Who Comforts the Depressed?

By now, everyone knows all about the untimely death of Robin Williams.  Here comes another post inspired by his apparent suicide. In my estimation, Williams is our generation’s greatest comedian, which is definitely open to debate; however, I think he edges out George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, and Richard Pryor.  No one comes close to Williams’ ability to improvise and ad-lib.  His death reminded me of another high profile movie celebrity who took his own life in 2012, the late Tony Scott.  He was the younger brother to Ridley Scott, who jumped from a bridge in San Pedro, California.  Tony Scott directed such well known movies as Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, True Romance, Spy Game, and Unstoppable.

For me, it is always tragic to hear of someone taking his or her own life.  I view it as a defeat for mankind.  Somehow Williams and Scott believed in their heart that their lives lacked purpose and meaning.  Their loved ones ceased to hold sway with them.  The community around them was not enough, yet what is the point of family and friends in these instances?  Emotional pain that is so intense, psychological darkness that is so black, compelled both Scott and Williams to end their own lives.  Both men had amazingly successful careers in the entertainment field as a director and actor respectively.  Their names became a brand.  Audiences and movie executives knew what to expect from a movie with Tony Scott behind the camera or with Robin Williams in front of it.

When the time came to settle in at night, ponder about the past, present, and future, neither Scott nor Williams could rest easy. Something churned deep within them with such intensity that no one and nothing could alleviate.  Maybe some folks in their families and social circles made valiant efforts at lifting them up out of their pits.  Both Scott and Williams struggled with depression and substance abuse.  The latter indicates the unrelenting presence of pain.  Suicide is a painful subject as is depression, which I think is an elephant lumbering around wreaking havoc throughout Western culture.  Is it really necessary to reassess one’s priorities after a celebrity takes his own life?  Do we need this type of a wake up call to realize that being with someone in their pain may actually lead them out of it?

Earlier in this post, I stated that those who commit suicide indirectly indict society.  What did Scott and Williams lack within their communities, which lead to such a drastic choice?  Over the last two decades, the culture in the US has grown much more individualistic.  Much of the self-help and religious and/or spiritual literature exhort its readers to find their purpose and meaning as one finds his or her center or experiences God in the secret place.  There are even meditation groups and prayer meetings, which give practical guidance in these matters.  These exhibit the appearance of community, but do these participants and the leaders or facilitators come alongside those struggling in order to encourage them to keep going?  I want to explore a passage from the New Testament real quickly:

“5 For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears  within.  6 But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7, NASB).

When I read those verses, I rejoice over the blunt language used by the apostle Paul.  There are many books by biblical scholars who explore the greatness of this apostle.  Some of the writings elevate Paul to the status of Christian superstar, missionary.  After reading the above passage, I sit back and reflect on his physical and emotional struggles with encouragement (2 Cor. 7:5, NASB).  Does this portion of scripture sound like it was written by a superstar missionary for Christ?  No it does not; furthermore, Paul describes how God comforts the depressed through the presence and words of his fellow missionaries (2 Cor. 7:6, NASB).  If anyone ever wondered whether or not the man who wrote thirteen books of the New Testament experienced depression, this text should forever remove such speculation.  Paul dealt with it in his life, but he found comfort in his friend and colleague Titus and in the local churches (2 Cor. 7:6-7, NASB).

Am I suggesting that those who follow Christ always will find solace with others committed to the Lord?  I would like to hope for this to be the case for all those who claim to follow him.  The Savior has at least three names, which many in the church and the world need and long to experience: Wonderful Counselor, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, NASB).  If Scott and Williams knew the Lord in their lives by those three names, I believe that they would still be alive and flourishing.  It seems to me that the above passage emphasizes the importance of a real community of people, who know, experience, and express their Savior as Wonderful Counselor, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace to those depressed within and without.  Paul’s faith in Christ did not exempt him from depression, but it did unite him to the ultimate comforter and the comfort of his people.  May that continue to be a reality in the people of God.

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