17 Aug 2014 by Rev Dr Steven Kau-
I remember feeling shocked over the news that Heath Ledger passed away. I had just finish watching the movie “The Patriot” the night before. I remember feeling sad over Michael Jackson, although I am no fan of his. I remember where I was when I heard about Whitney Houston passing, when a friend broke the news to me. Although I am not strictly a fan of any particular celebrity, I remember always being shocked, always being sad.
It’s tragic. It’s always tragic when someone you feel you know dies, whether you really knew them or saw them on screen or heard their songs on an album. We really didn’t know them in real life, how they spoke to their friends, how they loved their family but in some way we knew them in our hearts. That’s where Robin Williams will now forever live. I am absolutely, positively, utterly shocked at the news that he is gone from this world.
What makes me sadder is the news that he died of an apparent suicide because of depression. If it was cancer or AIDS or Ebola or any one of those dreaded diseases I can accept that, but suicide makes us ask that eternal question: Why? It was in one of Robin Williams’ most memorable scenes that he said the words, “If you’re depressed, reach out to someone. Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem.” That was back in 2009 on his movie ‘World’s Greatest Dad.’
A few days ago, what were a few words to a camera became a devastating reality that has left the world in mourning for a man so talented, someone who made millions of us laugh so much, yet so deeply unhappy. You just don’t think it makes sense.
Robin made no secret of the problems he had in his life. He had admitted to having alcohol and cocaine problem in his 30’s. Robin had tried, he clearly wanted to get better and he clearly wanted to do what he could to live a long, happy, contented life with his wife Susan Schneider and his three children.
As a society, we have all around us counselors, therapy and more commercials for depression and bipolar disorder than ever before. After all, a celebrity has access to all the best resources, right? So how can they not help if he needed it? How can they not find a way to manage his problem?
I am coming to the realization that there is something a lot of people apparently do not know. There are certain issues out there that do not have a cure. They cannot be fixed. They are ongoing issues that must be MANAGED. But they do not EVER go away. They reoccur, they recycle and many are NOT responsive to medication.
We all think that someone who is depressed can just pick from any variety of medication and get happy in 6-8 weeks! After all, that is the time they say it takes for the anti-depressant to kick in. This is the great myth unfortunately. This is the great lie that is believed by more and more people than I can count.
Many mental health issues are not cured by any of the recommended medications. In fact, there are some people who have what they call ‘Treatment Resistant Disorder.’ It just doesn’t respond well to anything. And then there are some issues that might take someone repeatedly trying different combinations of medications before they find one that can stabilize them.
Do people know this? Are they aware that depression is not a one stop cure? I’m going to say that they probably don’t because every single time somebody dies due to suicide, they always say, “Why didn’t they get help?” or “Why didn’t they tell someone?”
Of course, there are some people who don’t reach out for help. But I’d venture to say those are in the minority. Most people who suffer with a mental health issue, depression or addiction DO reach out for help. In fact, they reach out for help over and over again. They tried everything. They tried counseling, hospitals, group meetings, medication and even spiritual help. They tried it all and then they try it again and again. Until one day, they wake up at 63 years old totally exhausted and most likely find themselves in yet another dark place. And perhaps they just grow tired of trying to get help. Maybe it’s exactly the OPPOSITE of what everyone thinks. Instead of them not seeking help, maybe they’ve grown tired of seeking help and never getting the help they desperately need. Of course the sentiment of the world today is such that truly and humbly seeking the intervention of our Lord Jesus Christ (which is indeed the wisest decision to make) is insane and out of the question and that fatal attitude may have sealed his fate.
Life is a journey. And many of the things that attach themselves to us in life are on going issues that we will have to deal with along the way. We will grow tired and weary at times with the struggle. There will be days when we just want to be done with it; when all we just want is to reach the finish line.
Instead of looking for that perfect solution that will fix you, try to embrace the journey. And even see it as a way to connect with other people who are uniquely like you. We have to encourage one another. We have to lift them up when they are down. We have to find a way to endure the storms without breaking. And that, my friends, is the hard part.
Even after I have said all this, I do believe there is hope. I even believe that there will come a day when all our struggles come to an end. Do I believe that will happen in this life? Not really. I do believe that we can find a way through to handle our problems instead of letting them defeat us. To manage them, to withstand the storms of life, for me that involves putting my faith in a God who has promised me that while struggles may come in this life, there is hope that one day we will see an end to it.
I am a firm believer of ingraining in people a respect for life. I believe this respect for life, which comes from loving others and seeing them as God sees them, is the key to resolving many human issues. But it is also an important key to understanding how we see ourselves. In the song, ‘Seasons Change’ by Christian artist Crystal Lewis, she sings:
Are you going through a dry spell?
I was there a while ago
Now I‘ve come to a place where the rain falls
Where the trees bear fruit and grow
Where I find a refuge in my God
It’s a place of surrender I know
I look at God and see what I want to be
He looks at me and sees His own.
Lyrics like this remind me that no matter how awful I think of myself that it not the person God sees when He looks at me. It is the same for all of us. Give yourself a break and look at yourself the way God does.
When God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a new king (whose identity is unknown to Samuel) the prophet looked on Eli’ab and thought God chose this man. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 RSV) We must always remember God knows our hearts and loves us all. God doesn’t make mistakes, which means He didn’t make a mistake creating any one of us. Anyone suffering from depression (we all sometimes do), needs to remember that daily. But it is a truth we shall all keep in mind.
So while we will never really know why Robin Williams died, we can take this time to reach out and help others who may be facing a similar situation. Remind them of the love that is there for them every single day.
One final set of lyrics to meditate on, also from Crystal Lewis. These are from her song, ‘Beauty for Ashes”:
“When sorrow seems to surround you
When suffering hangs heavy o’er your head
Knows that tomorrow brings wholeness and healing
God knows your name, just believe what He said
He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear
Gladness for mourning, peace for despair.”
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