Musical Monday: I Bring You Tidings of Comfort and Joy!
May 23, 2022
I’ve had depression most of my life. Starting at about the age of 13, I had bouts of symptoms. Crying, feeling useless, wanting to hide from the world, and very occasionally, suicidal thoughts. I never attempted suicide. It would come to mind how devastating it would be for the people I loved, and that was that. It was better to stay alive and be miserable than to break their hearts.
Symptoms of depression would come and go, and I managed to be generally successful in life. I grew up, went to pharmacy school, got married, graduated, passed my boards, and started my work as a pharmacist. At this turning point in my life, my depression hit me hard, and I hit bottom.
I would drive to and from work on a street that passed over the expressway. Usually, on the way home, my brain would tell me how easy it would be to drive off the street and onto the expressway below. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why did I want to die? I was at the place in life that I had dreamt about.
I got help. I started medication and talk therapy. Once the medication kicked in, the suicidal thoughts abated. And the talk therapy helped me see that what I was going through was not that unusual. Things were better, not perfect, but better.
Then the Easter Vigil came. We gathered outside the church at 5 a.m. and shivered as the new fire was kindled. The Paschal Candle was lit, and we followed it into the dark church. The Exsultet was sung. The readings of our rebellion and God’s deliverance were read. We renewed our baptism. Christ was declared risen from the dead.
But I don’t remember any of that. The only thing I remember is going up to the lectern and reading Romans 6:3-11:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
By the end of verse 4, I was crying. Not small sobs, but serious ugly crying. I had been crucified with Jesus. Suicide was never going to be an option for me. You can’t kill what is already dead. My crying was sweet, sweet release. I somehow made it through the rest of the reading. My husband and friends asked me if I was okay. I told them that I had never been better.
Hymn 178 in the Episcopal Church’s hymnal encapsulates my feelings for that night—and continues to remind me of the comfort and joy brought and given by Jesus. (Here’s one version).
Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord,
Alleluia, alleluia, give praise to His name.
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
He is the King of creation. Refrain.
Spread the good news o’er all the earth.
Jesus has died and has risen. Refrain.
We have been crucified with Christ.
Now we shall live forever. Refrain.
Come, let us praise the living God,
Joyfully sing to our Saviour. Refrain.
This hymn, not just the words, but the way that words and the music combine, feels like a lullaby. In fact, I used to sing this song to my girls when they were babies. No matter what you are going through, Jesus wants to comfort you. He wants to release you from whatever is holding you. He is not going to make everything perfect, not yet. But he will empower you to live through all the crazy that life holds.
If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 and get help. It is absolutely okay to have Jesus and a therapist.