Monday evening, while I sat outside grilling and watching my children play in the yard, my phone alerted me with the familiar sound of an incoming news story. Thinking that it probably consisted of a NFL preseason alert or some other announcement of similar importance I did not immediately pick it up.
When I did, the news on the screen told me something I did not expect. Robin Williams had encountered a role that he couldn’t play. Like so many in our times, a disorganized sadness or depression had begun to plague his days. This actor who found ways to connect with audiences through comedy always had a way of communicating in more dramatic roles the real struggles of life. Unfortunately with the depression he suffered of late, he discovered a sadness for which he saw no possible end or purpose other than to take his life.
For several days I have reflected upon what I wanted to say about Williams’ life and death. My prayer is that what follows has the kind of tone that communicates my appreciation for a man I respected and a concern for those who may share his struggles.
As a Christian the news of Williams’ death reminds me that
1) Depression does not respect persons. Like so many forms of suffering in this world after the Fall, depression can happen to anyone.
2) Depression is no laughing matter. Depression does not end when the director yells cut or our day job ends. 24 hours a day for an average time of six to nine months during a major depressive episode, the person suffering must face the sense of spiraling out of control. Further the spiral down occurs much faster than the arduous climb back out. With such pressure any of us could find ourselves tempted as Williams was.
3) Depression is not something a person can act away. All of the comedy the world can offer will not cure the soul in anguish. We cannot hide behind an act that tells the world everything is okay forever. But with the pressures that each of us feel and Williams certainly felt, we may want to hide behind an act as long as we possibly can.