As probably expected the top trending topics on Facebook and Twitter for Tuesday August 12, 2014 have to do with something regarding the death of Robin Williams. Perhaps the greatest problem most are having with Robin Williams’ death is that they do not understand. Numerous are asking how someone with his success could be depressed. Many do not understand that things could be so bad that they do not see anything to continue living. Most do not contemplate that the best solution out of a problem is to simply be dead.
While I do not know Robin Williams, his family life, nor any of his circumstances I do know depression. I have been under doctor’s care for years. I have contemplated taking my own life. I have thought the best solution to a problem was to simply remove myself from the whole thing for good. Like many in America and around the world, I mourn Robin Williams’ death. Not so much because he was a great actor or that I enjoyed his movies. While I certainly did, I mourn and grieve with his family.
In the midst of darkness and death our Lord comes. This was the lectionary text for the 3-year series this past Sunday, Matthew 14:22-33. At 3am, in the fourth watch of the night, the Lord comes. Jesus rescues Peter when fear strikes and saves him.
Often it seems as though depression and thoughts of suicide are talked about as that which plagues “people” in general. Most people do not consider that depression and suicide could strike close to home. It can and does. The real problem here is that too often the church waits until the person is dead. To mourn now, to worry about the faith of Robin Williams or anyone else who is dead now, is inconsequential. But I mourn with and for his family. The Lord did not wait until Peter was swallowed up by death, but grabbed his hand and pulled him that death did not swallow him.
Dear Christians, do not wait for death. For the one struggling now, they need Christ now. Doctors care, medication, for some even diet and nutrition can help with the physical aspects of depression. Nothing is more necessary than Christ. Not later, but now. In presenting on the topic at Coram Deo Higher Things in Las Vegas in 2011, the number of youth who simply rejoiced to have the opportunity to talk and pray with a pastor about their struggles were humbling and numerous. It abounds in our congregations and communities. More than we like to admit.
Pastors and Christians talk a lot about sin. But we don’t like to handle it in our midst. We’d rather everyone that comes to church be happy and healthy. We might be fine with seemingly smaller sins but for these problems, most of us would rather someone else handle it. Sin abounds. Death looms all around. Look around, the plants are dying, people are sick, people are depressed. Robin Williams is dead because of sin. Not a particular sin, but sin that brings forth death. Speaking more on him now is meaningless (other than to trigger search results, attention, and readers). As with all death, it is gut wrenching because once again we see the devil at play and death looming.
Let’s be honest, suicide and depression problems are often the fault of the church. We have failed to look upon those who struggle with compassion. Our prayer lists are full of those with cancer, broken bones, and other ailments, but not depression and other mental illness. There is blame shifting, there is this thought that we couldn’t do anything for them. They are told to snap out of it. They are often ignored and driven away. In doing so, we’ve kept them out of the body of Christ. As such, they are driven from receiving the medicine of immortality that is the body and blood of Christ (Ignatius to Ephesians 20:2). The same Christ who comes at the fourth watch of night and saves Peter. We need Him. These people need Him.
If we are the church, the people of God, and the so-much-talked-about “body of Christ,” that means we are to be there. They are part of the body. Not to be cutoff but in need of restoration and healing. Pastors and Christians, don’t wait until they are dead and drowned. Jesus immediately grabbed Peter. Bring them to Jesus. If you are struggling, go where Jesus may be found, in the preached Word, drowned in baptismal waters, and received in the Lord’s Supper. Pray, listen, and have compassion, receive the Gospel. The Gospel that comes in flesh and blood, that Gospel that is Jesus given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Giving life and salvation.
A great, short resource if needed: I Trust In Dark My Road, by good friend and pastor, Rev. Todd Peperkorn. He was also on Issues, Etc. shortly after the initial posting here on this subject, a good listen.
If you need someone, contact me at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Carson City, NV – call 775-882-5252 ext 109. Email me at camen(at)blcs.org. Or find a pastor near you here. Pastors, be there, have compassion, deliver them the Gospel, and get them help.
If you are too busy… repent and give them Jesus.