Challenging the Darkness Instead of Surrendering
Last week we heard the sad news of a comedic genius’ death in the person of Robin Williams. I was talking to someone about Robin Williams and they were telling me they remembered him from TV, but they only saw the shows in re-runs. I told them that I was old enough to remember seeing it in its original season.
Anyone who has been on the planet and watched TV or gone to movies, seen talk shows and news programs has seen Robin Williams. He was born in Chicago on July 21, 1951, studied theater at Julliard School before taking his stand up act to nightclubs. He was cast as Mork, an alien visitor to Earth, for a 1978 episode of television’s “Happy Days.” The role led to the spin-off show “Mork & Mindy,” which showcased Williams’ usual comic improvisation talents.
He proved his dramatic acting skills in “Good Will Hunting,” a 1997 film that earned him a best supporting actor Oscar. His memorable movies over the past three decades include “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Birdcage.” The list is much longer. Williams credited the influence of Jonathan Winters’ comic irreverence and quirky characters as a great influence on his comedy. The connection between the two was completed when Winters was cast as Williams’ son on “Mork & Mindy.”
Many of Williams’ co-stars and Hollywood contemporaries expressed their shock and grief, too via statements and social media. One constant theme: No matter his demons, Williams was a good guy-warm, sweet, generous, compassionate, humane.
“On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief,” a family spokesperson said. “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
President Barack Obama’s statement summed it up: “Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien, but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our streets.”
It has been reported that he had a number of challenges that included alcohol, drugs, depression, and other issues. The truth is, we all have issues. Our issues may not be as well publicized as celebrities’, but no one that I know of is without issues. It is my understanding that at some point he surrendered to his issues and took his own life.
There’s a wonderful scripture in the Bible that is the first few verses of the Bible. It starts in Genesis 1:1 and it says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep” To me that scripture says that the world was dark and the darkness was deep seated. I believe that a lot of our lives are filled with darkness, and a lot of it is deep seated. The darkness is our issues in life. We don’t have the same issues, but we all have some issues, and sometimes those issues make us feel like life is not worth living.
I try to teach that new moments in life present the letter “Y.” What I mean by that is a straight line that leads to a crossroad where your life can go in two different directions – a life where you surrender to the darkness or where you challenge the darkness. I am sad to admit that sometimes I have been at that crossroad like surrendering to the darkness. It seemed like at that moment it was the quickest way out of my present pain. Someone has said suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem. The other side of the “Y” is challenging the darkness, refusing to allow the darkness to control your life.
What did God do when faced with deep-seated darkness over his world? Because if he framed his world by speaking words, maybe we can frame our world by the words we speak when faced with darkness! According to verse 3 of Genesis, chapter 1, the next three words are paramount. The next three words say in that verse, “And God said” What are you saying when faced with your darkness? Are you agreeing with the darkness or are you challenging the darkness? Which side of the “Y” are you on? You have three choices: stay where you are, agree with the darkness, or challenge the darkness. In verse 3 of that chapter, I believe God challenged the darkness by saying, “Let there be light”
Only God knows what happened in Robin Williams’ final hour. Ours is not to judge, but to learn. The question is not what did Robin Williams do in his hour of darkness, but the question is what would we do in our hour! Be share with all the issues in your life, you will have an opportunity to make your choice.
In 2011, 39,518 people took their own lives. Statistics released last year showed an alarming spike in their suicide rate between 1999 and 2010. The suicide rate for white men increased by nearly 40 percent, to 34.2 per 100,000 people. Men account for only 20 percent of suicide attempts but represent about 30 percent of completed suicides, statistics show, almost certainly because they choose more lethal methods: guns and leaps from high places instead of drug overdoses. “Men are much less likely to seek help than women are,” said Michelle Cornette, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology.
This event has inspired me to look more closely at the challenges of depression, drugs, alcohol, and life. This one article will make a poor attempt at trying to deal with it all. If I am allowed, I will take the next several articles to deal with how to challenge the darkness in our own lives. I regret that I have had to challenge the darkness in my life more than once, and when you are in your hour of darkness unreasonable things seem reasonable and reasonable things seem unreasonable. Psychologists tell us that 90 percent of our actions are prompted by emotionsversus only ten percent by reason Sometimes 80 percent of our life could be perfect, wonderful, great, but 20 percent of our life is problematic, issue-full, dark. And we will give up the 80 percent that is great because of the 20 percent that is bad. I would like to suggest ways to help us deal with that 20 percent in our next article. Until then, speak light to your darkness.
Guest columnist Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Temple in Weirton.