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The Blog

My Faith Tested

My Faith Tested

By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

We are just weeks away from a New Year. And I can’t wait. I love all that the New Year symbolizes: fresh starts, new beginnings, and so much more.

In many ways, 2012 has been a great year. But, in so many others, it has been tremendously challenging.

Today, I want to write about a tough subject. I have gone back and forth on whether or not I wanted to do this. For some, it’s controversial. For some, it’s a ‘forbidden’ topic. Eventually, it will happen to ALL of us.

What is it?


I’m being called to write about death. You can tell me what you think after you have read it through.

Warning: The views in this article are mine. They may be controversial. They may be tough to swallow. But these are my feelings and viewpoints. If you would like to proceed, please do so. If not, I understand. I simply had to share. Maybe it will speak to you. Maybe it won’t. But I had to write it.

In the last two weeks, I have been IMPACTED by four deaths. Each has hit me differently.

  • The day before Thanksgiving, the younger brother of a good friend committed suicide. Excruciating pain for this family.
  • On Thanksgiving Day, my high school basketball coach and family friend, Vern Hankins, died tragically. Vern was sawing up a fallen tree in his yard back in Brick, NJ, following SuperStorm Sandy. When he cut the tree, it snapped back into its root hole in which Vern was standing and crushed him to death. Sixty-one years young. A tragic way to die. On Thanksgiving Day. The fact that his house was destroyed in Sandy is just a side-note at this point.
  • Javon Belcher from the Kansas City Chiefs committed a murder/suicide on December 1st. Although I didn’t know Javon, like many of you, I ask myself “WHY?”

-Why are so many NFL athletes doing this?

-Why do people who commit suicide sometimes take other people with them?

-Why do people keep blaming aberrant behavior in athletes on “post-concussion syndrome?”


  • Jantz Grodziki was 16 years old and had been a client at Fitness Quest 10 this past summer. He was an elite motocross competitor headed toward a professional career. Jantz died from injuries incurred in a motocross accident last week while competing in Florida. Over 900 people attended his funeral. All ages. There were many people from the motocross community who traveled cross-country to attend. So many young kids between 13 and 18 who were obviously shaken-up. Jantz’ dad eulogized his son with a story he wrote called, “DID YOU KNOW?” It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. And I’m sure that delivering his son’s eulogy was, and will remain, the most difficult thing this loving, caring man will EVER do in his life. You can see Jantz’ Facebook LIKE page with almost 25,000 Likes at

Two weeks. Four deaths. Countless emotions. Some of you reading this have shared these losses. Father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, friend. You couldn’t measure the pain and suffering following these losses. I have been wrestling with my own pain these last weeks and want to share my thoughts with you.

  • First, and most important, if you have suicidal thoughts, get help. Reach out right this very minute and let someone know how you feel. Call a friend or family member. Call a doctor. Call a hotline. 800-273-8255.
  • If you are depressed or feel like “there is no way out,” trust that there is ALWAYS a way out. Please, please, please ask for help. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness. You don’t have to handle everything yourself. Support is just a step away.
  • I don’t believe that “post-concussion syndrome” is the reason WHY former NFL athletes are taking their lives. I think it’s more complicated than that. Sure, it may contribute but I don’t believe it’s the only thing. I believe there can be a combination of things involved. Lack of identity and life purpose AFTER sports. Mental illness. Neurological changes. Absence of FAITH. I mean the kind of faith that is examined daily, tested daily, walked, talked and LIVED daily. This kind of commitment gives evidence to a faith that is deep. A faith that is true. A faith that is life-long. Yes, it takes effort, hard work, and sacrifice. It’s like the late Zig Ziglar (who also passed away last week) said, “Motivation is like brushing your teeth or taking a shower…you need to do it EVERYDAY or it will soon wear off.” It’s the same thing with FAITH.
  • You NEED faith. Each of us does. Your religion may be different than my Christian faith, but when we can live out a commitment to faith, we are stronger as individuals, especially when shared in community. My thought – LIVE YOUR FAITH EVERY SINGLE DAY. Period.
  • Freak accidents like the one that killed Coach Hankins are just bizarre. Really bizarre. Here it is WEEKS after the Storm and people are still dying from its side effects. My heart bleeds for the Hankins family.
  • I hope you never experience the funeral of a young person. It’s a kind of pain that should not be known. I have been to three funerals this year for people under 22. One was only 4 years old. One was just 16. One was 21. The loss is unspeakable. The experience of sitting in a service, surrounded by such grief is pure hell. It will test your strength, pure and simple. It is the HARDEST thing to do. But if you are ever asking yourself if you SHOULD go to someone’s funeral or celebration of life, here is some profound wisdom I once received:

You will never, ever regret going to anyone’s funeral.” It’s never easy, but BEING THERE is the single best way to support a family who is suffering.

  • Funerals put life in perspective. Sometimes when you think you have problems and major challenges, you realize your problems are miniscule compared to what others are facing.
  • And finally, I have to include one more. It is NOT trivial. Surround yourself with positive people everyday. It rubs off. On how you think. On how you act. On what you do. None of us is guaranteed any certain amount of time on this earth. And your quality of life is directly related to the quality of the people who surround you. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Who make you smile. Who make you feel special. Who are committed to a life of faith. Seek them out. LOVE each other. And celebrate everyday you share together.

Have these recent deaths reminded me of the fragility of life? YES. Have they saddened me? YES. Were they gut-wrenching? YES. Have they tested my faith? YES. Have they threatened or destroyed my faith? Absolutey NOT.

My friends, I wrote this article for one reason. To remind myself and you to VALUE life everyday. To walk in FAITH. To LISTEN and CONNECT with people. Not just on our phones. Not just through texts. Not just through Facebook and Twitter. I mean real LISTENING. Real CONNECTION.

At Jantz Grodziki’s funeral, his father spoke of how Jantz (an avid motocross athlete) lived his life with his foot on the accelerator. Soaring through the air. And smiling the entire time. He spoke of legacy and IMPACT. Regardless of age.

So as we embark upon 2013, let’s really be ready to step on the accelerator and soar. VALUE everyday, LIVE and LOVE to the fullest EVERYDAY. Be thankful and walk by FAITH. I know I will.

Let me conclude with this. As a man grounded by faith, I believe God has called his “children” home. Each of them. Regardless of HOW each died. And with my faith tested and my heart heavy, I stand STRONGER before God, counting my many blessings. Join me.

Thank you and much love.

Todd Durkin

P.S. Thank you for reading this. It’s one of the more challenging articles I’ve attempted. Feel free to comment on my blog or Facebook LIKE page at I always love hearing your thoughts.

Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, is an internationally recognized performance coach, personal trainer and massage therapist who motivates, educates and inspires people worldwide.  He is the owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA, where his wonderful team of 35 focuses on personal training, massage therapy, Pilates, yoga, sports performance training and nutrition to help transform the bodies, minds and spirits of a broad clientele.  Todd trains dozens of NFL and MLB athletes. He is the head of the Under Armour Performance Training Council, serves on the Gatorade G-Fit Team, and is a featured presenter on the Perform Better educational circuit.  He is a two-time Trainer of the Year (IDEA & ACE).  Additionally, Todd provides motivational talks and programs to companies and conferences worldwide. 

Men’s Health recently named his gym, Fitness Quest 10, one of the Top 10 Gyms in the US.  Todd has appeared on 60 Minutes, ESPN, NFL Network and has been featured in Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Business Week, Prevention, ESPN the Magazine, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Journal, Stack Magazine, Self, Shape, Fitness, the NY Times and Washington Post.  Todd has authored 35 DVDs on strength and conditioning, functional fitness, massage/bodywork and business/personal growth.

His book, The IMPACT! Body Plan, is a 10 Week comprehensive program designed to create world-class fitness and life performance.  You can sign up for Todd’s FREE award-winning Ezine newsletter, the TD TIMES, at or

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