Last night, the comedian side of me was tearful. A man whose antics, voices and expressions brought my home a thousand laughs was suddenly gone at the young age of 63. He had just celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago and now, he is gone. He brought our family laughs in Mork and Mindy, Popeye, Good Morning Vietnam, Patch Adams, RV and Mrs. Doubtfire, along with thousands of other guest appearances in shows and movies. His comedic genius was great and his desire to make others laugh was clearly seen in his life.
My heart breaks for his family. Losing someone in this world is difficult; whether you know their time is near or whether they pass suddenly. Mr. Williams’s departure comes as a new Night at the Museum is going to be in theatres soon. Those on the outside saw his career continuing with laughs and more of the wonder character of Teddy Roosevelt. His last publically posted words were to his daughter, Zelda, wishing her a happy birthday.
In the wake of this tragedy, news is breaking that Mr. Williams suffered with depression on and off throughout the years. While most find this odd that a man of a million laughs, millions of fans and a life most who dream to live would suffer from depression, a few others find this to be consistent. While at the time of this writing the speculation is suicide tied to depression, our hearts still break and our prayers still go out.
Before I begin, I do not write the following words from scientific theory, applied psychology or theological studies, I write them from personal experience; this is my heart.
Every day people around you and me are suffering from depression. Many of those you may see as “having it all together” are suffering from this dreaded illness today. This illness can manifest itself is many ways and at various times. Some see depression as someone who sits around and gloats in their trials, tribulations and sorrow; and while this may be true to some, the effects of depression are not always present in the public eye.
I know of preachers who suffer depression but publically are professional, loving and involved in everyone’s life. Inwardly, they are struggling with their own lives and the future of their family. Their lives are a service to others continually, but on the inside they are raging and suffering. They are struggling, but to whom can they go? Everyone looks to the preacher to solve their problems; the preacher is not supposed to have any problems.
I know church members who suffer depression because they feel no one cares about them. How can this be, you ask? Easy. They are the ones that come and go in our assemblies without a handshake or a smile. They are the ones that no one gets to know because no one is sure how to talk to them. These members go home every Sunday and sit alone having left an assembly of joyful people.
I know of church members who do everything they can publically, but just as preachers, they are struggling with depression themselves. Every Sunday they put on the public face of prosperity so people will look to them as an example, not a case. Publically, they do “have it all together” but at home, at work and alone, they are questioning life and the path their lives are taking.
Many times, people who “have it all together” are the ones struggling the most. There are those who we know struggle but we do not know what to say or even what to do. They are the people on the prayer list who have been battling cancer for years, struggling with their marriage, trying to find a job, etc. Those are the ones we need to hold close as well.
There are people struggling with depression right now; some close to you and some far away. You will not be able to pull everyone out of depression’s pit, but you will be able to assist them. In the light of future events, many are telling others, “If you are thinking of Suicide call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.” I agree with their efforts because there are many who need professional counseling and help. However, giving someone a number may not help them. Sitting with them as they make the call will. Holding their hand as they suffer through the ups and downs of life will provide them with people around them to love and support them.
I am thankful the Lord gave us the church to depend on and strive for the prize together. This life is a constant battle and the awesome mind of the Lord gave us a community of people struggling through the same problems we do to love and support us, to pray for us and to help us in our time of need. How is your church family reaching out to everyone?
Here is how you can begin to help?
Get to Know Others – Break out of your church routine and get to know everyone. Church are a family, not a private club with your own table. Get up out of that pew and change pews ever week. Shake hands with people you do not know and get to know others. Want to have some fun? Walk up to someone and ask them their favorite color and why? Get the conversation started.
Stop Telling Others to Reach Out and Go to Them – We live in a lazy religious culture. We invite the community to church and never invite the church into the community. Jesus did not say, “Invite them and they will come,” He said, “Go into all the world…” There is a difference. The church building is not a “Field of Dreams” where we build it and they come; Christ already built it and we go to them.
Stop Just Praying for the Prayer List – Ok, before you jump me, you should pray every day, but why just pray? Why not use the hands, the feet and the abilities God has given you to serve those on the prayer list? I bet many of them will not see anyone during the week. So, why not cut their grass? Rake their leaves? Fix them dinner? Or just stop by to help clean their home if they will let you? Service is action, not words!
In the midst of a worldly loss, let us rise to the occasion!
Just my thoughts,
For those interested in the “Business Edition” of this article, you may go here.
Personal Note – This was not written as a cure-all, but as a start. There are thousands of people much more qualified than I to handle the situations others are going through. I am writing from personal experience. My prayers go out to those who are currently struggling through life and those who will struggle more. I encourage you to reach out.