Never Assume

When I read that Robin Williams had died of suicide, a thought went through my mind that is probably shared by many.

“I had no idea”.

Perhaps at some point I’d fleetingly read that Williams was in rehab from substance abuse, but I had no idea that his addictions were an attempt to fight off depression.

I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest people-reader, and 99% of what I saw of Williams was a performance of some kind. But I have trouble connecting the manic, happy-at-all-the-wrong-times boom of “Aladdin”‘s Genie to a depressed soul. The man’s calling was to cheer people up. He was so gifted at it. He had so much admiration from people. It was hard to guess what was under the surface the whole time, that the great well of humor and compassion from which he enriched others belied a different internal reality. I so wish I’d known him; I wish I’d had a chance to build him up.

It’s a reminder to me that we must never assume.


Ian McLaren said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (No, the quote wasn’t from Plato.) It didn’t take me long as a teacher and youth worker to learn that appearances mean nothing. Society is a gallery of facades. A smile can hide immense pain. Good grades, intelligence, and potential can spring from a destructive home. That person sitting alone may not, in fact, want to be alone at all. Maybe s/he never learned how to ask for companionship, or how to keep it.

But there is hope. Oh, so much hope.

These struggles are the very things Jesus went after in his ministry. Isaiah 61:1 says he came to “bind up the brokenhearted”. He forgave sins, healed the blind, touched lepers with his hands, cleansed the unclean woman with the issue of blood, lodged with the ostracized Zaccheus. He reached people whom others didn’t see, or didn’t believe they could help. He was so compassionate, so earthy, so giving.

Instead of using great and wondrous signs to confirm his identity (which he certainly could have), he identified himself by loving people. He walked right into their needs and brokenness. And then, he died and rose again to provide our greatest need – eternal life. Restored bodies and minds.

And the servant is not greater than his master.

Everything Christ did, he commanded his followers to do. Just as we are God’s hands and feet to the nations unreached by the gospel, we are an instrument of God in keeping each other afloat. The New Testament is chockablock with hints that he prefers to work largely through us, his church. And in Christ, we are more than able.

It starts with never assuming that people are hunky dory. Get into people’s lives; show a steady, sincere interest. Some of those who are most in need are the ones least able to address their need. Loving on people can be unrewarding. We fear that we’ll get pulled in and drowned. But if we’re going to be serious about this “loving people” business, we must allow for the fact that people are weird. (You are, too.) The key, of course, is remembering that we’re not in it for reward. That’s the point of love. It gives without thought of reward. The great thing about love is that you needn’t wait to feel it. You just do it!

I can’t speak to Robin Williams’ spiritually, but I still learned two great things from his life and death. One, be a giver. In the scramble to spread and defend our faith, let’s never forget to be a source of joy. Two, we must never assume. Instead, we must pursue.

Because wherever we go, we bring Jesus with us. When we go into people, we bring Jesus to them. That is seriously good news.

23 thoughts on “Never Assume

  1. Almost everyone suffers depression in some point in their life. Depression has many causes but one is that it is anger turned inward to a bad effect. We should treat all with positive high regard and acknowledge that their lives are important. Too bad we have to see one pass away before we truly appreciate them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Clinical depression is a symptom of some other problem. Those problems are many: malnutrition, substance abuse, sleep deprivation, an internal chemical imbalance, post-traumatic stress, guilt over sin, and the list goes on and on. We need to support each other, as you say, and that requires knowing one another. No one-size-fits-all answer to depression exists. Some medicines help. Counseling helps. Prayer and meditation can help. Having a support community is very valuable. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter. J.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. You know, Brandon, I must let you in on a little secret. I give and give and give, but I never get it back. I’ll finish this another time, and then you’ll understand. I may smile, and I may laugh. Yet there is a longing that none but Jesus can fulfill…

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Robin was the epicenter of comedy & everyone believed they knew him. They didn’t know him. How many claim to know Jesus? Perhaps Robin was only good enough to entertain the world, & Jesus was good enough to save the world. I’m going to guess Robin Williams had few real friends, but a great following. Think of Jesus…

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I guess I may have heard of Robin, although he may not be very known here in my country, Nigeria.

    The news of suicide often leaves an unsavory taste in the mouth, as well as thoughts of having an opportunity to have been there for such people.

    Truly, there is more to people than meet the eye. Lord Jesus Himself understood the “REAL” needs of people. It very often wasn’t more money or more happiness or more fame and more of other earthly goods. It was an encounter with “the Life, the living water”, that sets man on a course free of the usual worldly pressures, commitments and sorrow.

    It would be of remarkable impact if we all were like Christ, knowing the real needs of people and meeting them. It is not a one day’s job.

    As He is, so are we in this world and it should get better as we decrease and He increases.

    More of Lord Jesus to you Dear Brandon.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think most of us were shocked when it came to Robin Williams’ death. But, it was a good learning point, wake up call, and unfortunately, a sound opportunity to educate people on the dangers of depression and mental health conditions – not to stigmatize, but rather, to normalize that they exist, and it is okay to reach out for help.

    My favorite line in here? “Society is a gallery of facades.” That is so, so true! As is your reminder to give out of love – to everyone you meet.

    It’s simplifying it a bit, but there’s a cute meme which circulates occasionally on social media, saying, “Be kind to everyone – you don’t know who lost a battle with a three year old today.” The truth in that is much like your other quote – we don’t know what someone else is going through. Therefore, we shouldn’t assume or presume.

    We should just love.

    Great reminder!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for this post. As we walk with Jesus, the Holy Spirit can help us see beyond the facades. If only we could see the inner man or woman as Jesus did! He addressed the need straight on. Father, we ask for Your perfect wisdom in pointing others to Jesus, our hope of glory.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you. Karen

    Liked by 1 person

  8. SO many of us are hiding behind a “happy-face”, but I can’t even muster that right now. Many of us are “walking-avatars”, showing the world what we think the world wants to see, because most people really can’t handle us as we truly are, so we hide it, while hoping that some “someone” will come into our lives who REALLY cares, not just says they “care”.

    Steve

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this from your blog: he identified himself by loving people. He walked right into their needs and brokenness. May we do the same.
    BTW: thank you for stopping by and liking my post. Encouraged!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Loving on people can be unrewarding. We fear that we’ll get pulled in and drowned.” I suspect that “love” is the only conduit of grace/power. I’ve found that only the power of love transforms, or heals, or binds up. Force doesn’t really change things, but unrelenting love can. Muster all the “power” of spirit at our disposal, but without truly loving the person, we might not help them at all… Grace to you — LM

    Liked by 1 person

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