“Picture this—you’re out going to choose up your lunch and there’s this random guy walking by with a home made sign. I’m sure like most of us, we’d glance and keep it moving, but I made a decision to read his sign since I used to be at a stop light.”
This is how a lady in Jacksonville, Florida, described a recent experience to a neighborhood reporter. Here’s what made it newsworthy: The sign read “HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY!!! I LOVE YOU.” The man also held up one other sign that read “YOU are RELEVANT.” As the lady snapped just a few pictures, the person holding the signs gave her a sunflower. The reporter shared the story with the reminder that the sort messages got here during National Suicide Prevention Month.
We need this reminder as much now as ever.
Billy Miller, an actor who played Marcus Specter on Suits and won three Emmy awards for his role in The Young and the Restless, died by suicide last Friday in Austin, Texas, on the age of forty-three. His mother stated that he “surrendered his life” after “an extended hard valiant battle with bipolar depression.”
The variety of deaths by suicide within the US increased last yr to the highest rate ever. Globally, an individual dies by suicide every forty seconds. Gallup notes that depression rates within the US have reached their highest levels ever reported.
These facts can seem overwhelming. What are you able to and I do to make a practical difference in our hurting world? One biblical answer is each counterintuitive and countercultural, but it surely offers hope we are able to embrace and share with those that need it most today.
“In its welfare one can find your welfare”
Peter called his fellow believers “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). The former describes someone who’s a foreigner or stranger; the latter refers to temporary residents. Taken together, they remind us that this world will not be our home and that we’re only here for a short while.
How are we to live on this foreign land?
The Lord’s letter to his Jewish exiles in Babylon is instructive (Jeremiah 29). It was preserved in Scripture since it has value not only for its original readers twenty-six centuries ago but for all readers across all times and cultures.
It begins: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce” (v. 5). This is the alternative of what they may need expected. Rather than finding temporary shelter, they were to construct lasting structures through which to “live” (the Hebrew is literally translated as “sit down and remain”). Creating gardens takes time, but they weren’t only to plant them but to “eat their produce” within the years to return.
In addition, they were to “take wives and have little kids” to satisfy God’s call that they “multiply there, and don’t decrease” (v. 6). Rather than allowing their nation to wither in exile, they were to hunt to grow and prosper.
Now comes essentially the most shocking instruction of all: “Seek the welfare of town where I actually have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare one can find your welfare” (v. 7). “Seek” means to “run diligently after”; the “welfare” of town refers to its peace, prosperity, health, and success. The exiles were to do all they might to advertise the Babylonian city’s welfare after which to “pray to the Lord on its behalf” that he might do what they might not.
The reason was easy: “In its welfare one can find your welfare.”
Three ways to “seek the welfare” of our city
One response to the brokenness of our secularized culture is to withdraw into spiritual “huddles” with little concern for those outside our circle. But this ignores our commission to “go subsequently and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). And it impoverishes us while denying others the great we are able to offer them in Christ.
What are some biblical ways we are able to “seek the welfare” of our broken culture?
One: “Show kindness and mercy to at least one one other” (Zechariah 7:9). As the sign-holding man in Jacksonville reminds us, we cannot know the larger impact of a single act of encouragement and affirmation.
Two: “As each has received a present, use it to serve each other” (1 Peter 4:10). John Grove argues persuasively in Public Discourse: “We don’t need more self-conscious crusaders for the nation and even for Western Civilization, but as a substitute more priests, teachers, businessmen, artists, writers, and fogeys who perform their very own activities faithfully, serving . . . as ‘leaven for the entire lump.’”
Three: “Bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel” since it is “the ability of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). According to Tim Keller, “The gospel is that this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared imagine, yet at the identical time we’re more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
How to like well
Christians have a novel gift for our culture today: we alone can reveal the kindness of Christ by offering our greatest service to hurting souls while sharing the excellent news of God’s love. But we cannot love well until we embrace the proven fact that we’re well loved.
To that end, let’s close with this intercession from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “Help us so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to like you that we may fully serve you, whose service is ideal freedom.”
Will you join me in offering these words out of your heart to your Father today?
NOTE: If you or someone you understand is fighting mental health issues, I encourage you to call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or go here. For Denison Forum articles on mental health, please go here.