Then, we hear about the tragic death of our beloved comedy icon, Robin Williams. Growing up, I knew him especially as Mrs. Doubtfire and still love watching that movie. Often times I like to enter a room and, with my best Mrs. Doubtfire voice, go “helllloooo!” Later on, in High School, we watched “Dead Poets Society” in English class. Some of us started calling our teacher “O Captain my captain” and probably for the first time ever thought of poetry and theater as pretty cool. (Not to mention crying “Carpe diem” and not the dumb person’s version, #yolo)
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For Robin Williams, his suffering came from the internal, unseen by his fans watching in the audience. No one could, the guy was hilarious. His comedy would give the impression that he’s happy and content. His is the kind of suffering millions of people deal with and it goes unnoticed by the others around them, because it is on the inside, in the mind, hidden from the outside world. I’ve read many posts from people recollecting an experience they had with Robin. They all talk about his wild energy on stage, his deeply compassionate, caring heart, and even timidity and shyness off the stage. Many fellow comedians have spoken up saying they suffer the same thing. One post from a standup comic said that for a lot of people in the field, him included, their stage presence is a façade, hiding their real suffering self from the world. That kind of social isolation, where the high of making people laugh wears off and the true friends who will stick around when the ‘funny guy’ is turned off are few (or non-existent), combined with an illness like depression, can leave a person in such a dark place that they think it will never end. Lets not be naïve about depression. It is an illness of the mind just like cancer is a disease of the body. For people like Robin, that darkness becomes so overbearing that the internal suffering becomes external in the taking of his own life. That in turn has led to the external suffering of his family, friends, and fans as they mourn his tragic death.
Our own Andrew Gangidine put up a great response to a post that said “At least he had it his way.” But the fact is, Robin Williams did not have it his way. The person who commits suicide never has it their way. Read Andrew’s post here: http://imgur.com/gallery/eBVkJ1m
In the face of all of this suffering, the external leading to the internal, and the internal leading to the external, is there any hope? Will there ever be any kind of respite? Will there ever be a time when no one suffers any more?
In the face of this suffering, Christians have the One who took on the face of our suffering.
Christ was abandoned by nearly all of his closest friends and followers. He agonized alone over His approaching passion in the garden as his disciples slept, unable to stay awake for one hour with him. Only a few stood at the foot of His Cross to be with him in his final moments of pain and humiliation. The agony He must have felt when Peter first promises to go to his death with Jesus, but then denies him three times when push came to shove came to crucifixion. Jesus knows not only the suffering of the external attacks, but the internal isolation and darkness as well. It comes out externally when he cries “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
When Christians look upon the face of the Crucified, we see not only the image of our broken human condition, but also God himself who completely shares with us in our suffering, and gives it meaning. It is given meaning because He passed through the suffering into death. On the third day He rose again gloriously, destroying suffering and death, and winning for us eternal life in his glorious resurrection. We will enter into that life if we follow his command “take up your cross daily and follow me.” He promises from the cross, “Amen, I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.” Do we still suffer in this world? Yes, but it no longer has the last say. It is a passing through death to life.
That is why I think we especially need the Church, that institution that Westerners love to hate. We need to share our sufferings together and to share them in Christ’s sufferings. It is a parallel to what Jesus says is the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” All of us are implied in the One individual who took it all on for all our sakes, which makes it so that each individual no longer lives for him/herself, but for the whole, as Christ died and now lives for all. St. Paul expresses this when he says “For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised."
Going back to Robin Williams, we don’t need to speculate about the “what if’s.” The tragic fact is, he’s gone. What we need to do now is wake up to the suffering in the world. It’s everywhere and it’s not going away. In responding to the suffering of our brothers and sisters consistently, we will find that in the midst of the suffering, there is hope, and at the end of it, joy.
“Yeah there’s a sadness and then you have to go with that there’s also hope…You wished they hadn’t happened, but they did, and the purpose is to make you different. It’s what they call a Buddhist gift, I would call it the ultimate Christian gift. It’s that idea of… you’re back. And you realize the thing that matters… are others, way beyond yourself. The self goes away. Ego, bye-bye. You realize there are a lot of amazing people out there to be grateful for, and a loving God. Other than that, good luck. That’s what life is all about.” –Robin Williams