The tragic headline news on 28 October 2023 was that actor Matthew Perry had been found dead at his home. He was 54 years old.
A very popular actor
The former child star, and classmate of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, started his career with a number of minor roles. His first breakthrough part was in Growing Pains (1989), but his quantum leap came when he was handed the role of the enormously popular character Chandler Bing in top TV sitcom Friends, which ran from 1994 to 2004. At twenty-four, he was the youngest member of the Friends cast. Following the success of Friends, Matthew was given roles in Ally McBeal (2002), The West Wing (2003), and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006–07). He also became known for his leading movie roles in Fools Rush In (1997), Almost Heroes (1998), Three to Tango (1999), The Whole Nine Yards (2000), Serving Sara (2002), The Whole Ten Yards (2005), and 17 Again (2009).
Praying for Fame
Before being awarded the prestigious role of Chandler Bing in Friends, Perry was at his wits end looking for a decent acting role. Although only twenty-four, he felt that life was passing him by and he was missing something. After hearing that a celebrity in trouble had prayed to God for help, he wondered if he should do the same. After a little thought, he decided to pray and ask God for help. Falling to his knees, Matthew prayed what he later acknowledged was a selfish prayer, but he was desperate to be a good actor and to get some good roles. He prayed,
“God, you can do what you want with me, but please make me famous.”
Just two weeks later, he passed the audition for co-star Chandler Bing in the then unknown new sitcom. Nobody at the time knew that it would be such a huge success, but both Friends and the Chandler Bing character made Matthew Perry one of the best known actors in the world.
Writer and Producer
In addition to his prolific acting, Matthew was the co-writer and star of the sitcom Mr. Sunshine (2011). He co-developed and starred alongside Thomas Lennon in the sitcom The Odd Couple (2015-2017), which was based on the 1968 Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau movie of the same name. He had regular roles in the legal drama The Good Wife (2012–2013), and played Edward Kennedy in The Kennedys: After Camelot (2017).
The pressures off success
Perry had no idea when he prayed for fame that it would would be accompanied by so much pain and depression. For decades, he suffered from severe drug and alcohol addiction. Throughout his many years in recovery he had fourteen stints in rehab, fifteen stomach surgeries, and over sixty attempts at detox. Finally, he reached breaking point.
Bathed in light
Whilst at an all-time low, he writes of a dramatic encounter with God, which is detailed in his memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, published in 2022. Perry writes that he reached out and prayed in total desperation,
“God, please help me,’ I whispered. ’Show me that you are here. God, please help me.”
‘As I kneeled, the light slowly began to get bigger, and bigger, until it was so big that it encompassed the entire room…What was happening? And why was I starting to feel better?’
‘I started to cry. I mean, I really started to cry – that shoulder-shaking kind of uncontrollable weeping. I wasn’t crying because I was sad, I was crying because for the first time in my life, I felt OK. I felt safe, taken care of. Decades of struggling with God, and wrestling with life, and sadness, all was being washed away, like a river of pain gone into oblivion.’
‘I had been in the presence of God. I was certain of it. And this time I had prayed for the right thing: help.’
God is the light
Matthew went home to be with his Heavenly Father on 28 October 2023. The Creator who had set him free from years of suffering took him to a place of peace and safety for eternity. On earth, he had already experienced the presence of God in a dramatic encounter with The Light following his dramatic prayer for help. Now he will be in that place forever.
The Bible describes God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son as ‘light’
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5)
“God is light, and in him is no darkness at Ali.” (1 John 1:5)
The Jewish Prophet Isaiah prophesied of the coming of Jesus seven hundred years before his birth:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, the light will shine on them.” (Isaiah 9:2)
Story by Ralph Burden
Photo: Matthew Perry (Public Domain photo)