Though I haven’t seen a lot of Robin Williams’ work, I did first watch him where he got his big break: Mork & Mindy. Somehow, playing the part of an alien who came to earth in an egg-shaped space capsule seemed to be the right start for Robin’s career in comedy.

But even though he was very funny, Robin was able to rise above the jokes. His work in the movie Awakenings pointed to hope beyond the human situation, and his role as John Keating in Dead Poets Society is a glimpse into the powerful role that a teacher can fill. Robin Williams wasn’t just about touching the funny bone; he was also able to touch the human spirit.

It’s never easy to see someone take his own life, but perhaps it is especially surprising when someone has achieved as much success as Robin Williams had. But depression was a constant reality he faced, made worse by open heart surgery and his personal struggles. The truth is, even though he had all kinds of success, Robin also faced numerous challenges – ones he apparently decided he could no longer face.

I wonder: how many like Robin Williams are out there? How many countless others find themselves at the uncertain edge, wondering if they can go on? Though their names will never fill the news, their hurt, like Robin’s, is all too real.

Earlier this month, I read William Styron’s Darkness Visible. It is, as the subtitle says, “A Memoir of Madness.” Styron writes movingly of his struggle with depression, a true disorder that can take over a person’s life.

Reading Styron and watching Williams reminds me of an important truth I hope you know. There are a lot of people hurting. And often there are not simple answers to the struggles. But there are important truths to remember. Let me offer three that I believe to be true:

  1. Life is hard. As Christians, we don’t have to deny this reality. In fact, we can’t.  Have you seen the news lately? I have a friend who monitors world issues, in an effort to alert folks who might be affected by them. On one day recently, he told me that he sent out 17 alerts regarding world problems. Seventeen. In one day.
  2. But in the midst of the difficulties of life, we hold onto this truth even more firmly: God is real. No matter what we face, we believe God is there. Faithful. And at work to show us His gracious love no matter what we face.
  3. So, if you believe life is hard, and that God is real, then make sure to Hold onto God, and share his love with everyone. Especially with those who are hurting.

The next time life gets hard, really hard, don’t deny that reality. But also wrap your arms around this even-larger truth: God is real. And reach out for help. And reach out to be a help. Because whether you are a famous writer or a high school dropout, whether you are a well-known actor or an unknown factory worker, whether life is overwhelming or just plain difficult – God is real. Let’s hold on to him – and be there for each other.


One thought on “Learning from Robin Williams

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