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