I was browsing shop windows on a late summer day in Seaside, Oregon, when I noticed the sign. Black letters on a white background read, “Don’t give up.” No logo, nothing for sale, just a random message of encouragement.
I began to notice more signs, in shop windows, on busy street corners, and in front yards, with similar messages: “You are worthy of love”; “You matter”; “Your mistakes do not define you.”
I marveled at the genius of the idea: signs bringing a simple and sincere message of hope to all who pass by.
I later learned the signs were part of an outreach started by Amy Wolff, a young Christian mother from Newberg, Oregon (dontgiveupsigns.com). After a rash of suicides in her area, she felt called to do something.
The idea of the signs came to her but at first she dismissed it, not believing her efforts could make a difference. But that “call” kept tugging at her heart. She decided to act, and her mission began.
Amy encourages others to do the same, saying, “Let’s not wait for someone more qualified or less broken to spread hope and love.”
It was just a few weeks later when we got the call. A distant relative had committed suicide.
Although I’d never met him, I knew his young adult children and the grandchildren he left behind. My heart broke to think of their suffering, loss, and feelings of guilt. Grief is always present when a loved one dies, but suicide survivors are haunted by regrets: if only he had known how much we loved him; if only I had not said those angry words; if only I had reconciled with him sooner ... .
Suicide seems to erase the possibility of healing those rifts; death appears to have won out over life; despair seems to have prevailed over hope. But those who believe in eternal life know the story doesn’t end there. God’s mercy is endless, his love is enduring, and hope never fails.
The message of God’s mercy for victims of suicide is the focus of the book, “After Suicide: There’s Hope For Them and For You” (shopmercy.org). Authors Rev. Chris Alar and Jason Lewis want to bring the healing message of God’s divine mercy to those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
Fr. Chris, who lost his grandmother to suicide, believes that praying for her soul, even years later, brought God’s grace and mercy to her in the very moment of her death. God’s time is not like ours. Our prayers enter into eternity, reaching even into the past to bring God’s saving love to the suffering soul.
For all who have lost loved ones to suicide, don’t despair, but pray for them. They are not beyond our reach – and they are not beyond the mercy of God. Put your trust and your grief in the hands of Jesus. Christ has won the victory, and death is overcome.
For all who are despairing, don’t give up. You are worthy, you are needed, and you are never alone, for God is with you. You were put in this world for a purpose that only you can fulfill.
God loves you just as you are, as a father loves his only child, with tender mercy, infinite forgiveness, gentleness, and understanding. You are precious to him.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Listen for his voice - he is calling to you, saying, “I have heard your prayers, and I have seen your tears, and I will heal you.” (2 Kings 20:5)
Trust in him, and live!