New Coping Mechanisms

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I have never been good with prayer.

I feel uncomfortable with it; I always felt like I wasn’t doing it right. I never found a place between expecting God to intervene (which is trust) and expecting God to intervene (which is presumption).

I knew I shouldn’t expect a sense of calm or peace from my prayerful encounters with the Divine (our relationship with God isn’t based on emotions, after all), but I was broken, and I came to him because I was broken, and lonely, and scared, and I wanted his calming presence and his peace. I loved him, I really, truly loved him, and I wanted him there for me, like he promised. He never seemed to be.

I never knew what to make of that.

In any case, prayer became a place of wrestling, not of rest.

I needed a new coping mechanism, not only for dealing with life but for dealing with faith.

When I was a teenager, I struggled with insomnia and depression. There were nights when, I knew, sleep would not happen. There were emotions that, I knew, could not be fixed — just endured.

I turned to music as a way to calm me down and reconfigure my inner dialogue. I would be up at 3 in the morning listening to the same songs on repeat — normally Britt Nicole’s “All This Time” and Kari Jobe’s “Breathe” or “Find You On My Knees.” Some nights they helped me finally fall asleep in the morning’s wee hours, some nights they just kept me company until my mom joined me in the living room for her morning devotions.

They were the manifestation of God’s presence for me. They were my prayer life, in some ways: the words were my words, the music my heartache, but they were also God’s response, too.

All this time, from the first tear cried,
‘Til today’s sunrise,
And every single moment between,
You were there, You were always there.
It was You and I.
You’ve been walking with me all this time.

Those songs that I listened to at 3 in the morning, they still get me.

I’m not sure if I believe them anymore, but I do. Something in me does. At least, as much as I cringe at K-LOVE, I will cry if “All This Time” comes on the radio.

Well, the insomnia and the overwhelming brokenness have been coming back with a vengeance. I’ve been turning to music as a coping mechanism, an alternative to throwing things and screaming into a pillow, both of which, I learned, are not apartment-friendly or effective.

I created a sad song playlist. It’s a bit of a misnomer, because not all the songs on there are sad. In fact, I’m not even sure what unifies them. They run the gamut of anthems like Vienna Tang’s “Level up and love again” to Lawless’s “Dear God, I don’t believe in you” to Audrey Assad’s “Even unto death, I will love You.”

No, I’m not contradictory. I’m conflicted.

But whatever they say about me, these songs help.

Over Christmas, I crawled into the back seat of my car (the best place to cry), turned up the music, and sat there until I sobbed myself to peace and my bum started freezing. I felt much, much better afterward.

I need to do this more often.

What things calm you down when you’re at the end of your rope?

Psst. My favorite music: love songs, prayers, and the sad song playlist itself.

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52 thoughts on “New Coping Mechanisms

  1. Jasmine Ruigrok

    Ahhhh girl. Music is my prayer language too. *fistbump* Whenever I get depressed with how my “prayer life” is doing, my Mum reminds me that singing IS prayer. Just look at David: vent, rant, rave, calm, rest, and eventually peace and praise, repeat—”to the tune of the shepherd’s song…”

    I have a lot of go-to songs for when I can’t pray or I need something to pull the feelings out of me that want to hibernate. Songs like Keith Green’s “My Eyes Are Dry”—my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold. Andrew Peterson’s “After the Last Tear Falls” and “The Silence of God”—its enough to drive a man crazy, it can break a man’s faith, it’s enough to make him wonder if he’s ever been sane, when he’s bleeding for comfort from Thy staff and thy rod, and the heavens only answer is the silence of God. Or Tenth Ave’s “Worn”—let me know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life and all that’s dead inside can be reborn, ’cause I’m worn. All songs that follow David’s gut-wrenchingly raw and vulnerable pattern of prayer in song.

    My heart feels for you, Bailey. Don’t be afraid to turn up the music, and turn off the world. Sometimes it’s exactly what God will use to bring comfort to a hurting and confused soul. Thankyou for your realness. You’re amazing.

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      • Hannah B.

        Oh my goodness, Bailey, have you never sung psalms? My favorite thing one of my previous denominations did was learn psalms in harmony and hold multi-church Psalm Sings. I miss that so much. There’s absolutely nothing like it. Some I’d have trouble singing because I felt so happy I all but burst into rediculous giggling. Psalm Sings make me giddy. It’s worlds better than a “church service” to me.

        Of course I love to sing them on my own too. But I can’t sing all the parts myself, haha!

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      • Bailey Steger

        That sounds AMAZING. My mom got us into Reformed hymnals that had lots of Psalms set to music, but I didn’t get into it much. A Psalm sing in four part harmony sounds like the best kind of church service!

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  2. Courtney

    I’ve always loved Britt Nicole and I totally remember that song being on the air! It’s always cool to meet people online who share your music tastes.😄

    Anyways, back to the question. Music definitely helps me, as does writing. In fact, last night I tried something completely different – I literally began writing to God like you would write a blog post. It really seemed to help and feel completely naturally so I’d highly recommend it, knowing you’re a writer too. I’ve always communicated best through written word, so I definitely want to try to make a habit of writing to God.

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      • Mandy PS

        My problem with writing my thoughts to God, is that as a writer I’m naturally looking for the story, the narrative, the point I’m trying to get across. And sometimes the better narrative is not what I’m actually feeling, if that makes sense. So suddenly you get this really happy or angsty, or pointed writing that is probably a pleasant read but doesn’t actually capture what I’m really feeling. Because the writer/editor in me is constantly tweaking to make it something I would make into a blog post. Which is why I tend to stay away to writing to God. It just feels fake somehow. (Sort of like I’m a performer, who is performing, rather than worshiping, if that makes sense.)

        But with singing on the other hand, I don’t consider myself a singer. I don’t perform. That’s just between me and God. So I often feel better connected to God while doing the thing I’m bad at (singing) then doing the thing I’m good at (writing).

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      • Bailey Steger

        That is so fascinating. I could definitely see one being “faker” in that situation. I feel that way when I’m journaling, a bit — I feel self-conscious about how stupid I’m being and how my feelings are so inconsequential or boring or trite, as if people are actually going to be reading and critiquing my work. Writing isn’t always a safe place for me.

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      • Bailey Steger

        See, I’m afraid everything I write to God recently will be very angry and blasphemous. :P I have a love/hate relationship with journaling for that reason. Sometimes it can be incredibly therapeutic, and sometimes it can just solidify negative emotions even further, and I never know what triggers either.

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      • Jasmine Ruigrok

        I’ve heard people say this before, and I usually tell them God’s a big boy, He can handle it. ;) Not all David told God was flattering either, and he made it to the Bible! I think as the Author of truth, truth and honesty must be very important to God. If we consistently deny or pretty up how we are truly doing—essentially presenting a fake self to God—how can we receive the real help we need?

        I was actually talking to a friend the other day about this who believes it’s possible to lose one’s salvation if they don’t consistently walk with God. He was saying that it’s a dangerous place to be in when your heart wants to rebel against God. I told him that firstly, if salvation depends on anything we do we’re all sunk, and secondly, admitting exactly where you’re at with God and how you truly feel about Him is a great start. Look at the angry way Jonah spoke to God, the honest vulnerability of loneliness Elijah felt, or the despairing disbelief of the man who’s daughter was ill when he came to Jesus, or Solomon’s complaint that everything was meaningless to him. In the end, every one of these people rediscovered God for Who He was. Would that have happened if they hadn’t been honest but opted for “trite faith” that sounded all Christiany? I doubt it. We serve a God who freely entered our messy ugly world to save us. He can handle our honesty. And trust me, my journals are not half as elegant as the word suggests. XD (Sorry that was a bit longer than I intended)

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      • karehm

        Sighs , I listen to Brook Tab these days: titles like: “Jehovah Jireh”, “I need you once again”, and “My help cometh from the Lord”.. I pray in the mornings when I am fresh . I like reading Spurgeon I find his 365 days Devotional on “Bible Gateway ”

        May I encourage you to keep singing and prayer will come back I think?. God is able.

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      • Courtney

        That’s so cool that you also do this! And yeah, I agree, I think “prayer journal” sounds way to formal, like something you’re supposed to decorate with tissue paper flowers or something. And I’m not really a paper flowers kind of gal.😂😂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Allison Caylor

        ^^^^^^ Jasmine, I just have to say amen again. You’ve put into words what’s in my heart better than I could’ve. I do 90% of my talking to God through pen or keyboard — it is a HUGE help. And if you find you’re writing something that just looks awful… well, that can be where you find out what’s going on in your soul. Typically that’s what happens to me. I’ve literally written, “Ugh, what an ugly thing to say. I don’t know what to feel or do; please help me.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Justine

    Here are some of my favourites:
    Blessings by Laura Story
    Fight Song by Rachel Platter
    Let it Go from Frozen
    Drink a Beer by Luke Bryan
    10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman
    And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda sung by John McDermott
    Spirits by The Strumbellas
    As you can see, mine are rather diverse and contradictory too.

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  4. Korie

    When I was depressed, I used to go to the park to swing on the swings and listen to music. I typically spent 20-30 minutes doing this, but sometimes I was there for hours. I would always listen to the same song on repeat for weeks or months until I moved on to another. They are all depressing. These are a few I can remember.
    Freshman by The Verve Pipe
    I think God can explain by Splender
    The Middle by Jimmy Eat World
    I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2… that was the last song that I recall really hitting hard and listening to on repeat.

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  5. Hannah B.

    Bailey.
    Sometimes you write a post I relate to so seamlessly that I have trouble commenting. It drives so deep.

    I wrote this in October. http://itheelephant.tumblr.com/post/152325994971/as-beloved-children

    I think I’m going to write another one about talking to God when I’m angry/hurting/devastated. As you can see, I write letters to God sometimes. I also pray in poems. They’re not always pretty, but how can you have a relationship with someone you feel like is going to get mad at you or punish you every time you don’t talk to him in happy voices?

    God wants to cast ALL our anxieties upon Him. Sometimes I get so familiar with a phrase from Scripture that I forget to hear what it’s saying. ALL. OUR. ANXIETIES. The caps lock is not directed at you, it’s for me. BECAUSE HE CARES. Gaaah, it’s so huge. So hard, but huge. And speaking of casting, perfect love casts out fear.

    My daughter is on the autism spectrum. She’s incrediometimes she overloads and has a meltdown.

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    • Hannah B.

      Sorry. My finger hit enter. My 4 year old daughter is on the autism spectrum. She’s incredibly high functioning, and most people wouldn’t ever know. But sometimes she overloads and has a meltdown.
      She kicks and screams. I don’t get angry. I hold her, tell her I love her, and I’m not going anywhere. I read her stories. Whatever she seems to need, I’m there for her. It feels like it will last forever, but it doesn’t.

      God is here for me even (especially?) when I kick and scream. I have to talk to Him about the ugly feelings too, so we can work them out together. Even when “talking to Him,” means talking to my best friend when she’s not there because I need A FACE, and inviting God to listen in. Crazy? Heh, kinda. But God cares.

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      • Bailey Steger

        Hannah, this is all so beautiful. What a perfect picture of unconditional love. You’re an incredible mother.

        And I love love love how you think one can talk to another person as a way of receiving God’s love. I tried expressing that to someone before, that I feel God’s love the most through others, but I think she took it as most Christians take it: turning to people rather than God. I don’t think there necessarily has to be that dichotomy.

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      • Hannah B.

        In Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time, there’s a scene where Meg, the main character, is bracing herself to go back into the face of Evil to save someone she loves. One of the angels guiding her says, “This time I cannot hold your hand.” But Meg knows she is there and has given her gifts to help her.
        That moment impacted me. It helps that gifts are my first love language, so it is easy for me to see my loved ones as expressions of God’s love for me during my mortal story arch, to help me while He “cannot hold my hand.”

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Allison Caylor

    I have turned to Lauren Daigle for authentic, soul-healing music. “Trust in You” particularly: “When you don’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move / When you don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through / When you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you, / I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you.” It doesn’t give an easy answer, just that cry of faith that is all we have. All her other stuff is awesome, too. Some more songs of mine for darkness are JJ Heller’s “You Tell Me So,” Unspoken’s “Good Fight,” and Moriah Peters’ “You Carry Me.” And when I just need quiet in my mind, I listen to Cinematic Orchestra’s “Arrival of the Birds” or “Cape Clear” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFEzp16xVlM&list=PL37OjnP4KtUqxZGBSDb4slrLrjbUI-UHI&index=17).

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  7. FROM ME TO WE

    I like returning to movies I loved when I was a child. One, I saw in particular as a kid, and revisited as an adult, reminded me to choose love over fear. It was an Albert Brooks movie called Defending Your Life. It can be hard when you miss a nigh of sleep. You worry about the next night. I’ve found I have to let go, be content in the moment, and not worry about what might or might not happen. Put on something comfort. Drift off.

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  8. Jasmine Ruigrok

    Reporting back here to say you guys got me hooked on Rachel Platten’s “Stand By You” and Sara Bareilles’ “Brave”. If my family gets tired of hearing them play on loop, I’m blaming this crowd. ;)

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