Every day in the field of medicine, we are confronted with suffering. Every day in life, probably, everyone is confronted with the fact that we live in a fallen, broken world, full of hurting and suffering people. Maybe it’s your own suffering, maybe the suffering of a friend, or maybe it’s the suffering of large groups of people you don’t even know, somewhere else in the world, and it weighs on your heart. Overall here at Kibuye, there have been some successes, but a lot of “failures”, people dying, not getting better, babies with malnutrition, etc. Sometimes people ask how we deal with it all. We’ve actually blogged a fair bit about dealing with suffering as Christian physicians in the past. Today I wanted to take a different tact and write about songs that have helped me process suffering. I love music, and I think emotions can be expressed and captured and healed through music in ways that just words alone can’t do. So I’ve complied my “Top 10 List of Suffering Songs.” Contrary to what you might be thinking, they’re not sad and melancholy. Some are slower and heart rending, but some are a “stand up and scream at the top of your lungs that things are gonna get better” kind of songs. Hope you enjoy listening to a few.
“We’ll see how the tears that have fallen were caught in the palms of the Giver of Love and the Lover of All and we’ll look back on these tears as old tales...”
This is quite possibly my favorite song of all time. After everything in life, all the hurts and the broken hearts and broken dreams and shattered lives, at the end of all things, there is love. There is God, the God who wipes away every tear from our eyes. And there will be no more mourning or crying or pain...
“You make beautiful things out of dust...”
My cousin shared this song with me while I was in Kenya, and I have loved it from the first time I heard it. The words are simple, but the music is goosebump-inducingly beautiful.
“Farther along we’ll understand why. So cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine. We’ll understand this, all by and by...”
Things tend to make more sense in retrospect. And some things will never make sense here on earth. But if we believe that things happen for a purpose, that God can use ANYTHING for his glory, then maybe we can cheer up. Maybe we can look forward with hope instead of gloom.
“Here’s to you when the rain hits too hard, when the battles that you fight just leave you scarred...soon the Son will come with healing in his wings. He’ll wipe away your tears and make you new.”
This is a turn up the volume and belt it out kind of song, which I’ve been doing with this song since I first heard it in 2004. Sometimes you just need to sing loud and remember that Someone else is fighting on your side.
“When you are tired, not just your hands, not just your feet but your heart, wounded from all you can’t do or have done but it’s fallen apart...”
Eric first played me this song weeks after Ben was born at Tenwek, and I immediately started crying. There were and still are so many days when I feel like this. Nothing is working. Everything falls apart. What am I doing here? And this song helps me to remember that God calls me to rest in Him, to find my worth and identity in Him, to simply....trust.
“He will come, he will come, he will comfort all that’s hardened. Make the deserts into gardens and we all will see his face.”
This song also has a line that goes “She can handle any tragedy that comes her way but not little things like this,” referring to a line about spilling your coffee on the way to work. Sometimes my days seem like that. Send me something big and awful and I can rise to the occasion, but when my kids are screaming or I spill dinner on the floor it just seems too much. But big or small, God is coming. He is here and He is renewing everything.
“Look. If someone wrote a play just to glorify what’s stronger than hate, would they not arrange the stage to look as if the hero came too late? ... And in this scene set in shadows like the night is here to stay, there is evil all around us but it’s love that wrote the play. So in this darkness love will show the way.”
Not a month goes by that there’s not some big news in the world about a gunman or a bomber. And everyone wonders what’s going on in the world and how much “worse” everything is than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean that the darkness is winning. Love will ALWAYS win.
“This is not how it should be, this is not how it could be. But this is how it is, and our God is in control.”
Most people in Christian circles know the story of Steven’s young daughter dying. He writes this song from real life experience, and at the end of it all, he can acknowledge that it hurts and it shouldn’t be, but we’ll understand at the end and sing Holy is Our God because of it.
“Even though you take him still I ever will obey. But Maker of this mountain, please. Make another way.”
I could have chosen another dozen Andrew Peterson songs or so, but settled on this one. A powerful retelling of the Abraham-Isaac story that really shone new light on a familiar tale for me. What was going through Abraham’s head when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac? I guess I never thought about it before, that maybe this hero of the faith would have just said, ok God, I trust you. But what if he said, “oh, God, not this. You are sovereign and you can do what you need to do in my life, but please not this.” Because sometimes that’s what I say, too.
“Maybe I should face another day. Maybe now it’s one day closer to when you show your face. Maybe that’s what I’ve been looking for all along.”
Eric based these lyrics on a Buechner quote that really struck home for the both of us. Prayer is and I think will always be a mystery. What about all the times that prayer seems to go unanswered? But Buechner says this:
"Even if the boy dies, keep on beating the path to God's door, because the one thing you can be sure of is that down the path you beat with even your most half-cocked and halting prayer the God you call upon will finally come, and even if he does not bring you the answer you want, he will bring you himself. And maybe at the secret heart of all our prayers that is what we are really praying for."
I hope you’ll get a chance to listen to some of these favorites, and I hope that they are able to provide some peace and healing the way they have for me.