Thoughts from the Office: Robin Williams and Dealing with Pain

Some things just seem to shake people up more than others. The news of Robin Williams’ suicide this past week seems to be one of those things. It seems that for many, hearing the news of his death has become one of those moments you never forget, one of those moments that you speak about with the phrase, “I remember where I was when…” I’ve had several of those moments in my life. The first was the Challenger exploding. The Berlin Wall coming down, declaring war on Iraq, and of course 911 are all seared into my memory like a branding iron on an animal’s hide.

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Honestly, I’m not sure if this will become one of those moments or not, but I do know that I will long remember the way others have responded to this tragedy. I do not often write directly about my life as a counselor, but I assure you that it influences every aspect of my life, including my writing. I learn much more from my clients than they ever learn from me. Each client’s unique story, perspective, brokenness, and road towards healing inspires and challenges my own journey. And so in light of that, let me step out of the norm and share a few thoughts from the office…

Everyone hurts. Pain is a part of life, an unfortunate part, but a part nonetheless. This means that when you are hurting, you are not alone. Others have been there, some are there with you now, and many will be there after you. Even the Bible is full of people familiar with sadness, anxiety, and pain. Elijah begged to die. So did Job. Moses was scared to talk to Pharaoh. David sat in sackcloth and ashes. Remember even Jesus was called the man of sorrows. God knows what you are going through.

Pain is temporary. This one is often difficult for my many chronic clients who have battled depression or anxiety for more days, months, and years than they wish to count. But every new day holds the hope and possibility of a good day. And hope is a powerful thing. Without holding onto the hope of a good day coming with the next sunrise, pain with surely be permanent. Remember, though there may be pain in the night, joy comes in the morning.

Everyone needs help. It always saddens me when I discover how long a client has been suffering in silence before they finally found the courage or reached a place of desperation large enough to make a phone call. We are not meant to walk through life alone and we are certainly not meant to walk through painful times alone. We all need help. We all need support. We all need each other. When you are experiencing times of pain or despair, please reach out. Call a friend, a pastor, or a counselor. Believe me when I say that there are things that can be done to ease the pain the bring joy back to your life.

Be a steward of your pain. Pain is a gift. Yes, you read that correctly. It is a gift. Pain teaches. It points us to places in our lives that need our attention. Pain inspires growth. It allows us to see where change and maturity are required. And when you’ve been through a painful time and come out on the other side, it is a gift to share that victory with others. Allow your pain to make you compassionate instead of jaded, sensitive instead of stubborn, victorious instead of a victim, and patient instead of prideful.

I have read many blogs in the aftermath of Robin Williams’ death. Some advocating for awareness that depression is a disease and needs to be treated as such, some arguing that suicide is a choice and should never been described as anything else. Regardless of beliefs regarding suicide (and I know I have mine), I believe we can all agree on one thing: it is tragic. Please do not allow stigma and shame keep you or a loved one from getting the help and support you need. There are people who care. There are people who are trained to walk with you and give you the tools you need to make it through. There is hope.

hang on

One of my favorite song lyrics says, “Dying is easy, I’ve known from the start, It’s the living that’s the hardest part.”* Jesus promised this would be true! He says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” It would be terribly hopeless if the verse ended there. Thankfully it does not! Jesus continues saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus, the man of sorrows, is also the man of hope and joy. He has overcome the world. He came to bring abundant life (John 10:10). And therein lies the tension on this side of Heaven: the promise of trial and tribulation alongside the promise of abundant life. Someday that tension will be resolved and all those who follow Jesus will receive the treasures they have stored in Heaven and enter an eternity of no more tears, no more sorrow, and no more pain. What a glorious day that will be! Until that day comes, embrace the tension, cling to the hope each new day offers, and choose joy and fulfillment Jesus promises is found in following Him.

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*Living is the Hardest Part by Rictor www.rictormusic.com

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