As Christians, how then should we respond to this news that Robin Williams has committed suicide?
To begin, here are a few ways not to respond to new of his death:
Christians should never comment about how selfish suicide is. We should never comment about how Williams should’ve chosen joy over depression, as Matt Walsh so tactlessly and ignorantly suggested (source). We should never suppose that it was because of some secret sin that Williams couldn’t get over his depression, and chose to end his life. We shouldn’t even say that his suicide sent him straight to hell, as if there were any sin more grievous and deserving of hell than the next.
So how should we then respond?
I believe that Christians of all people, should have a humble, loving, mournful and broken attitude toward this incident. And rather than making any type of comment about what he must have done wrong, or why he chose what he did, or why it was sinful, or selfish, or why we would’ve never done that, or why he could have chosen another path, our first response should simply be to mourn.
We should mourn that sin (rather than simply being bad choices we make) has so infected and affected our entire nature in such a way that it not only alters our soul, but our bodies and minds as well.
As Christians, our worldview, and our theological grid, requires that we respond differently than anyone else to something like this. Because the Bible declares that no one is better than anyone else. All people are enslaved to sin, unable and unwilling to free themselves. Scripture declares that “no one is righteous, no not one” (Rom 3:10), and that we are slaves to our sin (Rom 6:16, John 8:34). The Bible declares that we not only choose sinful things, but that we have been born with a sinful nature, deserving of wrath and hell (Eph 2:1-10). Even more than that, the scriptures tell us over and over that apart from God’s grace, we all will (not might, not maybe, but will) choose self-destructive, selfish, suicidal sins, and we all will die because of it (Rom 3:23).
Because of this, we aren’t any better than Williams. And so, we should mourn, pray, and be reminded of the fact that we have all chosen, in a thousand different ways, the same fate as Williams. We are all just as sinful, and all in need of Christ’s transforming grace. If we don’t respond this way, we are, in a subtle, small way, saying that we are, even if just a little bit, better than Robin Williams. This is simply not true.
But more than this; because sin is not just something we do but is an infection that has invaded every part of our being, we must recognize that the fall affects not only our soul, or our will, but our bodies and brain. Sin has affect every part of our being, including our physiology — and part of this includes our brain, which in turn affects our mood, thoughts and reason. As one blogger once put it,
…the fall effects every area of life. We are usually fine admitting that the fall causes physical problems. Sure, if you are born disabled, that it’s not your fault but a result of original sin. But… when it comes to mental disorders or sexuality we suddenly become Pelagians. Depression can’t be inborn. Anxiety can’t be inborn. Homosexuality can’t be inborn. But if we truly believe that our birth was corrupted by the fall of man, why wouldn’t we acknowledge that these aspects of human nature have also been affected? Is the mind so divorced from the body that we are only affected outwardly, without any damage to the emotions? (source)
What a healthy view of human depravity! And in fact, the fall has affected every part of man. Yes, Adam (and all of us), when he chose to sin against God, died spiritually. But God also pronounced a judgment not just on the soul, but also the body, saying, “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). Our bodies are affected in such a way by the fall, that we are born into death. From the moment of our birth, our bodies decay and are corrupted. And this decay and corruption includes our brains and bodies. It affects our moods and thoughts.
All this to say, Robin Williams did not choose depression. In fact, from what I understand, he very much so wanted to be joyful. But because he was born into sin, the fall had affected him in such a way that spiraled him into depression, and tragically, to suicide. And while this suicide was a choice, and a choice for which he will answer, it was a choice warped and infected by sin.
We must understand, the fall affects us all in all sorts of different ways. It affects our perception of reality, our will, our choices, and our moods which in turn leads us and propels us into irrational and sinful actions that are destructive and harmful. This is how deep and wide the fall has wrecked us. And this awful incident is one such case.
And because of this, Christians should react to Williams’ death with deep sorrow, and deep acknowledgement that we are all broken and sinful people, born into death, enslaved to sin. How else could it be otherwise? More than that though, Christians should react with prayer, knowing that apart from the gospel, we all will all choose death all the time.
We need the grace of God!