Right now, it seems most of the United States (and probably many others around the world) are shocked at Robin Williams’ recent death. The last I heard was that it was most likely suicide, but nothing had been confirmed. Apparently, he had been battling with depression for quite some time. But of course, most of us had no clue.
My wife has spent the last four years working with adults with mental illness. We have both witnessed it in our family, friends, and others within the church. It is something that is in our face more than ever, but it is also something most people do not understand. In fact, because of that, most are scared of it, especially when we hear about a criminal who has a mental illness or someone that commits suicide in large part because of his or her disorder. From my perspective, I believe many of these illnesses are legitimate diseases, but I cannot overlook the fact that there is spiritual warfare going on in our world, and Satan is still at work.
James 5:14 (in the NIV) starts out by asking, “Is anyone among you sick?” I think we often look to this Scripture as a call to anyone who is physically sick. Those who are lame, blind, deaf, or suffering from some other physical ailment. Back in April of this year at the Orange Conference, I was challenged by Perry Noble to think about this Scripture in a broader sense. James continues, “Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.” In addition to the physical illnesses we should pray about, maybe we should be praying about mental illnesses too. If we truly believe that our God is a God who heals, then shouldn’t we be asking Him to heal?
I will say that I am far from an expert on mental illness, but I do know that I serve a God who is so much bigger than these diseases and everything else. What I also know is that there are so many people who are struggling with these things on their own, and I think that is wrong. I think we as the church need to step up and call on the name of our God together. Just like physical illness, I know He will not always provide immediate healing. Why? I don’t know. That is up to Him. But I do think that we should be asking Him for help much more than we are.
In addition, I think we need to step up and actually come alongside our neighbors. When I think of the “Good Samaritan” parable from Luke 10, I know he was most obviously hurt physically, but there had to have been some sort of mental hurt there as well. He was bullied by people he didn’t even know. However, he could have just as easily been suffering from other mental illnesses. Someone came along and helped him. That is the calling Jesus has on those who follow Him – to love our neighbors as ourselves. If I was suffering from a mental illness, I would want others to come help me. Shouldn’t I be doing the same for others who are in need?
In light of so many people who are struggling with depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety, and more, I think it is time for the church to step up in these two big ways. First, we need to pray. If we truly believe these things we say about God, then we need to pray. Second, we need to share this message of hope and love with others. I mean, we have a life-changing message that the world needs to hear!
I did not know Robin Williams, personally, so I cannot say if he truly had a relationship with God or not. There is a chance, I guess, that he did know God, but he still struggled. That surely does happen, as God did not promise us a perfect life here on earth. I just know that if he never accepted the saving grace of God, he no longer has that opportunity, and we no longer have the opportunity to share it with him. That is what potentially saddens me the most of all, and it is the main reason I chose to share my heart on this matter today. There are so many others who are struggling, and they need to know God, they need to experience love from His people, and they need our prayers on their behalf.