Most professional writers would have loved to have traded places with American William Styron (1925-2006). Having published his first novel in his mid-twenties, very young for the trade, Styron went on from one successful book to another, one award after another, making some pretty decent change as well—what any novelist dreams of.
Some of his most popular books included The Confessions of Nat Turner and his most famous work, Sophie’s Choice, which had been made into a movie starring Meryl Streep. Styron was one of the rare cases of a great writer, a brilliant writer, whose work had commercial success, as well.
He was married, had four children, was well off and well known. In short, from all outward appearances, he had it all.
However, he drank heavily for40 years and, when he had to quit drinking, he sank into a massive depression that he later immortalized in his short memoir Darkness Visible, written after he had come through it all. Then, in a sad biography of her famous father, his daughter wrote the following about his last days.
“For the next hour he raved about his miserable past and his sins and the waste of his life. Everything was repeated over and over. ‘I love you so much. And the other children. And your mother. You’ll hate me for what I’m going to do to myself. My head is exploding. I can’t stand the agony anymore. It’s over now. Tell the others how much I love them. I’ve betrayed my life. All my books have been about suicide. What a miserable waste of life. I’m dying! I’m dying!’”
What a sad, yet revealing testimony to what life here, in a fallen world, without the hope and promise of transcendence, of Christ, of something beyond this existence. As humans, we were made to live forever; we were made to never know sin, suffering, and death, which is pretty much all that we know.
That’s why Christ came, died, and offers us life. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). We can’t judge William Styron; what we can judge is how much better it is to live with the knowledge of a God who loves us, died for us, and wants, even now, to offer us something that this world, with all its fame, successes, and awards, simply doesn’t and never will.