This post was originally published August 11, 2014.
Robin Williams is dead, apparently of suicide after a lengthy battle with depression. My heart is heavy. What a terrible tragedy. How could a man who seemed so full of exuberant life somehow lack the will to live?
I respect the family’s desire to keep details of his death private. There will likely be a feeding frenzy in the press — speculation over his mental state, drug use, relationships with others, every jot and tittle to try to explain the unexplainable — some people (and it can be anyone) simply lose the desire to see another day.
Whenever I encounter suicide in the news or in the lives of people I know, my mind flashes back to one Saturday night in March of 2008. I was feeling flu-like symptoms and had called to get someone to preach for me.
I went to bed feeling weary but otherwise fine. Just after hugging my son good night, I heard a distinct voice say, “It’s okay.” Rather than interpret this as God assuring me all was well, I heard it as divine direction to kill myself. In less than half an hour, I had consumed handfuls of potent psycho-tropics that should have ended my life.
Why did I do it? I have no earthly idea. It makes no human sense. I’ve come to see it as a spiritual attack for which I was ill prepared — in spite of years of faith development, Biblical study, and pastoral service.
By God’s grace, I was brought back from the dead. Others, like Robin Williams, are less fortunate. Why? God only knows. It is foolish to speculate. More than this, it is callous and cold-hearted. Like Job’s friends trying to explain away his suffering, we are bound to get it wrong and only heap verbal and psychological abuse on already hurting children of God.
I don’t know why people resort to suicide when they see no other better option. I do know how I can best respond — with the strong compassion of Christ. Our God is a God of life and nothing — not even death by suicide — can separate us from his love in Christ. I won’t speculate on the eternal destiny of those who take their own lives — this is in God’s hands — but I will boldly proclaim the power of abundant life that can reach us in the depths of Sheol and remain with us to the highest heavens.
One of the meditations included in my spiritual memoir, Delight in Disorder, is called “Even Me” and it concludes in this way —
God has brought me back from the dead. In Christ, I have hope for abundant life with him now and forever.
When I came to my senses in the hospital bed after my suicide attempt, I had to face the reality that I had tried to abandon God. At the same time, I discovered God had not abandoned me. I say this not to brag about my standing with God – indeed I have no standing with God. I say this instead with tremendous gratitude and wonder that God would take notice of me—even me.