Pastor's Blog

The Tears of a Clown

Brent Van Elswyk, Associate Pastor of Families & Counseling / Teaching Pastor
August 19, 2014

Brent Van Elswyk

​The untimely death of actor/comedian Robin Williams recently caught all of us a bit off guard. It’s not just that he died– as sad and tragic any death is – and it’s not just that he died so young – 63 keeps getting younger every year - but rather I think what caught us, or at least myself, off guard was that it was the death of a “clown.”  Clowns are supposed to make us happy and to make us laugh, but now the clown has made us sad and that has taken us by surprise. As the song says, there is perhaps nothing sadder than the “Tears of a Clown”:

Well there’s some sad things known to man, 

but ain’t too much sadder than 

the tears of a clown, when there’s no one around, 

I try to keep my sadness hid

Smiling in the crowd I try

But in the lonely room I cry

The tears of a clown

When there’s no one around,

Now if there’s a smile on my face

Don’t let my glad expression

Give you the wrong impression

Don’t let this smile I wear

Make you think that I don’t care

Really I’m sad I’m hurting so bad,

Well there are some sad things known to man, 

but ain’t too much sadder than 

the tears of a clown, when there’s no one around!

Remember that classic song by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles? Truly there are not many things sadder than the tears of a clown. Battling with depression and substance abuse for most of his adult years, Robin Williams took his own life in a moment of hopelessness.  I don’t know about you but I loved his crazy TV shows, his silly humor and his wacky movies.  He was truly a clown’s clown and knew how to make people laugh and forget about their troubles if only for a short while. But he also had a serious side and made several deep and penetrating movies that touched us all and made us engage with our human condition. He entertained us, he made us laugh and he made us think for the better part of 40 years. Unfortunately, there was a deep sadness and a lot of pain behind the laughter and the “make-up” of that clown and it has now been exposed as we see his tears. 

How much sadness and pain is behind our “make-up” and our laughter? What happens when we are sad and troubled? There are plenty of people throughout the bible who experienced times of great discouragement and sadness. People like Job, Moses, Elijah, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Peter. What did they do? We know that each of us experiences times of great discouragement and sadness, too.  What do we do? 

Psalm 77 is an intensely helpful passage when you may be feeling depressed and discouraged as it highlights a pattern we can follow to trust God - no matter what! Psalm 77 encourages us 1) to interact with the reality of our life as it is, 2) to remember the blessings we have received in the past and 3) to recognize the God who was, is and will be! 

First, Psalm 77:1-9 encourages us to cry out to God in the midst of the reality of our pain. Get honest with God, real honest, go ahead, moan and groan to the Lord, cry out to Him in the midst of your pain. “I cry aloud to God…my soul refuses to be comforted, I moan…my spirit faints… are God’s promises at an end? Has God forgotten to be gracious?” The answer may feel like yes, but history tells us the answer is NO!  Cry out to the Lord. 

Second, Psalm 77: 10-12 encourages us to recall, remember and ponder that history! Remember the works of the Lord! “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High… I will remember the deeds of the Lord”. Not just remembering what God has done for you but what He has done for others – including those in the bible. Remembering what God did for people like Moses, David, Elijah, Jonah, the disciples of Jesus, Paul, etc. God is faithful and true to his promises, always! Remember his blessings from the past. 

Third, Psalm 77: 13-20 encourages us to magnify or worship God. There is something about worship that resets the soul.  The psalmist focuses on the unrivaled holiness and power of our great God. “Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?  You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.” The psalmist in the midst of his great pain remembers how faithful God was in leading His people out of slavery and ultimately to the Promised Land! He worships a great and mighty God and he realizes that He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

What tears are behind your “make-up” or the masks that you wear? God sees those tears and still loves you and He hears you! He knows what's happening to you and He has the supernatural ability to do all that is necessary to fulfill His promises, and lead you through the current waters and to the Promised Land! Cry out to the Lord in the midst of your reality, remember what God has already done, and worship Him as you wait for his deliverance!  Amen!