Life, Laughter and Pain

robin williamsRobin Williams died today. I feel like I should say Mr. Williams out of respect, but he was always Robin to most of America.  It’s hard to believe that “Mork”  showed up on “Happy Days” sometime in 1977 or ’78  and has continued to make me laugh for almost 37 years.  It’s even harder to believe that he’s gone. Some actors seem a bit more human than others.  More like me, I guess.  Robin Williams seemed that way.   I always liked him  but I also always felt that there was pain behind his smile.

There’s no way  I can know  if  he took his own life, and I don’t want to assume that;but,  the news reports have caused my mind to wander tonight. I’ve been thinking about so many people I know that are, or have been,  at a point of desperate hopelessness. Something that has always perplexed me is how life seemed so much harder for my grandparents 100 years ago and, yet, they didn’t seem to struggle with depression as much as we seem to.  I have theories as to why that is.  Lack of deep community. Fear of being rejected if people really know us.  Bad nutrition.  Lives that are much, much MUCH too busy. Information overload. Negative news, music and entertainment constantly pouring into our brains. Too little time in nature. Yet, as a follower of Christ,  the most profound for me is that people have no sense of faith or of anything beyond  this moment.  I wonder if Robin Williams felt that way.  I wonder if anyone ever told him how special he was (regardless of his resume) or that God is a God of mending hopeless situations.  This post isn’t meant to be disrespectful by any means and I apologize if it seems that way.  The events of today have just reminded me of the years in which my smiles covered my sadness.  It’s said that the clown is usually hiding some kind of pain. I would have to say I can relate.

Darkness and depression is no stranger to me.  I think, to one extent or another,  I’ve been fighting off  the overwhelming darkness of this world my entire life.  Sometimes it’s just a melancholy feeling.  Sometimes it’s an overwhelming horror and sadness over the injustices and pain that people in our world suffer.  Sometimes it’s an irrational selfishness that allows
a depressed attitude to rise up in me over the fact that something didn’t work out  or someone didn’t act the way I wanted.  Sometimes I slip into that black hole because someone, uncharacteristically, acts the way I act – quite often.  (That realization is  like ice cold water in the face and it will wake you up quickly to things that need to change in your life.)

Many people can’t relate to depression.  To those people I would say, “Count yourself blessed.” I could give opinions on why some suffer from it and others don’t but it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that people hurt.  All of us, at some point in life.  Those days that I sink into a funk because of my own sin and selfishness aren’t what I’m talking about.  But, those days when, by no fault of our own, many of us feel like dark clouds are pressing us into the dirt…when we feel like no one sees us…when taking a breath takes effort and smiling is an impossibility….when we don’t want to be around a single human soul……..on those days, we need someone.  Someone to say they’re sorry.  That they love us.  That they care whether we find our way back to laughter and joy.  Just someone to remind us that we are still breathing,  to hug us and t0 let us cry or scream or yell.  Someone that will share the burden.

It’s tough.  Lord,  I know it’s tough.  Especially when you love someone that’s hurting.  And even more so if it drags on indefinitely.  My husband is my hero.  He loved me through years of this.  Literally loved me through it.  He became Christ with skin on for me.  Patience, love, tenderness, wisdom, forgiveness. I have no doubt that there were a few times he wanted to be rid of me.  Quite frankly,  I wanted to be rid of me.  But, he died to his need for a loving wife.  He died to his need for affection.  He died to his need for joy and kindness and fun.  I have no idea how, except that he is a man of prayer that believes God gives strength to those that try to do what Scripture commands.  And,  he is a man that will do anything for his family.

For me,  it took counseling, medication, a change in eating habits,  running more miles than I could imagine, friends that accepted me with all my frailties and worship of my God who pursued me relentlessly.  We pulled out of it.  Somehow.  By the grace of God.

I still have those days when I feel myself being pulled in.  Things begin to get heavy.  My mind turns to negativity and fear.  Hopelessness creeps into my soul and I find the call of my bed to be like that of a mythological Siren.  But, I’ve  also learned some things that help me fight.

#1.  Life isn’t about me.  It’s about loving God and loving others.  When I don’t have expectations for what I want,  but, instead, have a focus on what I can give – lots of things don’t hold the same power.  My incredible  selfishness can get my mind mixed up in about 2 seconds flat.  Jealousy, envy, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness….they will happily move into your heart and bring depression and darkness with them. Keep the guards out and don’t let them sneak by.

#2.  This too will pass.  There are times and situations that suck.  Period.  Some things are just  difficult – but I have to remind myself that the nature of life is cyclical.  Things come and go. The problems I had 3 years ago aren’t the problems I have today.  Very little lasts forever so I have to believe and hold on for a brighter day.

#3.  Some things do last forever and those things really matter.  We’ve somehow lost the focus that our grandparents had on heaven.  Where are the songs that they use to sing like “Beulah Land” or “When We all Get to Heaven”?  When is the last time you heard someone give a sermon on eternity? I believe this is a BIG deal.  It changes how tightly we hold onto this world and how much of a hold it holds on us.

#4.  Sin and suffering have dominion in this world,  at least for a bit longer.  Life is going to be painful and there are going to be heartbreaking issues all around us.   I, personally, CAN”T handle them all and have to know when to shut the information out.  In the meantime,  I also have to find a way to do what I can do to alleviate suffering and to share hope with someone.

$5.  God is God and I am not.                             Sometimes I have to let that concept have some space in my soul for a while.  I don’t understand life.  I don’t understand pain.  I don’t understand suffering.  I  find myself pissed off, depressed and hopeless when I don’t see prayers answered or when I see people I love hurting and suffering. But it’s not my role to rule the universe.  It’s not my role to do anything except praise the one who gave me breath. I can say that I rule my corner of the universe but it doesn’t make it so.   I can say that suffering just proves God doesn’t exist  but my unbelief doesn’t nullify his existence.   I can throw a fit and say life is unfair but it won’t change the fact that much of it is, mainly  because we choose to treat one another unfairly.  God hasn’t tied our hands behind our backs.  We make choices.  What I must remind myself of are the countless acts of selflessness in the world.  The one who provides a home for the homeless, the hand that brings food to the starving,  conversation to the one that feels invisible, healing to the hurting, truth to the lost, love to the fatherless…..the husband that doesn’t give up on his wife. When things are darkest, God always places a strategic light right where we need it to be to remind us that He is.  Hope is not lost.  And love overcomes.

The question is,  are you meant to be that light to someone?  Pay attention.  There may be a smile nearby that is hiding a hurting heart.  Hope is sometimes as simple as seeing them.


3 thoughts on “Life, Laughter and Pain

  1. Wow! Thank you for writing this. I appreciate your vulnerability. You are such a beautiful woman! The people that know you testify to this, through the fruit of your influence in their life. Like DJ honoring you tonight at the recording saying you’re like a second mum to him. Keep being brave and loving/living fearlessly. I admire you. Cheers, J


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