Only two voices have ever sung songs of certainty to my heart. Songs so strong and profound that I could not deny them if I tried. The first song my heart ever knew to be undeniably true was the rich and full choral canticle of the Gospel of God’s grace. The second was the dirge of depression.
These two songs are impossibly irreconcilable. The Gospel song is the good news of endless hope and boundless embrace in the warmth of God’s mercy and forgiveness. And I have known it to be true.
The song of depression, on the other hand, is a droning hum that promises no hope, no embrace, no warmth, and no mercy or forgiveness. The song of depression is the promise of blackness and nothingness – pure oblivion. And with the same confidence that I have known the Gospel to be true, so have I known this hopelessness.
The Gospel is pure freedom. It is a song that makes you dance and weep and invite others in all at once. It is rare enough to treasure as your prize, but plentiful enough to distribute without partiality. It removes the strain and stress of labor and performance and replaces it with the unremitting acceptance of a mother’s arms. There is liberty because the war is over, and the labor can cease. And all remaining activity is a celebratory parade en route to the courts of the victorious and merciful King. And it can be experienced with unwavering certainty.
Depression is slavery. It is a song so hideous and horrible that its listeners must curl up and cover their ears, shutting out all other voices with it. There is not merely a lack of objects to which hope can be attached, but a realization that hope never existed to begin with. It is a stone around your neck in the sea. Every breath becomes a desperate and panicked gasp for survival. It is the promise that there is no King or kingdom; no mother with her arms wide open; no treasure to share, and no parade to dance in. There is only nothing. God is dead. And contrary to the insistence of the intelligentsia, when God dies, all hope and order and goodness die with Him. The only thing this bleak and desperate landscape has in common with the Gospel is that it too can be experienced with unwavering certainty.
So here I stand. Two bands playing two songs at full volume, one on either side of me. Both played with such conviction that one would be foolish to dismiss either. To which song do I sing along? Which tune is true? Which do I hum in my head without realizing?
The truth is, I sing them both. There are days when the funeral march of depression is too loud to ignore. I find myself tapping my toe as an act of resignation, confident that the hopeless tune is true. I stomp along with the rhythm like a slog to the gallows. I hate these days. These days are thieves, and they rob me of everything I love. I long to forget the song that plays on these days.
But then there are days when the Gospel tune pours in and drowns out the hopelessness with its bright and sanguine melody. The hope of eternity fills my ears and lifts me up off the ground before I can even muster the strength to stand myself upright. The face of my Savior is smiling and sympathetic, willing to embrace me despite my habitual absence from the parade. And not content to allow me to merely hear the song, He hands me an instrument and joyfully insists that I am part of the band, and that the song sounds best when I join in. And so I do. And I forget the notes, and I am flat or sharp at times, but He insists that it’s OK because the song we are playing is true, and good, and the Composer is pleased to hear it. I love these days. These days are gifts, and they fill me to overflowing with all I need. I ache to commit to memory every note of the song that plays on these days.
So I struggle. I hear two tunes, both claiming exclusive rights to truth. And I sing them both. I dream of the day when I will sing only one. But in the interim, I choose to allow one to ring slightly truer than the other. I hope in it, because I suspect it is the song my ears were made to hear. And at times, I get to join the band and play along.