Actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead in his California home yesterday. Suicide is suspected, but a cause of death will not be determined until a forensic examination and toxicology test are conducted later today.
Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in a wealthy community outside Detroit, Michigan. An only child, he spent his early years in a 30-room mansion on a private 20 acre estate. His family moved to California when he was in high school. Williams attended the Juilliard School in New York City, where he befriended Christopher Reeve. He then turned to comedy in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and became famous as the alien Mork on Mork and Mindy (1978-82).
During these years, he developed a drug and alcohol addiction and began a lifelong battle with depression. He quit alcohol and drugs when he learned that he would become a father, but suffered a relapse years later. Despite his personal struggles, he became one of the most successful and popular comedians and actors in the world. After he was found dead, his publicist stated that Williams “has been battling severe depression of late.”
What would Jesus say to Robin Williams, given the opportunity?
The actor was clearly a man who struggled for self-worth. He was significantly overweight as a child, with few friends, and was voted “least likely to succeed” in school. When accepting his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (for Good Will Hunting in 1997) he said, “Most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, ‘Wonderful. Just have a back-up profession like welding.'”
Jesus would want Williams to know that his heavenly Father knitted him together in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and gave him the amazing intellect and comedic gifts which made him famous. The comedian was right: “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” Jesus would want him to know the source of that spark.
And he would want Williams to know that his significance could be based not on his performance or popularity but on his Father’s unconditional love. The comedian once explained, “I started doing comedy because that was the only stage that I could find.” In truth, we are each given a stage before an Audience of one. He cheers for us and accepts us no matter what the critics say.
Most of all, Jesus would want Robin Williams to find hope in his Father’s love and grace. Williams once called comedy “acting out optimism.” But optimism doesn’t have to be an act—in Christ we can find “strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18).
I don’t know if Robin Williams ever received the significance, unconditional acceptance and hope offered to him by Jesus. But I do know that our Lord offers these gifts today, to you.