“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” Psalm 43:5(NIV).
With the recent unexpected suicide of comedian and actor Robin Williams, many in the world struggle to understand what would lead someone, who seemed to have it all, to take his own life. Even though Robin candidly shared his lifelong struggles with depression and addictions, it’s still difficult to comprehend how a funny and kind man would be so desperate to end it all.
For those who saw a comedic genius on stage and in the movies, it might be harder to grasp the pain he often concealed. I recall reading an article about the famous comic about 10 years ago. The article revealed facts about the beloved actor’s childhood. As a child, he was overweight, shy and bullied by others in his class. Comedy became his relief and earned him friends.
Robin’s father, who was a senior executive at Ford Motor Company, was away much of the time and, according to some sources, when the elder Williams was home, the young boy found his father “frightening.” His mother also worked, leaving Robin to be cared for by the maids employed by the family. He claimed his upbringing left him with “an acute fear of abandonment and a condition he described as ‘Love Me Syndrome.’”
“Train a child in the way he should go. When he is old, he will not turn away from it”—Proverbs 22:6 (NIRV).
Although my parents weren’t regular churchgoers, they set an example of helping others. I can also remember my grandparents assisting others, especially my maternal grandmother, who was always baking or cooking and delivering food to others in need. She also shared the produce from her bountiful garden. All set an example for my sister and me.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of working with an 11-year-old boy who was visiting his grandparents for a week. Twice a month, I volunteer at our church’s food pantry. Spencer was helping out—willingly I might add—by straightening and restocking shelves and delivering the baskets of food to the front where those in need were waiting. His gift for organizing was evident after I gave him initial instructions on what needed to be done. I was impressed. How many 11-year-olds want to spend part of their summer vacation helping others?
Jesus said, “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you”—John 15:16 (CEB)
A recent conversation between two of my grandchildren while we were eating supper brought back childhood memories of my own. My youngest grandson, Cash, will be starting school this year. He missed the cut-off date by two days last year, so he’ll probably be one of the older ones in his pre-kindergarten class. I’m guessing he’ll also be one of the tallest as he’s always been big for his age.
As we ate our supper of bacon, eggs, hash browns and biscuits, we began discussing the upcoming school year. Brennan, my oldest grandson who is nine, began to give advice to his younger cousin. The talk turned to bullying when Brennan said, “Cash, if you’re the smallest in your class, people will pick on you.”
My heart went out to him because I knew Brennan spoke from experience. He’s one of the smallest in his class. However, as Brennan began to explain to his cousin how he dealt with bullies, I had to smile. I knew God was working in my grandson’s life because I was seeing evidence of my answered prayers as Brennan spoke. I listened and then said, “Do you know why bullies pick on others, especially smaller people?”
“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths”—Proverbs 3:6(ESV).
I frequent a local fast food drive-in where I like to get my drink of choice—a diet green raspberry iced tea—between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m.—when drinks are half price. One of my favorite car hops is a young woman who graduated from high school two years ago. She always has a smile on her face. There are times, however, when she replies, “I’m all right,” to my question, “How are you doing today?”
I can usually tell by the tone of her voice that things aren’t really “all right.” Recently, I replied, “Just all right?” I didn’t realize I had replied with a questioning tone. When she replied with “You always ask me that,” I said, “Well, tell me what’s going on because I know you have something on your mind.”
She was contemplating beginning college but wanted to leave Claremore to attend classes in another community. However, she didn’t own a vehicle and would have to live on campus. The community college she mentioned attending, however, does not offer housing. She wasn’t aware of that fact until I told her.
When I mentioned Claremore’s four-year university, she replied, “But I want to get out of Claremore.” I encouraged her to reconsider her options, reminding her she could at least get her basic requirements out of the way. Before I drove away, she said, “Thank you, I guess I’ll figure it out.”
“Rejoicing in hope. Patient in tribulation. Instant in prayer”—Romans 12:12 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA).
“Ma’am. Excuse me, ma’am.” I turned to seek the direction of the voice. Was someone addressing me? Since the woman behind the voice was the only other person on the sidewalk leading to the door of a local business, I stopped. From her attire, I decided she was probably looking for a handout. I was right, but it wasn’t the usual request.
“Ma’am,” she said again as she approached. “Can I get a cigarette from you?” She looked pitiful. She was walking with a limp and her hands were shaking.
“Sorry, but I don’t smoke,” I replied. I never have but I didn’t tell her that. As I turned to walk away, my first thought was one of judgment—why doesn’t she just quit that nasty habit? Before I had taken another step, I was convicted. When my father was alive, he smoked. He could never quit. I understand the addiction.
Immediately, I lifted the woman up in prayer, saying, “Lord, please deliver her from her nicotine addiction.”
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”—Genesis 1:1(NIV).
“Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse,” says Philip Yancey in his book, “Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud.”
Questions. We all have them. Some, like those questions concerning God, will never be answered while we’re here on earth.
One of my recent columns, “What would you tell an atheist?” has generated many emails from both Christians and atheists alike. One woman wrote the following: “I was a devout Christian for the first 25-30 years of my life. I had developed questions as a teen that no minister had a reasonable answer for, but was content (for a time) to leave it at ‘God is mysterious.’ But, as time went on, the more I questioned, the more illogical the answers seemed to be. I even tried a couple of other religions, Taoism and Pantheism, but they didn’t seem accurate, either. What finally opened my eyes, strangely, was a meme saying, “God loves you SO much that he created hell to send you to if you don’t love him back!”
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”—Joshua 1:9 (NIV).
“Our country is going to hell in a hand basket?”
“Things are getting darker in this nation.”
“What’s to become of our future?”
I’ve heard, and probably expressed similar thoughts about the United States in the past. Maybe that’s because I used to be a news junkie. Not anymore. While I still skim the daily headlines and catch the nightly news, I don’t allow the negativity to dominate my thought life
Recently, I was listening to Kelly Shackelford, CEO of Liberty Institute, speak about the attacks on religious freedom in America. I was dismayed, but encouraged, after hearing Shackelford share some of the many cases the institute has had to defend during its 40-year history, including religious liberty.