Robin Williams "had it all"--notoriety, meaningful work, money, a stellar career, a wife who adored him, close friends, a good reputation, the joy of helping needy people--yet, this week, alone and despondent, he hung himself in his bedroom. Also, the news reported that police found a pocket knife close to his body that he used to self-inflict "superficial injuries." Nobody's laughing now, as people search for answers. The truth is that Robin Williams didn't have it all. From what we know, he didn't have Jesus or a relationship with His Creator. That empty God sized vacuum within him swallowed up all that other stuff like a black hole. All the other stuff wasn't enough. I know. I've been in that dark place too.
Depression is a beast that takes you places you never thought you could go and do things you never thought you would do. But in the grips of depression, you hurt so bad and your thinking is so skewed that you commit outrageous acts, often to yourself.
In my twenties, before I found the Lord and even early in my Christian journey, I battled depression. I was raised in a pagan home which saddled me with wrong thinking and deep pain. I made poor choices in my early years. I bought into the lie that we evolved out of slime and are only here for a short time, so grab what you can. I desperately wanted to be loved and for my life to make a difference, but I was clueless and foolish. I had not done business with the demons in my life, and if Jesus hadn't rescued me, I probably would have ended up like Robin Williams.
But thank you, God, my neighbor two doors down cared enough to befriend me and to invite me to a women's Bible study. At the time, I was a mess. David and I were married with two beautiful daughters but I had no idea how to be the wife he needed or parent well. My dear father had just lost his five year battle with cancer. And I was cycling between days of depression and days where I could function. I loved my husband and those two girls more than life itself, but I couldn't figure life out. Thus, many weekends I spent glued to a living room chair, immobilized, as I sunk deeper and deeper into despair. This dark night of the soul, the place where I came to the end of myself, was exactly what prepared me for the beauty of God, His Word, and the women He used to pull me out of that canyon of terror.
The small group of women where God placed me in that Bible study encircled me with care. Interestingly, for the next six years, my children were never sick on Bible study day. Little by little, the depression lifted as I learned that although my mother did not love me, God loved me, and He became my perfect parent. As I studied the Scriptures I learned wisdom, skill in everyday living, and I became a voracious reader of divine literature and books by godly Christian authors. They all mentored me. Fifteen years later I was teaching women the Bible and attending seminary to become a better Bible teacher.
Women in that Bible study saw potential in me that I never saw in myself, and they invested in me. I began to invest in others and found a place to serve. Over the years that black hole of emptiness filled and healed, as over the years, I grow stronger in the Lord. Depression has not plagued me for over thirty years. Praise God! I don't know if I'll ever battle it again. I hope that the well of inner strength will be enough should life implode again. I'm trusting in God's grace.
What are the lessons for us as we contemplate Robin Williams' suicide? Sometimes we back off sharing our faith with people who seem to have it all. We think--they don't know they need God. They won't listen. But we never know what's going on in someone's heart or behind closed doors. Live so the world sees Jesus honored. Converse, speaking unashamed of what He's doing in your life. With gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15), show and tell others about the only One who can fill that empty God-shaped vacuum within all of us. He's the only One who is enough. And if you observe someone lost in the maze of depression, get help.