Robin Williams was a real salesman. As an actor he convinced us to feel what the characters he portrayed were feeling. As a comedian, his facial expressions, voices, dialects, accents and insanely funny interpretations of ordinary things were delivery genius. I checked on the word “salesman” in the online Free Dictionary by Farlex. One of the definitions was, “one who sells goods, services, etc.” As I said, Robin was a real salesman. He sold us laughter.
We laughed at him in the TV series Mork and Mindy (’78-’82), Mrs. Doubtfire, and Aladdin; agonized with him in such films as Awakenings, and perhaps felt his personal loneliness in Good Will Hunting. We’ll always remember his iconic radio sign-on as the disc jockey in Good Morning Viet Nam. These and other film roles, as well as public comedy appearances endeared him to the hearts of many Americans and many others around the globe.
Williams was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He also received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards.
However, despite his versatility and success as an actor, and his amazing comedic wizardry, Williams suffered from depression throughout his life, and also struggled with drug and alcohol addictions. Though he was gifted to make others laugh and outwardly laughed with them, there was little laughter on the inside; little internal joy to offset the dark shadow which hung over him most of his life. On August 11, 2014, Williams was found dead, after committing suicide by hanging, at his home in Paradise Cay, near Tiburon, California.
People can surmise as to why a man, who by most reports was a kind and sensitive human being, who seemed so intent on bringing laughter to others, would make the selfish decision to end the struggles of his personal life in such a grotesque way? Why not just take sleeping pills or some other quick acting drug? Why leave this horrible picture for his family and friends to grapple with? Was it to shock the sensibilities of the world so that they would take notice of those who are in such chronic depression as his life record seems to indicate? Or was it something else? In an earlier interview with Diane Sawyer, Robin said that through his life there was a voice that would pop into his head telling him to “jump”, “kill youself”. This time he listened to the voice.
What kinds of things unchained the “black dog”, as Winston Churchill used to call his own bouts with depression? Was it the pains of the world that Williams took on, or his own personal pains, disappointments, rejections, discouragements; or was it the exhaustion of human energy in his fight to survive? We do know that he had a short time ago received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.
Someone reported that Williams was a member of a Christian church. I wonder, had he heard in his church about the One who was called “man of sorrows”; the man who came to reveal to us the heart of God – to flesh-out our heavenly Father’s love for us?
This man, Jesus, also died a grotesque death – not at his own hands, but at the hands of those he came to save. He didn’t take his own life, but he did say, “I lay it down” (John 10:18). According to the Gospel of John, Jesus came to save us – the lost (Luke 19:10). To save us from what? From sin, from Satan, and from ourselves – our attitudes, our dilemmas, our perplexities, and concerns. He’s the one who said,
“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.” Matt. 11:28-30
I realize that there are Christians who suffer from depression; most often it is related to something specific: abuses, losses (the death of a loved one, loss of health or youth or a job) a divorce, other disappointments or discouragements. Some people get depressed out of discontentment with where life has dropped them with seemingly no way out. Others develop depression out of an unforgiving spirit and ensuing anger.
I’ve never heard of a baby being born with depression, though it can develop early on in life. From my personal observations of acquaintances who are currently or have been in depression, most have arrived there because of life trauma – sometimes a personal sin. I don’t believe that “mental illness” is an adequate explanation of depression, without tracking down the route the depressed person has traveled along the way to depression. There are causes – often multiple causes. You can medicate the symptoms – but you can’t cure depression with medicine. However, I firmly believe it can be cured.
We are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual beings – all in one. That’s why we are taught in Scripture (Deut. 6:4-5, Mark 12:29-30) to love the Lord our God with our heart (emotional), soul (spiritual), mind (mental) and strength (physical). As we surrender our whole being to Christ and take proper care of those four parts of our human self, it will affect our state of mind.
If anyone had reason to be depressed by life circumstances, it was Jesus. He was poor all of His life. His life purpose precluded marriage. He was often hungry and tired. He wept, he got angry – He had emotions. He was misunderstood and accused of having demons. The crowds that applauded Him later turned away. He was betrayed by a “friend”. His closest followers abandoned Him in His greatest time of need. He suffered an unjust death of humiliation on a public cross. Yet, while hanging on the cross He asked the Father to forgive His enemies – He didn’t hold grudges, didn’t pledge vengeance.
Don’t think it was easier for Jesus because He was God’s Son: Heb. 4:15 says
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Though Jesus experienced human suffering, He was a joyful man – little children loved being around Him.
What a salesman Jesus was! His life convinces us to live as He did. His death paid the price for healing in every area of our lives. And His resurrection guarantees delivery on the product. He offers us a gift greater than laughter – He has promised us joy.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11
When we surrender to the presence of His Spirit within us, we find the ability to walk in that joy in spite of our life circumstances.
The Scriptures lay out a plan for a achieving and maintaining a healthy mind:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:4-8
©2014, Marcy Alves
Part 1 of 2
Do you sometimes wonder what “faith” is? Do you often wish you had more faith?
The Bible has much to say about faith. There are more than 360 verses in the NT alone that speak of faith or being faithful. A key faith verse is Heb. 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
So, what is faith? I think it’s best to start with what faith is not, because I believe that what we think is faith often isn’t faith.
My personal journey requires faith. I want to make sure I have the real thing. Join me on my “what is faith?” exploration. Following are some of my conclusions so far:
Faith is not belief.
Belief is something you can come up with on your own. We can believe things that aren’t true – about God or people or situations. We can believe the right things, but not act on them – faith seems to have an active component.
Believing the right things can lead us into faith, but it’s not the same as faith.
In Mark 16:14 the resurrected Jesus appears to the eleven disciples and “rebuked them” for two things: 1. “their lack of faith and 2. their stubborn refusal to believe” those who reported they had seen Him after He had risen from the dead.
When we mistake “prayers of belief” for “prayers of faith”, we may pray for things that God is not leading us to pray for.
And when we do not get what we pray for, then we feel that prayer doesn’t work, or God doesn’t love us; that God is powerless, or just not interested in our plight, that God has more important things to attend to than responding to our requests. Or, that God can’t be trusted.
The struggle we have with faith is often not a struggle with faith at all, but with trust. Many people who believe in God do not trust God.
If we trusted God, we would not be so easily disappointed when we don’t get our prayers answered in our timing – or when God says, “No.” when we want Him to say, “Yes”.
Faith is not feelings.
We can feel good about something we want to happen, but that’s not the same as faith. Because we can feel good about the wrong things if we’re not walking in a current relationship with our heavenly Father.
Faith is not desire.
We can want the wrong things. Or we can want the right things at the wrong time. Though the Scriptures say God will give us the desires of our heart – there is a condition to it. The Scripture says if we “delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.” Are you delighting in the Lord, enjoying fellowship with Him?
Faith is not something we can get by struggling for it, something we can earn, manufacture, or create by professing we have it. It is not a magic formula. So, what is faith?
What faith is:
Heb. 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV)
Faith is assurance, knowing you have something that does not yet appear.
We have often made faith a condition of the mind – but it is really a condition of the spirit. It is a grace of the heart.
There’s spiritual faith (which I call “real faith”) and there’s human faith.
John’s Gospel refers to people putting “their faith in Him” (Jesus)– yet most of his early followers later turned away from Him. They had human faith, not spiritual faith.
If the faith you operate under results in your turning away from Jesus and not trusting God, you need a different kind of faith – it’s not REAL FAITH.
What kind of faith do you operate under? Human faith, or spiritual faith? Next installment we’ll look at “spiritual faith”: what it is and where it comes from.
Take me to “Real Faith” part 2