Robin Williams: Why?

Once again we are faced with the seemingly unexplainable suicide of a wealthy, famous, and enormously talented public figure. We can add Robin Williams to the long list that includes Whitney Houston, John Belushi, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Junior Seau, and a host of others. They all had reached the zenith of their careers, amassed great wealth, and were the envy of millions for their success and ability to live the "good life." They had access to every possible resource, every possible pleasure, every possible opportunity to meet opportunity and solve problems. And instead, they chose to end their lives.

What's going on? Despite our incredulity at these deaths the truth is glaringly simple: Nothing this world offers can make up for refusing what God alone offers. 

If it were possible to gain the whole world, it still would not save your soul. It would not fill the hungry, gnawing hole in the core of your being that longs for relationship with the One who created you in his image, and for his glory.

To be sure, wealth and fame and endless opportunity can provide temporary happiness. But, because it only masks our real longing, we will require greater and greater amounts until, at last, we find no amount of temporary euphoria can reach deep enough to anesthetize the pain. And at that point, unless we find something to live for, suicide may appear to be our best option.

It is apparent as well that those with the most resources too often can fuel their addiction to temporal pleasure much further and deeper than the rest of us. Because of their unlimited opportunity, they don't have to look elsewhere to answer the great questions of life. They can live in a fantasy world, always running quickly away from reality. But, ultimately, they are running away from asking and answering the very questions that define what life truly is.

Who am I? Why am I here? What makes life worthwhile? Where am I going?

The answers to these questions all start with a humble recognition that God exists, and we are accountable to him. Life is a gift from God, to be lived by the grace of God, for the glory of God.

In the movie "As Good As It Gets" Jack Nicholson's character walks out of his shrink's office, into a waiting room filled with desperate people. Realizing their mutual despair, he utters the film's most memorable line: "Is this as good as it gets?" Is this life, this world with all its disappointments and tragedies, really as good as it gets? 

For too many, the answer is "yes, this is as good as it gets. This life is all there is, and when life is no longer good, ending it is the way to go." But they are wrong on two accounts.

First, they are wrong in their search for meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in this life. Second, they are wrong in thinking suicide ends their existence. 

C. S. Lewis, the great Christian writer and philosopher summarized it this way: "Depending on your relationship with God, this life is either the highest part of hell, or the lowest part of heaven."

I don't know what Robin Williams was thinking in his last days and hours. I don't know his standing with his creator, Almighty God. I do know his final act was one of desperation to end his personal pain. Despite all his accomplishments, his soul was mired in great despair. It appears he did not see this life as the lowest part of heaven and worth living, but as his own personal hell worthy of ending. 

I also believe every life is precious. Robin Williams was a precious soul, as are all the rest of those whose lives ended yesterday, and will end today. Death is a robber, no matter the circumstance. 

Yet, death need not be feared. For those who entrust their lives to God through faith in Jesus Christ, death is merely the graduation ceremony into life eternal. Then our troubles will be over, our purest joys abundant, as we live face to face with our Lord on a new earth quite apart from even the possibility of sin.

Jim Elliot, the famous missionary, gave his life for the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."  For those whose goal is wealth and all it can bring, this life is as good as it gets. But for those whose goal is the glory of God, the best is yet to come.

We will miss Robin Williams. His talent made us all laugh. My prayer is his death will make us all reflect on the meaning of life itself, turn from chasing what can never satisfy, to lay hold on life itself in the Lord Jesus Christ.