The news broke on Monday, August 11, 2014, and the world was stunned that beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life. Social media accelerated the news, and details about his passing started trending a few hours later. You couldn’t open a news site, newspaper, Twitter, Facebook or whatever without seeing his face on the screen or the pages in front of you. Sad story. Very sad.
By all indications, Robin Williams had everything the world had to offer—fame, fortune, admiration—but, in the end, it didn’t matter. I would never attempt to speculate on his spiritual journey, what kind of guy he really was or anything of the like, but I do know that he fought some demons along the way; it’s been well documented.
After his death, it seemed every Facebook user became an expert on depression, posting links to articles that read, “If you’re dealing with depression, click here!” or “Depression is real!” or “Don’t fall victim to mental illness!” and the like. I get it that people wanted to help, but the news feed goes by pretty quickly and, before you know it, that life-saving link is yesterday’s news.
None of us see ourselves as others see us. If Robin Williams only knew that the entire world loved and adored him, would that have made a difference? Probably not. He still wouldn’t have seen himself as others did. Awards and accolades mean nothing if we view ourselves through the lens of depression.
When we feel hopelessness, no matter what good comes our way in life, we hear: “You’re a failure!” “Boy, you’ve pulled the wool over their eyes!” “Just think if they really knew who you are!” “Go ahead and quit before you get fired!”
Depression tells you that you’re pathetic, no matter what.
So, if we don’t perceive ourselves as others do, how could we ever see ourselves as God does?
Being a parent has allowed me to have a little bit of understanding of how God truly feels about me. My wife, Julie, and I have two children and when I think about Haley and Carson, my heart explodes. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them, not a thing I wouldn’t forgive them for and not a time where I wouldn’t give them my life!
If they’re sad, I cheer them up. When they’re discouraged, I encourage them. When their heart is broken, I take them for ice cream. Even though they may not fully realize it until they have kids of their own, I love them with all that I have within me. And even though we may not fully realize the extent to which He does, God is similarly, yet infinitely more, crazy about us! It’s hard to wrap your mind around, I know.
I’m no expert on depression, but I do know that I started my anti-depressant medicine four years ago. The doctor called it a “chemical imbalance.” I believed her; I had no reason not to. My small daily dose of Sertraline sends serotonin, which is thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness, to my brain. It helps level me out and keeps me balanced.
Sure, someone could look at me (or anyone like me) and wonder why I (or they) would ever be depressed about anything. I am a Christ-follower with a beautiful family and a good job. “What is wrong with him?” they might ask. Nothing, really—I’m not a bad person who’s keeping a dirty little secret; I’m simply a work-in-progress who needs a little help.
I am thankful for God’s redemptive power in my life. The older I get, the more I realize that approval from others is sporadic at best, but God is constant and from Him I have the love and acceptance of an unchanging God, no matter what. I hope Robin Williams knew that.
If you suffer with depression, please know that you are not alone. And don’t be embarrassed to reach out to a friend or a loved one to ask for help. It will be worth it.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
— by Jason Sharp
Sharp is station manager of 98.5 KTIS in the Twin Cities. Follow him on Twitter @KTISjason.