Okay, let’s do the prerequisite clarifications: First, my appreciation. I have been laughing at Robin Williams my entire life. From Mork to Teddy Roosevelt, and every stand up routine in between (especially the improv!), he held the position of funniest man alive, at least in my book, for four decades. Please know that I have no desire to tarnish that legacy.
Second, my awareness. Yes, depression is very real. And losing loved ones is very difficult. The waters of sadness run very, very deep. As the scripture says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy” (Prov. 14:10). Please know that I can’t and won’t belittle the the reality of emotional pain.
But something needs to be said about a few things that are oozing out of the pores of our culture in light of this story.
1. “Robin Williams is ‘free’, and in a “better place” where he is ‘no longer in pain.'” Why is it that, when they lose someone important to them, the irreligious among us suddenly start waxing spiritual? The majority of men and women from the halls of both Hollywood and academia are bold in their godlessness. We are, after all, simply amoebae-gone-wild, with no divine visits in the rear-view mirror, no “sin” in our present lives, and no reasonably understood after-life on the horizon. I guess one could say that to be nothing (a.k.a., dead) is to no longer feel pain. But free? It’s not “free” to not do, be or feel anything. A better place? Let’s just say that, if Robin Williams’ life is a living hell (a life that 99.8% of people on earth would be thrilled to live), and that non-existence trumps his existence, then we’re all in terrible shape.
If you believe in God, and in particular the God revealed in the pages of the Bible, by the prophets and by Jesus, you can have an extremely strong assurance that Robin Williams is, and will be, eternally separated from God. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8). Williams made a comedic living mocking God, His people, and all things sacred. He did not embrace the truth of the Spirit, so he certainly didn’t sow to please Him. He may have been involved in charitable works, but not for the glory of the only One Who is praiseworthy. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:30-32).
Obviously, those who don’t believe in the truth of these Biblical words shouldn’t care what they say. All the more reason for unbelievers to avoid sympathetically reinterpreting them to fit the occasion. But, if one believes the plain words of the Bible, a man who mocks God and His revealed will and words is eternally doomed.
2. “Robin Williams’ pain justifies his suicide.” If this is true, then billions of people are justified to kill themselves. We can just hope and pray that William’s example doesn’t embolden anyone else to do what he did. Williams’ wife, Susan Scheider, is hopeful for another outcome. “It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.” That is an amazing thing to hope for. What logically will happen is those who struggle like Williams will see a man who gave up on the hope that care, support and treatment could afford, and chose to give up instead. And, to compound things, the world esteems him, makes him a hero, affirms he’s better off now … and no one says a negative word about his choice! No, if anything, choosing suicide just got a huge celebrity endorsement.
3. “Robin Williams is a good guy.” Imagine for a moment that Robin Williams was murdered by someone. How do you think the populace would feel about that person? Well, he did get murdered … by Robin Williams. Personally, I’m mad at whoever would end the life of the funniest person I’ve ever experienced. Is it wrong to be mad at Williams for killing Williams?
Or, imagine if Williams was still alive – but that he had killed someone else. If we knew him to be a murderer, would we still say, “that’s okay, because he’s so funny.” Well, he did murder someone. He murdered Robin Williams.
4. “This is politically incorrect, and will make people mad. Why are you writing this?” Because, during blurry times, things need to be made clear. Those who base their lives on the truth of scripture need to speak up, lest the world think that the “theology” that is being championed in the public arena is correct. To be silent is to condone. To speak the truth is the right and loving thing to do – even if it is received as scandalous.
What I wish: One, that there was some way I could jury-rig divine truth to make it say, “Robin Williams will be in heaven, and will make you laugh eternally.” But, as the old punchline says, “You can’t get there from here.”
Two, that Robin Williams would have been reconciled to God before His death.
Three, that people will see that you can have it all – fame, popularity, winsomeness, riches, you name it – and it’s not enough. That they won’t give up, but that they’ll seek more. That they will find the inner strength that comes from the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit that will convince them, day in and day out, that life is worth living.