Lamenting a Friend I Never Knew

August 16, 2014 § 38 Comments

good-morning-vietnam-robin-williams-693139754 “Robin Williams attended City Church in fall of 2006 when I was preaching through the Apostle’s Creed. He confessed the faith of the church and shuffled up for communion with everybody else needing grace. He was always kind to those around him. I know from other friends of his in the Bay Area what a generous, humble, and charitable man he was and his death saddens me greatly today. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Fred Harrell, Sr. Pastor, City Church San Francisco

Robin Williams’ death has rocked me. Yes, I’m a Christ-follower and minister, and in God’s story, no one person is greater or better than the next. He was addicted to alcohol – I know this too. And I already know that suicide is not only an act of desperation, but also one of selfishness.

All this is true, and more. But for some reason, in the brilliant offerings and characters of this extraordinary comic and actor, it is as though Williams’ sorrows somehow connected with my own. Whether a magnificent iconoclastic English teacher, a distant Dad reminded of love and joy and family, a son who longed for the courage to face his own terrors – and father, or a caring Therapist, Williams drew me in like few have.

Through great writing, roles and directing – but also in his own pathos – Williams tapped into something deep within. When his heart broke over the suicide of one of his students in Dead Poets Society, it was real. When he finally refused to run from the hunter who chased him for years, in Jumanji, it was as though all of us finally grew up and stopped running. In Hook, when he told Jack, his son, that he was his ‘happy thought,’ my heart swelled for our own children.

I think it was more than acting, but a man who wanted to believe there is hope past one’s own sorrows and demons. I am sad for him and all who wrestle with the darkness of such depression that wrecks that hope.


Fortunately, as selfish, damaging or cowardly as it may be, for those who belong to Jesus, suicide holds no power over the gospel. It is a sin, but it isn’t unforgiveable, any more than my own cowardice, selfish ways and damaging actions. We believe that nothing can separate us from God’s love – not even us (Romans 8).

I am sure that when I was fresh out of seminary, and filled with self-righteous zeal, that I would have written some pietistic essay on why Williams could not have possibly entered the Kingdom, but I would have been wrong.

Instead, I am comforted by the words of his pastor, and my friend.

And though I didn’t know Robin Williams, I will miss him.

But better, and in spite of his flaws – and mine – I hope to one day see him – and you – at the Feast.

Wouldn’t that be sweet.

What good news…


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§ 38 Responses to Lamenting a Friend I Never Knew

  • Daniel Deaton says:

    I visited wounded warriors with Robin and marveled at his capacity to love his neighbor. I hope at his core was a faith he spoke little about. I loved and respected this wonderful man.

  • flaknmb says:

    Oh, Mike, thank you SO MUCH for this superbly written and heartfelt message. It’s amazing how deeply he touched so many people who never even met him except on screen. Had he only felt a fraction of the love, respect and appreciation his fans have for him, I believe he would still be here. I disagree, however, that suicide is a selfish act. The pain that comes from the despair and desperation of deep, clinical depression far exceeds any physical pain. It can only be imagined by those who have experienced it. And I believe anyone who has experienced can understand why someone would want to put an end to it. I praise God for your growth, compassion and wisdom and pray He continues to richly bless you and Catherine.

    • Kevin says:

      I have to agree.

      As much as the ACT of suicide is selfish, the person committing the act has lost the ability to realize that. If they could, they wouldn’t commit suicide in the first place.

      The most insidious part of depression is that it not only effects the victim physically, but it erodes their perception of reality. The victim cannot determine that taking their own life is an unacceptable option. If they could make that determination, they wouldn’t do it.

      So, as much as the act itself may be selfish, the person committing it is unable to see that at the time. Or, at the very least, cannot see the relevance of that given their emotional and mental state being so unbalanced.

  • Judy says:

    Mike, I so appreciate your words, but I have to say suicide is generally anything but a selfish act. One of the key elements that has to be present for someone to follow through with suicide is a belief that those around them will be better off were they not here. This belief makes it seem to them as a most selfless act.

  • chosenrebel says:

    Reblogged this on ChosenRebel's Blog and commented:
    Good article holding the hope of the gospel out for Robin Williams.

  • I heard a classical radio station refer to “The Great Robin Williams”. Jesus would not accept the title “good” when he was on earth.

    I do believe salvation is available until the moment you die; even for a celebrity who snorted cocaine, blasphemed God, and promoted sin most of his adult life.

    Can you refer me to scripture that teaches suicide is forgivable?

    • unfinished1 says:

      Brother – I believe the onus is on you to produce a passage that says it is unforgivable. Please know that I mean no disrespect, but either we are saved – and kept – by grace – or the burden of righteousness is entirely on us – and that is an impossible-to-realize reality. The historic reasoning behind the belief that suicide is unforgivable is rooted in the notion that because one cannot repent of that sin, they will not be forgiven. But the gospel teaches that our forgiveness, vertically, was accomplished and assured at the Cross and in the Resurrection of Jesus. So while all of us will die with unconfessed sins (both those we realize and those we are not yet conscious of), the atonement is sufficient for them – or the gospel is not good news. One last thought (and again, I hope you know that I mean no disrespect, man), when Paul says (Romans 8:38-39), ‘For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,’ he does not qualify ‘death’ – This means that if someone is ‘in Christ’ she or he cannot be separated from the love of God, regardless of the nature of that death. blessings on you.

      • Only God knows for sure. What the Bible speaks to me is that Jehovah is the author and finisher of our life as Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. It is not for us to decide to cancel or end life as in abortion or suicide…

        If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. I Corinthians 3:17

        He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Revelation 3:5

        If Jesus death on the cross automatically atones for the unconfessed, unrepented sin of the entire world…everyone goes to heaven?

        “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

        God Bless You, Sir. †

    • Paula Flint says:

      To Disciple…you have described many heroes of the Bible. Peter, himself, denied even knowing Jesus. That’s pretty blasphemous. We are all sinners….for one it might be snorting cocaine and for another it might be a critical spirit or an unforgiving heart.

      • Paula,

        I was a drug addict for 16 years. I did not condemn the man. I was simply pointing out that the world is celebrating the life of this notorious sinner while many of these very people refuse to give Jesus any glory at all. Jesus never sinned and laid down his life for us all.

    • john w smith says:

      disgustingly, per your posts. its awful exposition of texts by those such as yourself that cause a watching world to hate us. how can suicide be the unpardonable sin when Jesus is telling those in his very midst that they are committing it? its because its not you slack jaw, its not suicide its blasphemy against the HS that is the unpardonable sin. dude, learn to properly interpret the word. until then shut your hole. your killing us, killing us man.

      • I assume this grammar/punctuation disaster above was directed at me?

        I never said suicide was a sin that wouldn’t be forgiven. The blogger said in this post that suicide was forgiveable so I was asking for his Biblical basis for this view. I have often debated within myself whether God who gave us life would forgive us for taking the same life he gave us.

        Save the slack jaw, shut your hole, etc. You’re killing yourself there.

        God Bless †

      • john w smith says:

        disciple, i owe you an apology. counseling the myriads that have sat under poor theology got the best of me there; and i in frustration unloaded on you, because i detected more of the same in your reply. i do sincerely ask your forgiveness for that. until all things are made anew, until we really believe it is finished, and that grace is really greater than all or sin, and not dare question the ability of he who loved us before the foundations of the world and went to the cross to be made sin for us to forgive us … peace to you and yours my friend.

      • The only unpardonable sin is not personally knowing God, a.k.a., “I Am Who I Am”, independently self-revealed by means of Jesus’ Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical death on the cross.

        The alternative is “complete freedom” of worship.

        (John 8: 21-32; 19: 30-37; Heb. 10: 19-25)

    • We know so little even about ourselves. I submit that the MOTIVE for suicide varies and makes a world of difference.

      Two examples are JUDAS who was condemned to hang himself for insider trading; and JESUS CHRIST who was glorified in his sacrificial death.

      • John,

        No harm done. I forgive you brother. It is hard to detect tone and emotion from typed words on a computer screen. Grace and Peace of Jesus Christ be upon you.


        Judas was the son of perdition destined to destruction from the beginning. Jesus said it would be better for him to not even be born. I don’t think Jesus would have said this about one who was headed to heaven…

      • You mixed up the two extreme examples.

        “Son of perdition”, as redefined: “better for him to not even be born” (John 17:12), is a simple prediction of Judas’ end, i.e., suicide, when he realized his complete failure at insider trading of the first of Jesus’ two absolute rights.

        Rather than merely “headed to heaven”, Jesus is the ever life-giving embodiment of “the resurrection and the life”, a.k.a., Almighty God the Father.

        The connection between the following references is verifiable by personal experience.

        (Zech.14: 8-9; John 8: 21-32; 19: 30-37)

  • Traveler says:

    If someone were hallucinating because of a mental health condition and they thought they could fly, if they stepped off the roof of a building, would you call that stupid? Or would you rightly think that they acted on what they thought to be good and real information?
    I have spent time “in the pit” and I can tell you that when I was there, there was much darkness and I couldn’t remember a time when it wasn’t dark nor did I have any hope that it would ever get brighter again. I was blessed because these bouts of depression never lasted more than a day. If they had lasted for weeks, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have lost all hope and taken my life.
    Most people who kill themselves just make bad decisions because of the bad information their brain is giving them.
    I guess it is up to God to decide whether it’s a sin, but somehow I don’t think He looks at it that way.
    All of this being said, if you find yourself “in the pit” and you aren’t sure about the information your brain is giving you, please ask for help getting things sorted out. It is bad information and it is the wrong decision and there are people who will grieve your death.

  • kch says:

    “something deep within” indeed… My wife and I discussed the idea if he might have been possessed. And I don’t mean the suicide—who knows what went on with that…I mean, when he was doing all those voices and the crazy antics. I guess that thought might seem strange to you all here, I don’t know.

    Either way, it seems odd that we would be discussing whether a famous actor were saved, mostly on the basis that we felt some kind of personal connection based on his outward product; that we thought we had some kind of connection with him because he made some movies we liked.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aside from the quote from the pastor saying he’d seen him in church at some point in 2006, we have very little if any evidence that he was a follower of Christ in any real way. I hate to make assumptions but I’m guessing that bay city whatever church in SF is probably kind of liberal anyway, so it would be easy for a guilty person to go there and feel good, without ever really walking the walk.

    I’m not condemning the man, I’m not the judge of these things. I just would caution about projecting too much of what we want to believe onto other people, just because we “like” them.

  • Ellen says:

    In “My Antonio” by Willa Cather, the grandfather is asked to say a prayer at the graveside of his immigrant “Bohemian” neighbor, a Catholic, who has committed suicide. Of course, there has been much talk about suicide being unforgivable or requiring many years in Purgatory. The grandfather’s prayer acknowledges all the concerns and the gospel offer of salvation in Christ, but as he commends Mr. Smerda to God, he says that his friend goes before God’s judgment seat, which is also His mercy seat. And so, he leaves the matter with God alone.

  • Tom J says:

    Judy, Judy Judy. You couldn’t be more wrong if you tried. You could try. but you would not be successful in being more wrong than to say suicide is not a selfish act. That is liberalism talking, a disease in itself. It is false teaching and dangerous to the community and our children. Suicide is the most selfish act a person can commit. It may be forgivable, but it is not a beautiful, courageous thing to do, as some liberal media outlets report.

    • jehefren says:

      I don’t believe that I said anything to suggest that I view suicide as a “beautiful, courageous thing to do.” I was simply noting that, although the results may make the act to appear to have been selfish, I don’t believe that the intent generally is.

      • Tom J says:

        Of course the act is selfish. YOU can’t take anymore. Nobody understands YOU. YOU are in so much pain. YOU give and give and nobody appreciates it. Do you see a reoccurring theme here? There was no thought for his family that he said he loved and the millions and millions of people who loved him and purchased his products that gave him the live he led. It was just the HE couldn’t take it anymore and saw no other way out. It was pride that killed Robin Williams.

  • Bruce says:

    Reblogged this on Baldheadbruce and commented:
    Great article and tribute to Robin Williams…

  • unfinished1 says:

    I will, Jon – and I will gladly interact with you via e-mail – I really do appreciate your thoughts, but let’s talk privately –

  • I wonder what would be the comments from the Christian public on the execution of Jesus’ absolute right to give up his life of his own free will and power.

    Yes, he died but nobody killed him! (John 19: 30-37)

    • By any human standard, which contradicts God’s self-revelation by means of death, Jesus also committed suicide. There is the “food that last for eternal life” for our working out!

  • jay brock says:

    For those that say its not a selfish act. Please ask his wife and daughter. For those that say its not a selfish act bc they know what hes going through. Question then why are u alive to say that? Couldn’t robin do the same? If he could see the pain in his families face do u think he would have done it? NO! He didn’t think it was selfish. I miss him. But he was wrong. A man that taught us how to laugh and live could not.

  • Katie says:

    I’m just thankful we are talking about the big “D” … my hope is that there will be less stigma against those of us who have been seriously depressed. Yes, even Christ followers suffer from depression !

    I am encouraged that my Savior understands Every Illness and chemical imbalance of the Body And Mind, afterall, he Was there when we were designed, created and knit together in our mother’s womb.

  • dcbelleonwheels says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post! It articulates what I have been feeling and thinking all week since this awful tragedy occurred. I can’t wait to worship at the feet of the One who saved us with Robin through eternity.

  • jody culver says:

    It was great to read that Robin Williams had indeed heard the gospel and understood God’s love and sacrifice to whatever extent. I know that we cannot fully understand the sacrificial love of Christ. We are all, and I mean all, so imperfect. It is true that some may be blessed with what we perceive as an angelic disposition, but even the most lovely, gracious people fall short. I am so thankful that God is a compassionate and just God. I think that it was good that Robin Williams described his battles with depression and how it just snuck up on him sometimes. God’s understanding is so much greater than ours. I am reminded that God values Robin Williams and God ascribes great value to human life.


  • Linda Johnson Fuerst says:

    “Nothing can separate us from God, not even us.” Thank you, Mike, for taking time to honor this brilliant “friend” to us whilst addressing the issue of depression and it’s unwanted offspring, suicide.
    Remembering in the dark, what God told us in the light…………….

  • Beautifully said and theologically sound. I hope to see him on the Kingdom too. Thanks for this article.

  • […] weeks ago I posted on Robin Williams’ death with the aim of honoring the impact he has had in the life of my family, and our world. […]

  • I love your compassionate, kind, comforting words. Words like these help me learn and grow, become a better, less judgmental person. Bless you.

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