Robin Williams has died at age 63. After suffering with depression, and substance abuse, he has chosen to end his own life on Monday August 11, 2014. The details surrounding his death are not relevant for what I have to say here. *Though I do not usually write about celebrities when they die, there is a reason for writing about Robin Williams, as you will read.*
As a young man, I always wanted to be the funniest boy in the classroom, and out with my friends. I have watched many of Williams’ films, and have been inspired by his maniacal wit. He was often crazy, or so he portrayed himself to be in many of his films, but he also could be serious. Williams engaged his audience, myself included. It seemed that he was unashamed to play any part, dressing in drag for Mrs. Doubtfire. I laughed when he would jump upon classroom desks and yelled at his students with excitement. I cried when he cried in Patch Adams. When he played the villain in August Rush, I despised him. He made use of a full range of emotions. I was hooked, and perhaps that is a play on words (I really enjoyed Hook).
I read somewhere that his talent was genius; and so it may have been.
Robin Williams used his talents for improv and comedy to make people laugh, and also to disguise something that afflicted him: depression; and this is where I connected with these guys (like Jim Carrey and Williams; Carrey has admitted to dealing with depression in the past) on a deeper level. Many of those who knew Williams said, “he was always in character;” meaning that even when he was no filming he was still performing. This makes me wonder what he was like alone.
What did he think? Did he feel overwhelmed? Did he long to always have company around to keep his mind occupied? Did he ever let anyone see the real Robin Williams?
When you have people around, you have an audience. You can focus on something other than your troubles whether they be financial, stressful family situations, etc.
I can relate to this, and so can many others. There is a happiness in making people laugh; in being wanted to have around; in being the crazy, loud, funny guy. I felt this way in high school to an extent.
However, I do not feel this way anymore. I praise Christ for that.
There came a point where all of my worries and burdens, the things I felt like I had to shoulder as a young man totally overwhelmed me. I hated being alone and feeling alone, stuck in my own world having to deal with my own sins, failures, and a host of other external problems all on my own. Like waves crashing upon rocks. Will it end? What is the point? Like struggling for air as you battle going under the water. Will there come a moment of finality? Will the struggle end?
I needed something else; Something outside of myself; Something greater than myself.
I wasn’t raised in church; nor did I have someone read the Bible to me as a child; no one taught me to pray. It was divine providence, working through various situations and people, that eventually brought me to the point of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. I knew that around my late teens, something was wrong. I was a sinful, broken young man, and I needed those things which only Christ offers: forgiveness, redemption, rest, hope; life.
That is not to say that if one repents and turns in faith to Christ that you will never be sad or deal with bouts of depression. We are still sinful human beings living in a fallen world. I am saying that if one repents and turns to the Lord Jesus Christ that there is hope; hope for relief, hope for something other than sorrow. There is joy; a joy that is only found in Christ (Phil. 4.7); a joy that surpasses all of life’s troubles and burdens.
St. Augustine said,
I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ says,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. — Matthew 11.28-30
These words ring true to our day. Many people are hurting and are dealing with all sorts of issues. Many of them try to take care of their sins and problems by their own will and strength. They can’t. We make things worse. It’s our nature. The human race is in need of redemption. Christ the Son of God, the sovereign King, came to earth in humility as a lowly carpenter to die a horrible death on a cross and rose again three days later to save sinners. And by confessing your sin, turning away from it, and trusting in the finished work of Christ, you can be forgiven and set free. Forgiven of your sins against a holy God, and therein saved from judgment; and set free from sin and worry, as you cast them upon Christ. You cannot bear it. Christ can.
Williams wanted to be free from depression; he wanted rest. One must wonder if Williams had ever heard Jesus’ words in Matthew 11.28-30. I do not know whether Robin Williams was a Christian or not. Gauging from some of his acts, I would say not seeing that he was quite blasphemous towards God or the idea of God. However, he could have turned to Christ moments before his death. We do not know, nor should we presume he did so.
While there may not be anything Christians can do for Williams, there are many things the Church can do for others who are broken and suffering. Those who deal with depression are all around us and among us in our churches. We can reach out to them, love them, share the good news of Jesus Christ and what He has done and what it means for them if they would trust Him. There are Christians who deal with depression. We can minister to and pray for them. Of course, we must discern who is wearing a mask, whatever that mask may be. This requires us to be men and women of prayer, and to be intentional about our relationships; even if others put up walls to keep you out, we must be patient and loving.
Point people to Jesus Christ, the One Who shines light into the darkness, Who raises the dead to life, Who is our hope, rest and joy; and pray that they would come into His rest and experience a newness of life.
Here are some insightful and helpful articles regarding Robin Williams, depression, and Christ. ‘