An Observation About Robin Williams

Posted on August 24, 2014 | 17 comments

It has been a couple of weeks since the shocking news of the death of Robin Williams. I have waited because I did not want to be perceived as trying to capitalize on the event by trying to get clicks and likes. Also, in events like this, it is helpful to let a fuller picture form beyond the initial speculation and conjecture.

I do not know what caused Williams’ depression and hopelessness. It may have been chemical. It may have been part of the early onset of Parkinson’s as some have mentioned.

But there is something that at least contributed to the depressive state, and I think therein lies a lesson for all of us.

Robin Williams had money. With the ability to make gobs more if he wanted.

Yet, the pursuit of money to maintain his lifestyle became a source of resentment. According to a friend interviewed in this article, He signed up to do them {movies and TV} purely out of necessity. He wasn’t poor, but the money wasn’t rolling in any more and life is expensive when you have to pay off two ex-wives and have a family to support.” He was enslaved by the quest to maintain or increase standard of living.

Robin Williams had fame. His was a name that was widely known around the world.

Yet, all that affirmation was not enough. Williams probably knew it was temporary. A couple bad movies and fans turn into critics.

Our soul longs for acceptance that is permanent rather than whimsical. {Click to Tweet that.}

Robin Williams had influence. Just look at the outpouring of grief from celebrities whose careers were influenced by Williams. Even non-celebrity culture felt the loss. In the week after, there were numerous Facebook posts by people on my own timeline who expressed the impact his works had on their own lives and view of the world.

As nice as we often suspect it would be to have more money, fame, or influence, those things turned out to be a foundation of sand. They are not enough to sustain a sense of self; they will not form a complete or satisfying answer to the question of ‘why do I matter?‘.

Sand shifts, and we have to keep up and adjust, constantly covering up the cracks that will appear in such a foundation.

The primary source of our sense of self – identity, of the value we have and of our significance must be based on something unchanging. It must have a basis on something that does not rely on our effort. Then we can experience the security for which we long, and the freedom from having to maintain an ever-changing standard.

That standard, that foundation of rock, is Jesus. He demonstrated his love for us, proving it once and for all time. He calls us friends and accepts us unconditionally as we come to him. In Christ, our lives will not be static, for we will be stripped of the things we have learned to grasp onto living in this broken world, but Jesus is faithful and will not abandon the effort.

If you find you are depressed, there are no easy answers. Don’t let anyone tell you there are. Even in Christ, the old nature will remind us of its presence, and there will be times of struggle.

But, take the hard step of reaching out, despite the story based on lies that you are telling yourself, you are loved for just being you. God created you and He loves you for that reason alone.

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  1. It’s true, money does not buy happiness. Only God sustains true joy. I know of which I speak because I used to live a wealthy lifestyle and was miserable, even suicidal at one point. I changed my life and now live humbly as a good steward of God’s resources. I sold nearly everything I own and reduced my income by 90%. Love of money is a sin like any other. You can never have enough. It’s like an addiction with the disease of “more”. And the things you have to do to get large amounts of money are almost always unethical in some way.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts.
    I was struck by Robin Williams’ death myself, and later I realized a little better why. If he had died another way, in some accident, I don’t think I would have given it as much thought. But because it was death by suicide, I know that he must have been suffering and struggling and I felt for him. I have several family members and friends that have their own struggles with depression and you’re right. There is no magical fix. But there is Jesus who is better than a magical fix and how understands and will stay by these people.

  3. Good thoughts! Depression hurts and we may never know the cause of this man’s pain. It hurts those left behind too, so sad. But I think you hit on several key points here. That Rock is Jesus. Without Him life holds no meaning, no purpose. He is our HOPE! I was your neighbor at Living Proverbs 31. Blessings.

  4. Some excellent points – and mentioning the fickleness of fans is very well-taken.

    Robin Williams brought us so much joy – and we, as a society that’s supposed to reflect Jesus – we failed him.

    We supported politicians who eased laws on mind altering drugs, and tolerated presidential candidates with an admitted history of illegal drug use. Drugs and depression are dreadful combination.

    And we continue to stigmatize mental illness as ‘weakness’. It’s not. It’s a chemical problem, something akin to an autoimmune disorder, and there are treatments.

    But we regard those people – “THOSE” people – as broken. We see them as inferior, because we’re afraid to look in a mirror and see the image of a Robin Williams superimposed over our own.

    So we break the mirror.

  5. I appreciated your thoughts, especially as it seems there are more and more people dealing with depression these days. Thank you for your wonderful reminder that Christ is our Rock, our only sure foundation. Blessings to you in Christ. (Visiting from the Link-up Party on

  6. As a long- standing sufferer of depression, I agree “there are no easy answers.” The loss of Robin Williams is a tragedy and no one will ever know what he was thinking in those final hours. Christ has brought me a long way from my earlier years of manic depression but it is something I believe I will fight for my entire lifetime. We all have our crosses to bear. As you offered, reaching out to God and others is certainly a great step to make during those darkest moments.

    • I think you make a great point regarding the cross to bear. Often we want the putting off of the old-self to be easy. But Paul reminds us that it goes down fighting. Our sanctification is a process of moving towards Christlikeness despite the pain and unpleasentness of rejecting a wholeness of our own creation.

  7. So very true. There is no hopelessness when there is Jesus. We create idols in our lives and when we can’t “keep up with the Joneses” we become depressed. What we don’t realize is that “the Joneses” sold their souls to the devil for those idols.

  8. All great thoughts and points. We need to stop stigmatizing mental illness and depression. The only solid rock to stand on is Jesus. Everything else shifts or fades away. Stopping in from Winsome Wednesday.

  9. We do need something, or rather SomeONE to live for…. anything here is temporal at best…. yet, we find it so easy to live FOR those things. It is good to have a reminder of where we need to keep our focus… thank you for sharing this.

  10. I’ve been thinking about Robin Williams death a lot even as it’s been a couple of weeks. He seemed to be such a kindhearted man, not to mention, a wellspring of improvisation and humor. I think as a culture and country, we felt he was that funny brother or uncle who made us all forget about our pain. Sadly he couldn’t do that in his own life, I suppose. I saw footage of him saying those words from an interview, shown after his death. If only he’d grounded his identity in Christ! What a powerhouse he could’ve been! Thanks so much for bringing light to this through the lens of our identity in Christ, Scott!

    • I’m glad to see you back, Beth!

  11. You are so right. I too, wanted to hear the whole store before I jumped to conclusions. And honestly, none of us will know the battle that Robin Williams was having internally. Even when I am down and out, when I am not feeling good about myself, I know that I can turn to the Lord and he will renew my strength. To trust and to Him…it’s just like no other. Thanks for the post! Coming from the weekly link up on melting! 🙂

  12. Depression is definitely a SICKHEAD! What hurts most is that you don’t totally understand your demons enough to describe exactly what your feeling. You hold it in and refuse to let in anybody else because it’s not something you’d wish on an enemy.
    I’ll always be grateful for Jesus. He alone understands what goes on in our heads. He alone healed me.
    And it’s not just a demon of the rich and powerful, the poor and weak battle it too–that’s when you ask, “what am I good for? What?!”
    I certainly hope more people get to know Jesus because the absence of Him in a life is the primary cause of depression.

  13. insightful post, Scott!
    Congratulations – you are one of my Featured Writers at this week’s Inspire Me Monday Party – Week 139 – at Create With Joy!

    • Thank you so much for having me!

  14. Such a lovely message. I am fortunate to have never suffered depression. It must be such a difficult journey.

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