A Playlist for Pain

How's that for a title that Debbie Downer would be proud of? But why fake it, right? We all have pain in various forms and in varying degrees, so what 'chew gonna do when it comes? At my last post I was having cluster headaches each night. The first drug my neurologist gave me helped with the nighttime clusters... it moved them to the day. So that was great, because it was like a fun surprise each day. Where will I be when it hits? Will I be at school having lunch with my second grader? Maybe. Will I be on my way to IKEA with a friend and three kids? Possibly. Will I be at gymnastics class with my youngest two, stuck in a small room that smells like feet with a whole bunch of other parents for an hour and fifteen minutes? If I'm lucky! So planning each day became tricky and I found myself not wanting to leave about a 5 mile radius from my house.

Clusters are called "suicide headaches" for a reason, and day after day that reason becomes more apparent. They really should have a completely different name other than "headache" because they are nothing like a headache. I've thought of a few other names that the medical community might want to consider. "Fire-eyeititus" is one. "Ice Pick in the Eye Socket Disease" is another. And my favorite because it's most to-the-point: "Hell Face". With a normal headache, you want someone to rub your head or neck and probably want to go lay down. With a migraine, you want to go in a dark room and lay down with an ice pack on your head and you want everyone on the planet to stop talking. With a cluster you just sit on the side of the bed and hold on to your face and rock back and forth and cry hoping it will end soon. And once the headache subsides you are left exhausted, physically and emotionally, like you just fought a war with your face. My neurologist finally found a steroid that gave me a bit of a break, but also came along with some sweet side effects. The side effects were: insomnia (nothing new), weight gain, breaking out like I'm 14, puffy face, a possible "lump or pad of fat between your shoulders" (what?!?!) and being super, duper irritable and crabby. Pretty much all the things you dreamed of happening right as you turned 40. Happy birthday to me. 

I've had some form of this migraine/cluster crap for sixteen years now and I've always managed to have some underlying faith that God is really on my side in all of it. That it's all for some kind of good. This is not a waste. Believe me, I know ALL of the "God knows what he's doing" verses. But something happened this time and it's like my faith and I were walking along the path and all of a sudden I looked and the faith part just fell of the side of a cliff. Gone. Completely gone. Disappeared. Does his grace feels sufficient? Nope. Do his mercies feel new each morning? Nope. He feels for me not against me? Hell to the nope. The only thing I could manage to feel was anger, bitterness, rage, abandonment, unbelief and isolation. I felt like I was being picked on. I just felt done with it all. But in a book I was reading last week, Eugene Peterson said that "Feelings are great liars." That they are "important in many areas but completely unreliable in matters of faith." And those were the four words I needed to read. Feeling are great liars. I can't keep myself from feeling my feelings, but I can keep myself from believing them.  

So I enter the emergency room of faith and turn to the only thing left that seems to be able to communicate any truth to me: music. Those little iPod buds might not look like much to you, but they are the defibrillator paddles that will jump start my flat-lining faith. At least I hope. Music could be the feeding tube that will give my soul the nutrients it needs whether I am willing to take it in or not. Music: it's the only thing I have left as an effective vessel for getting truth straight into my heart. Someone can talk the same words to my face all day long and I can't hear it anymore. Put it in some good truth-filled music and for some reason there's a different result. A handful of artists have been dear to me over the years and I hope to write about a few of them in the future. In this particular season of crappiness, the one I have turned to most is Audrey Assad. She is an amazing artist with a magical voice and she has shared her own struggles and pain openly. I think that's why her music can speak to others who are hurting. My recommendation is go just go buy all of her music right now if you don't own it. Or here are a few of my favorites for whatever ails you at the moment:

From her song Good to Me (listen to it!!):

I put all my hope in the truth of Your promise
And I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness
When I'm bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy
Because You are good to me, good to me
I lift up my eyes to the hills where my help is found
Your voice fills the night - raise my head up to hear the sound
Though fires burn all around me I will praise You, my God
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

I can't get through the first two lines of that song without bawling, and I'm not even singing... I'm just listening. It's exactly what I want to feel in my heart again. To steady my heart on the ground of his goodness. That when I'm bowed down with sorrow, I lift up his name? Come on! It's not true now, but I want it to be.

My husband and I got to meet Audrey this summer. Of course I couldn't start to tell her how much she's ministered to my soul, for fear that I would sob like a baby on her shoulder. Making her laugh (or at least chuckle) was good enough for me.

My husband and I got to meet Audrey this summer. Of course I couldn't start to tell her how much she's ministered to my soul, for fear that I would sob like a baby on her shoulder. Making her laugh (or at least chuckle) was good enough for me.

From her song Sparrow (listen to this one too!):

Why should I be lonely,
Long for heaven and home
When Jesus is my portion
And a constant Friend I know

I sing because I'm happy,
I sing because I'm free
For His eye is on the sparrow,
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He's watching me

Why should I be troubled
When His tender word I hear
Know I rest on His goodness
In my doubt and in my fear

Resting on his goodness in our doubt and fear? That's exactly where I am! I could keep going, but I'll send you with a few more favorites to listen to on your own: Restless, Death Be Not Proud, You Speak, Lament, New Song, Even the Winter and the whole entire album Fortunate Fall (which pretty much carried me through my last round of clusters). Listen to that for two weeks straight and you'll be in a better place.

I guess in the end, these songs are how I have been able to feel the love of God when I really don't feel the love of God. In these moments, I can be clear-hearted enough to remember that my feeling are liars and are not worthy of my trust. And even though I can't get my heart to feel it right now, if I keep feeding it the one thing it can still hear, maybe one day it will get there again. Help my unbelief.