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The Word on the Week

Robin Williams deceased

Robin Williams the American Actor and Stand-up Comedian died by his own hand on Monday. In his lifetime he has won many awards and established himself among the Hollywood greats. On Broadway in New York City, theatres dimmed their lights for one minute in his honour. 

In his life he had struggled with dependency on cocaine which he was able to give up – only to fall prey to alcoholism. His wife confirmed that he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. To cap it all he suffered from depression.

There are many instances of successful comedians, people who could make the dourest of us laugh, but who in their own lives suffered from recurring bouts of depression. Solomon knew a thing or two about these things which he expresses in Proverbs Chapter 14 verse 13. “Even in laughter the heart may ache and joy may end in grief.”

Unfortunately there is nothing new about the clown who commits suicide. What is new is the public outpouring of grief via the vehicles of social media. This catharsis which was indulged in by so many this week has been called by one journalist “recreational grief”. It first came to our attention with the mountain of flowers and teddies that marked Lady Diane’s death.

It is triggered by the untimely-ness and the manner of the death, the more dramatic the bigger the impact.

Perhaps it is because we have anesthetised death from view so that the only bodies we see are those on the TV news. They are abstract, impersonal and remote from our experience so that our momentary grief soon passes. Real grief is for those unfortunate women in Burqas who almost jump down the lens of the camera recording the event.

When it comes to the death of Christ a zillion images of plastic, wood or whatever have succeeded in removing the reality of the crucifixion from the vast majority. There is little chance of that personal identification taking place whereby the sinner sees his sins laid upon his Saviour. Even less chance of understand that all the Saviour’s merits have been laid to the sinners account.

This knowledge comes from believing the promises of God, written in scripture, so that by trusting in Him we are made right in the eyes of God. As St Paul put it “For our sake God made Jesus to be sin (on the cross) who knew no sin, so that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God”. 2 Corinthians Chapter 5 verse 21.

Grief needs to find its outlet, not in the death of a stranger, but in the recognition of our plight before a thrice holy God.

For those from whom God takes the scales from their eyes and shows them what they are really like, the reflex reaction is to turn to Jesus, and find that, in him, they have the peace which eludes so many and is not to be found in this world but comes from God.