for that ministry. To Him, we're the cut logs in the photo, brimming with possibility. He can build us into any beautiful structure He chooses- if we open ourselves to the desire and power He is awakening inside us for His own purpose.
When I go to see hurting friends, my heart already broken open by pain, I feel their pain that much more deeply, and, in so doing, carry it through God's power alive in me. The true miracle is that, as I gaze into my friends' eyes, I see my wounded Lord reflected in them. As I reach out to comfort, our Lord is simultaneously reaching out to comfort me through my friends! Praise God, Who knows our inmost beings and effortlessly gives us to drink of His life-giving water to revive our exhausted spirits.