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An Unlikely Cure for Depression

As someone who has worked nights the past 7 years, there usually isn’t anything good on television overnight. Despite trying to sleep on my nights off, my body is use to staying up late. Thus, I have a tendency to channel surf from time to time. Over Thanksgiving I caught an author who was speaking about an intriguing account from Cambodia. While talking with a psychologist doing research oversees, an unlikely cure for depression was discovered.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

This psychologist was studying Cambodian techniques on treating depression. One case study centered around a rice patty farmer who lost his leg when a land mine exploded. Doctors initially provided an artificial limb to continue his occupation after being medically cleared to return to work. Unfortunately, the strength to stay under water and added pain from this injury was too much for this man to overcome.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

When depression overwhelmed this man’s soul, medication was considered, but not prescribed. Instead, doctor’s listened to this man pour out of his heart, trying to come up with an alternative solution. After several days of discussion, this man was given a cow instead of drugs. This gift enabled this man to transition to a milk farmer. After one month of changing occupations, this man’s depression disappeared. Perhaps, its time that America adopts similar policies by stop handing out drugs and start being creative so that more unlikely cures for depression are discovered.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving New Courage

Although the Wizard of Oz debuted in 1939, this became one of my favorite films as a child 40 years later. For some reason, reruns were broadcast twice a year, once before Easter and the other around Thanksgiving. The thought of a scarecrow searching for a brain, a tinman desperately wanting a heart and a cowardly lion hoping to find courage struck a cord with my soul. This film made me believe that it’s possible to receive new courage.

And the [Christian] brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage, Acts 28:15.

During a prolonged trip from Jerusalem to Rome, taking nearly 6 months, Paul seems to be wore down. Luke doesn’t expound upon why, but the passage above illuminates how the Christian community lifted his spirits. There are no details about who encouraged Paul or what was said, yet it’s clear that the words exchanged empowered Paul. After receiving strength to face the adversity of another trial, God prepared Paul for what lied ahead in Rome.

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor called Timothy. Apparently, Paul received news that Timothy had become fearful, timid about speaking out against wrong behavior and teaching. Paul reiterates that this inclination is not from God. Rather, the Lord has given believers a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Therefore, if you are searching for courage today, look no further than the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Pillars of Prayer

When I visit a tourist destination, rarely do I say, “look at that pillar!” This tall vertical structure of stone, wood, or metal, used as a support for a building often goes unnoticed. Yet, without these crucial supports, buildings will collapse, not able to stand the test of time. In ancient Greece, pillars were center pieces of famous landmarks that still stand today.

And as He saw one single leafy fig tree above the roadside, He went to it but He found nothing but leaves on it [seeing that in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. And He said to it, Never again shall fruit grow on you! And the fig tree withered up at once, Matthew 21:19.

During an early morning walk, Jesus introduced his disciples to pillars of prayer. When an unproductive fig tree did not offer any fruit for their hungry stomachs, Jesus cursed it, immediately withering in front of them. This miracle inspired disciples to ascertain about the power of prayer. The first pillar is faith. This must be accompanied by an unwavering reliance on God. The second pillar is belief. This is accomplished by removing any doubt from your mind, trusting in the God who created the mountains.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled greatly and asked, How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once? And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:20-22.

From personal experience, my mind tends to get in the way of prayers from being answered. It’s one thing to believe in the power of prayer, but Christians shouldn’t treat God like Santa Claus using prayer as a wish list. Instead, faith and belief must go hand and hand, yielding to God’s will. Yet, this shouldn’t hold you back, knocking on God’s door over and over again like the persistent widow. Prayer can be complicated, especially when prayers go unanswered. Nonetheless, when individuals don’t limit what heaven can do, you’ll be surprised just like the disciples above.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of Hope

Hope is like a double edged sword. On one side, hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain outcome or thing to happen. Meanwhile, on the other side reality exists, the state of things as they actually are currently. This opposition denounces an idealistic or notional idea of what hope has to offer.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation, Romans 5:3-4.

In the 1994 film Shawshank Redemption, two prisoners argue about hope while talking over a meal. Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins reveals his perspective of hope, describing this as a place in your mind that no one can take away from you. Red Redding played by Morgan Freeman disagrees, interrupting Robbins to highlight the dangers of hope.

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:5.

The apostle Paul writes about the biblical meaning of hope during a first century letter to the church of Rome. Perhaps, even Christians were losing hope and needed a word of encouragement to press on. Paul makes three guarantees about hope. Hope never deludes, disappoints or shames human beings. Why, you may ask? God’s love has been poured out to hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit to those who believe. This is the power of hope.

by Jay Mankus

The Ocean Raging Inside of Me

Depending upon how your parents were raised, you will likely reflect these traits. My father who was born in Lithuania is your prototypical European stoic, taught to greet others with a handshake. Meanwhile, my mother grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania where offering a hug was a common manner to greet a friend or family member. Like any teenager, I went through a series of phases where I wore my emotions on my sleeves until I began to hold everything in as the ocean raging inside of my soul intensified.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls,] Matthew 11:28.

When Jesus addressed a first century crowd in the passage above, He understood that it’s unhealthy to go through life living in isolation. No matter how mentally tough you are, everyone reaches a breaking point. To avoid being weighed down by heavy burdens on your soul, Jesus promises to give you rest. His only request is to lay your burdens at the foot of the cross. Jesus wants to part the seas raging inside of your soul. God doesn’t want to see broken hearts crippled by this internal battle.

Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne, Matthew 11:29-30.

In their 2013 song the Oceans from the Other Side album, Tonight Alive sings about this internal struggle. While you may seem fine externally, internal strife can paralyze souls as each day becomes a struggle. If you are honest with yourself, everyone has inner demons, secrets that you are afraid of being exposed. Yet, until you implement Jesus’ request from above, freedom is just an empty word. Thus, if you want fast acting relief, try the spiritual Rolaids, Jesus, to calm the raging oceans inside of you.

by Jay Mankus

The Freedom from Religion Movement

When I was a senior in high school, I was naïve about the spiritual dangers that existed in college.  A few of my spiritual mentors who already spent a year away at college warned me about giving into temptation.  These concerns fell upon deaf ears, causing me to wander away from the Lord during my first semester at the University of Delaware.  If I only listened to one of Jesus’ disciples in the passage below, I could have avoided the bad habits and heartache that I experienced during this dark period of my life.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

One of the modern dangers that lurks in the distance is the Freedom from Religion Movement. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is an American non-profit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, with members from all 50 states.  This organization was founded by atheists and humanists who seek to censor and or prevent prayer from taking place in public schools.  The leaders of this movement decided to run a commercial during Tuesday night’s Democratic Presidential Debate.  The attached ad speaks for itself, an eerie preview of the future.

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:18.

According to the apostle Paul, the best way to combat the Freedom from Religion Movement is through prayer.  As atheists rely on and use activist judges to take away religious freedoms, Christians need to keep alert by praying in the Spirit at all times.  When hope dies, the power of prayer fades.  Yet, if a concert of prayer begins within churches, communities and homes, hope can be restored.  Throughout history, one movement replaces another, seeking to accomplish it’s goals.  However, when God’s people stand in the spiritual gaps that exists, the Holy Spirit will be unleashed to ensure that the Jesus Movement prevails.

by Jay Mankus

World Mental Health Day

This year’s day to recognize global mental health is Thursday October 10th. World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health. More than 150 countries take part is this day to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ life worldwide. Leaders in Australia feel so strongly about this issue that an entire week is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace, Romans 8:5-6.

Unfortunately, most of the curriculum, education and programs will steer clear of biblical principles. Yet, this provides me an open door to examine what the Bible has to say about mental health. The apostle Paul claims the biggest obstacle to achieving a mind at peace is fleshly desires which crave instant gratification. This internal force must be brought under control and tamed by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word [the message, the basis] of faith which we preach— because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation, Romans 10:8-10.

According to C.S. Lewis, the Holy Spirit is only accessible to those who have entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Mere Christianity details Cardinal and Theological Virtues. Cardinal virtues include prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. These traits are available to everyone who strides to obtain mental health. Yet, access to the Theological virtues of charity, hope and faith is limited to active believers in Jesus. Therefore, if you want to truly celebrate mental health, embrace Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

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