“Looking back to the previous months, I now see that I’ve been really a mess. It’s been one of my lowest states. The pain, bitterness, the darkness, and the loneliness in my soul were very overwhelming. Thank you, Lord, that the storm has passed,” reads the entry from my private journal, which I wrote a while back.
The memories from that difficult season started flooding my mind as I read these words written in black ink.
I remember the involuntary tears that fall from my eyes for no reason at all.
I remember lying in bed for days on end, not being able to get up, eat decent meals, take a bath, or even turn on the lights because everything just felt so. . . heavy.
I remember turning on the TV and turning up the volume to distract myself from the lump in my throat that signals the tears that are about to flow again.
I remember the sleepless nights, and the need to take supplementary medicines so I can fall asleep.
I had a major depressive episode.
And I am a campus missionary.
I’m a vocational minister who preaches about hope, about finding strength in God, about being joyful in afflictions, and fighting the good fight of the faith.
I know my theology and I’ve memorized enough Bible verses to get me through any difficult circumstance in life.
I’ve ministered to countless individuals, be it from the pulpit or from across the wooden table of a coffee shop.
I’ve preached more than I can count and have written more articles than I can remember about God’s love and mercy.
So, as I was going through my own wilderness, there were days when I felt deeply frustrated for being weak, for not being able to do my calling as expected of me, for letting people down, and for not being a good example of a faithful Christian.
I couldn’t understand what I was going through and I hated myself for being emotionally paralyzed.
Those who know me would say that I have always been a strong and emotionally resilient person. I have already seen and experienced so much pain and brokenness beyond my years.
These things have taught me to be emotionally resilient. My ability to bounce back from pain and heartache was a result of the challenges I’ve gone through in life. I have learned how to compartmentalize my emotions so I can fully function even in the middle of adversity or distress.
When I became a full-time minister, that grit allowed me to minister to others despite my own personal troubles. It allowed me to soldier on when the going gets tough. My pain threshold was so high that I have learned to move on quickly from any setback and to plan my next move as a faithful soldier of God.
But my emotional resilience can only take me too far.
Like a rubber band that loses its elasticity over time when constantly stretched, I found myself losing myself in the midst of that emotionally draining season.
My emotional reservoir was depleted despite walking with God and doing His calling.
In that dark pit where tears and sorrow were more real than faith and hope, no preaching and no theology could seem to reach me.
Only one thing did: God’s presence.
I used to only feel God’s presence whenever I delivered fiery preaching onstage or during intense moments of worship. But I have forgotten that God is with me even in the darkest of night.
I have walked with Him in the light of day and on the mountaintops, but now I have experienced walking with God in the dark of night, through the valley of the shadow of death. He was the pillar of fire that led me through the wilderness.
In my own brokenness, I have learned how to care for people who are experiencing the same. That when no words of wisdom makes sense, one’s presence is enough to banish the darkness in one’s soul.
I thought loving God with all my heart only means surrendering to Him my desires. Now I know that loving God with all my heart means loving Him with everything that is in my heart—not just the joy but also the sorrow; not just my hopes but also my disappointments.
I have learned to love God with my pain. . . through my pain.
I cried when my counselor said this to me: “It’s a season of receiving for you. All these years, you have been giving love to others. This time, learn to receive love—from God and from others.”
My healing started when I recognized my wounds and I acknowledged my need for help. Healing came when God finally spoke to me, on a cold and gloomy afternoon in a coffee shop in Baguio.
“I love you just as you are now. Wounded, broken, and lost. My son, it’s time to go home.”
I cried yet again. But for the first time in a long time, it wasn’t bitter tears. It wasn’t happy tears either. But tears of abandonment in a place of security and unconditional acceptance. It was the cry of a child who got lost in a busy crowd and was finally found by his Father.
“I’m not completely out of the woods yet,” I continued in my private journal. “But I’m on a steady path.
I can already see the clearing—so near, yet still quite far. The good thing about this awareness is that it eliminates any illusion of self-sufficiency or any false sense of security.
I still need you, God, to take me by the hand each day. I can only make it if I’m with you.
I love you, Lord, my strength.”