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Tag Archives: overcoming tragedy

It’s Time to Bring Back an Ancient Tradition

In ancient days, tearing your clothes was a common expression upon receiving news of a tragic event. The Old Testament contains several examples of ripping off garments, religious leaders tearing their cloaks or putting a sackcloth over heads after witnessing death, shock or shame. This unusual course of action is first recorded in Genesis 37:29, “when Reuben found out that his brothers had sold Joseph off as a slave, he was shocked, ripping his clothes apart in disgust.” This response serves as an act of disappointment to demonstrate how far souls have deviated from God.

While he was yet speaking, there came also another and said, Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19 And behold, there came a great [whirlwind] from the desert, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you. 20 Then Job arose and rent his robe and shaved his head and fell down upon the ground and worshiped 21 And said, Naked (without possessions) came I [into this world] from my mother’s womb, and naked (without possessions) shall I depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed (praised and magnified in worship) be the name of the Lord! – Job 1:18-21

Instead of having an emotional outburst, making a scene in public or ranting on social media, Job came to a painful reality upon receiving the news of his children’s deaths. Human beings came into this world naked and will leave in a similar manner, returning to the dust of the earth. Job 1:21 inspired the Catholic tradition known as Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. From dust man was created and to dust mankind will return. This is why Catholics receive ash on their foreheads once a year at masses across the country and throughout the world.

But he who is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to put on the [sacred] garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose or rend his clothes [in mourning], Leviticus 21:10.

According to Moses, the only member of the Jewish community who was not allowed to tear their clothes was the high priest. Everyone else was able to express their displeasure and frustrations of others in this manner. However, this doesn’t mean you should expose yourself in public like the woman in New Hampshire who voted topless after the political shirt she was wearing went against voting rules. My generation was taught if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t open your mouth. Thus, what I am suggesting is to replace daily tirades with the ancient practice of an inward and upward release of emotions.

by Jay Mankus

Going Through Hell

From time to time, I will receive heart breaking news. A car accident ends the life of a teenager, cancer takes another victim or an unforeseen illness takes away a loved one before you have a chance to say goodbye. Anyone who experiences these trials might compare their pain to “going through hell” on earth. Yet, is this an accurate comparison based upon the description of hell in the Bible?

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward], Hebrews 10:26.

The word hell is used 54 times in the original King James Bible. If you dig deeper, there are 4 distinct words in the Bible used to describe aspects of hell: Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartaroo. Sheol has two different meanings depending on the context, the grave or pit. Hades refers to the physical location of hell, the abode of the spirits of the dead or the underworld. The final two terms focus on the eternal consequences of hell.

[There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:27.

Gehenna is a small valley in Jerusalem where some of the kings of Judah in the Old Testament sacrificed their children by fire. A first century doctor uses Gehenna in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus to describe hell as a place of burning, torment, and misery. Meanwhile, Tartaroo refers to the deepest abyss in hell where the wicked suffer eternal punishment for their wicked deeds committed on earth. Upon further review, may the anguish that you suffer on earth draw you into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, so that you current pain is only temporary and not eternal.

by Jay Mankus

As Good as Dead

There are moments in life when things look bleak.  Whether you are talking about a career, health or someone’s future, everyone will face times of uncertainty.  When you reach this point, you have two logical options, resign yourself to giving up hope or keep fighting.

And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore, Hebrews 11:12.

Some of the classic action films in Hollywood lure possess numerous situations when the star should die.  Yet, somehow, someway, this character escapes death time after time.  While these scenes don’t portray an accurate view of real life, they do point to an invisible source called faith.  A hope that keeps many going despite feeling as good as dead.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer, Romans 12:12.

Abraham and the apostle Paul both found themselves in circumstances where each thought they were on the verge of death.  According to the author of Hebrews, Abraham leaned on a promise from God, to be a father of a great nation.  Meanwhile, as Paul faced threats on his life from jealous Jewish officials, Paul turned to prayer.  Therefore, whether your health or life is failing you, turn to the promises of the Bible and prayer to keep hope alive.

by Jay Mankus


When Life Get’s in the Way of Your Plans

The older you become, the more likely it is that one phone call will radically change your life.  Bad news has a way of stealing joy as well as altering any plans that you have previous made.  Just before Christmas, my wife’s mom was rushed to the hospital.  In the week’s that have followed, there have been ups and downs, resulting in a series of trips to Chicago to see her mother.  In the end, everyone will pass, but preparing for the inevitable is like riding a roller coaster in the dark.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

In moments like these, the wisdom of Solomon shines light on what’s truly important.  Sure, developing goals are helpful to create a five or ten year plan for prosperity.  Yet, beyond a man’s or woman’s heart, the Lord will throw an occasional curve ball to keep you off balance.  Subsequently, if your steps aren’t in alignment with God’s calling, a detour will likely be coming, drawing you back to where you need to be.  Whether that’s taking care of an ailing parent or pursuing a promotion to keep get your children through college, only time will time.  Yet, for now life is like a wheel of fortune, around and around it goes, where it stops nobody but God knows.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them, Ephesians 2:10.

So what do you do when life get’s in the way of your plans?  First, praying can serve as a vehicle for healing as well as a source of comfort.  Second, seek counsel from those who have already gone through a similar situation.  This provides prospective as well as the ability to avoid making the same mistakes as your predecessor.  Finally, cling to the promises of the Bible, memorizing these passages to instill in you hope that God is not finished using and working through you.  May the Holy Spirit guide your steps the next time life get’s in the way of your plans.

by Jay Mankus



Earnest Prayers

Grave, serious and solemn describe the emotions connected to the term earnest.  Tragic events like the San Bernardino terrorist attack on a company Christmas party sent shock waves across the United States last week.  Like the nation of France following their own recent encounter, the news of death tends to bring people to their knees.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him, Acts 12:5.

Although less and less people annually consider themselves to be born again Christians, crying out to God is like a natural response in the face of desperation.  Unfortunately, earnest prayers usually arrive after disaster occurs.  Thus, for God to answer most prayers miracles are necessary or else people will go home disappointed and disenfranchised.  This wasn’t always the case, especially during the first century.

When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”  “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel,” Acts 12:14-15.

Persecution was a way of life for early Christian as many leaders were martyred for their faith.  Hopeful that Peter didn’t face the same fate of James of Zebedee in Acts 12:2, a spirit of earnest prayer spread.  This sober mood spawned an angel into action.  The ultimate goal of any prayer to receive the answer that you’re hoping for.  However, sometimes God answers quicker than you expect.  Thus, before the morning sunrise, Peter was set free, arriving at their front door.  Initially shocked like a dream too good to be true, this earnest prayer was blessed immediately.  In view of this account, be proactive to form a hedge of protection as you participate in a modern example of earnest prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Do I Hold On to the Past or Trust God for the Future?

In the 1984 film Footloose, John Lithgow plays reverend Shaw Moore.  After Moore’s son dies in a car accident coming home from a night of dancing, reverend Shaw responds by banning all music in his small rural Utah town.  Kevin Bacon, plays Ren, a high school senior who goes to a town hall meeting in an attempt to reverse this ban for a Senior Prom.  Following a rejection, Ren’s boss comes up with an alternative which is presented to Shaw Moore.  During his next Sunday message, the reverend is confronted with a dilemma.  Do I hold on to the past of trust God with the future?

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ, Philippians 3:7.

Thirty years later, this question still applies.  Within each individual life, there are defining moments, trials which force people to mature.  How these events are handled, shape the outcome of lives.  Whether its death, illness or injury, bad things will occur sooner or later.  As Rich Mullins once sang prior to a car accident that ended his own life, there is bound to come some trouble to our lives.  When tragedy strikes, will you hold on to the past or trust God for the future?

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me, Philippians 3:12.

When life takes an unexpected turn, its hard to get over it or fully recovery.  Almost four years after I lost my teaching position, I’m close to picking up all the pieces, but not where I would like to be.  Scars from the past are still present, resulting in soul spirit hurts that are not fully healed.  However, as the apostle Paul once said in a letter to the church at Philippi, you must learn to leave your past by keeping your eyes on the overall goal, heaven.  Therefore, the next time you reach a crossroad in life, let go of the past by trusting God with your future.

by Jay Mankus



The Pain of Death

A member of St. George’s 2014 golf team died in a car accident while driving home from school Tuesday afternoon.  A parent’s worst nightmare came true for the Leonzio family.  In a flash, before you can say goodbye for the final time, Tim’s life was snuffed out.  This is the pain of death.

He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” – Mark 5:23

In Mark 5:22-42, a concerned father reaches out to Jesus.  Jairus, a synagogue leader turned to Jesus as a last resort as doctors could not improve his daughter’s condition.  Despite what any Pharisees thought about Jesus, Jairus had a feeling deep down inside his heart his daughter would be healed.  On their way home, his efforts were a little too late as Jairus received the bad news.

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” – Mark 5:35

Unfortunately, Jesus can’t bring Tim back to life like Jairus’ daughter.  Now, whenever my own son doesn’t come home on time, I start to worry, imaging a worst case scenario.  This is where faith must take over.  Although death in inevitable, belief in Christ, the promise of salvation and eternity in heaven can ease your pain.  May the prayer of the Psalmist provide comfort, healing and peace when the pain of death knocks on your door, Psalm 34:18.

by Jay Mankus


The Funeral Ends Today

As human beings with hearts, souls and minds, its hard to move on, especially when someone or something is gone.  Just before Christmas an old friend had their grandparents house explode due to a gas leak, erasing any existence of their home and possessions.  Fortunately, they were not home at the time, but every album and cherished picture was obliterated, becoming a distance memory.

In the film We Are Marshall, based upon a true story, when a plane crash wipes out 69 members of the Thundering Herd football program during a storm in the late 1970’s.  Jack Lengyel, played by Matthew McConaughey is hired to rebuild a program, attempting to rise from the ashes of this disaster.  Slowly rebuilding a team, piece by piece, Coach Lengyel gives a touching pregame speech in front of the statue dedicated to their fallen teammates.  Before getting back on the bus to play their game, the motivational talk ends with the words, “the funeral ends today!”

While just a movie, these words provide sound advice for 2014.  The apostle Paul uses a similar expression in Philippians 3:12-14.  Despite what you’ve accomplished in the past, whether good or bad, its pointless to beat yourself up inside, leading to misery and regret.  Therefore, you should press on toward the future, taking hold of the things God has called you to do on earth.  Whatever pain you’ve endure throughout your life or in 2013, make Coach Lengyel’s words your prayer, “the funeral ends today!”

by Jay Mankus

Fatalistic Thinking

Current events often prompt a raw emotion within individuals that results in over reactions.  Despite your political or religious affiliations, when something like the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings strikes a nerve by touching your heart, its extremely difficult to think rationally.  Like a runaway train, thoughts race through your mind trying to make sense of this tragedy.  Meanwhile, lawmakers are flocking to Congress attempting to ban guns and develop plans for impenetrable schools.  While their motives may have good intentions, this is an example of fatalistic thinking.

As parents struggle with fear over the safety of their own children, America has discovered in 2012 that there is no such thing as a bullet proof mall, movie theater or school.  Though countless people continue to ask “where is God,” I have yet to hear an accurate biblical response to who is in charge of this world.  According to Ephesians 2:2, Satan is the ruler of the air.  The apostle Paul is simply restating the Devil’s own words from Matthew 4:8-9.  When Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, there was a transition in authority over the earth from Adam to the Devil.  The serpent’s motives for tempting Eve was to acquire control over the kingdoms of the world as revealed in Luke 4:6.  In the same way, politicians are making a similar power grab, endeavoring to seize control of every aspect of your life, eliminating freedoms in the name of protection.

If I’ve ruined your day or made you even more depressed, I want to conclude this piece with a ray of sunshine.  After warning people of the dangers of the flesh in Romans 7, the apostle Paul brings a message of hope in chapter 8.  The climax of this great news occurs in Romans 8:37-39.  Neither death, nor demons or whatever the future holds can separate God’s children from the love of Jesus.  Not even the powers of the Devil himself can thwart any reservation you have made for eternity, 1 John 5:13.  Therefore, clear your mind from the confusion of evil by taking a dose of God’s precious promises found in the Bible.  The pain from Newtown will linger, but in the end, Christ’s victory over the cross will lead to triumph, Colossians 2:13-15.

by Jay Mankus

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