An Open Letter to Filipino Christian Professionals

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I write this exclusively for those who go to work everyday with barely enough sleep, fatigued from the traffic and long hours of commute, contending with social pressures from people in the office who you have grown close to through the years, and whose opinions are somehow very important to you right now.

And somehow things happen that make you realize— this is what being depressed feels like. It numbs the mind and body, and causes you to hold on to certain things that mask the pain, or somehow give a certain degree of comfort. Harmless things like going to the mall every chance you get. Going out with friends (nothing wrong with this really). Shopping. Going on weekend adventures. Binge-watching. Marathon telenovelas. Getting close to people of the opposite sex. Video and digital games. Non-stop chatting or texting or unlimited calls.

Let me make it clear that there’s really NOTHING inherently WRONG with all of these things. They’re all perfectly alright. Except that in the state you’re in (sad, depressed, unfulfilled), they have virtually become a means of escape. Escape from the truth.

I’ve been there. Working for more than 20 years. And I’ve been going to church for most of those years. Yes, I became a Christian before I even had my first job. I WAS a “Christian” during all of those years! Yes, anyone can go to church or do ministry without having a real connection with God.

And let me emphasize that I’m writing this from the perspective of where I am today. Today I am free. But I’ve seen it up close. Believe me, I know.

One thing I realize that I should have been warned about, is that the Big D (Depression)  doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen just because a problem came up, or because somebody hurt you. It happens slowly… too slowly for you to notice. It creeps into your life like a slow-moving shadow, too insignificant for you to pay any attention to. It’s something that happens over long periods of time. It’s something that you’ve allowed to happen because you’re too busy, because there are just more important, more exciting, more urgent things happening in your life. Because most of the time, you’re just too tired. Or too preoccupied. Or too cool among friends. It happens.

If you think you feel depressed now because this or that happened, you’re wrong. It started wayyyy longggg before that.

In my first few years as a professional, I used to read the Bible and talk to God everyday. But then I got too successful at work. And successful means busy.

Fatigue + lack of sleep + emotional turmoil + busyness + too many things on your mind = Guess what you’ll get

After you’ve allowed it to slowly creep into your life, it holds you by the neck, and you feel trapped. Then you begin to believe THE BIG LIE. This Big Lie will hold you and affect your decisions, your attitude, and your actions.

This Big Lie will cause you to say things like, “These Christian fools don’t know exactly what I’m going through. And they could even be judging me right now. They won’t be able to understand because they have all the comforts of freedom from not having to work like I do”.

Well, you just have to silence this thought and listen to that small voice in your heart. Somewhere in the deep recesses of your heart, that still small voice is being drowned out by the BIG LIE. You have to give that small voice a chance.

Yes, it would take a lot of tears. You’ll have to find a place all to yourself, where you can pour it all out to God. Without the security and serenity of this private, secret place, you shouldn’t trust every thought going through your head. Half of them could be lies.

And the worst thing you can do is listen to secular music. It doesn’t matter how much you think the lyrics fit everything you’re going through right now. If it’s been composed by somebody who’s depressed, and sang by somebody just as depressed, guess what kind of spirit is being transferred to you when you listen to that song. I can bet that almost all suicides and attempted suicides have at least one LSS (last song syndrome) playing in the background in their heads.

But this was how I got out of it: I soaked, I tarried, I stayed in His Presence. I regained my connection with my God, the Lover of my soul, my Bestfriend, my Father, the Meaning of my life. And you know what, I just snapped out of it. Jesus broke the chains of the Big Lie that had me bound. I became free! Just like that. In place of emptiness, there was joy.

Yes, the answer is too simple and sounds too good to be true. That is why The Big Lie seems to be more believable. But there is no other way around it, as a song goes. You will first have to be broken. Crushed.

And sometimes, you will have to fight your way into it. Fight the tyranny of the urgent, as they say, and know that being with Him, communing with Him, being loved by Him, is what you really need right now. And you have to do whatever it takes to revive that intimate connection, that heart-to-heart relationship with Him. Lay everything before Him. Repent and receive His cleansing.

Yes, you might think it feels good just to have another depressed friend around to keep you company, and you do expect people to reach out to you. But we all know that whatever comfort or thrill you’ll get from this will not last long.

I’m talking about a lasting solution. A solution that will destroy depression and keep it out of your life once for all.

 

Hey, talk to me.

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Death by Loneliness

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Credits: facebook.com/AnthonyBourdain

This is not to belittle the “big” issue of depression surrounding the death by suicide of well-loved personalities such as Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Robin Williams, and so many more.

But their deaths only highlight this fundamental truth:

That fame, riches, worldly success, religion, an active lovelife, influence, power, and what lately has become everybody’s dream—travel adventures— simply cannot erase the emptiness, that inner loneliness, that results from not having a real, genuine, personal love-relationship with the One who created you for Himself.

The person who has shut off God from their life, because they have swallowed the ancient lies (the lie that God doesn’t really care, that He doesn’t exist, that it so UNCOOL to believe in a God in this age of science and technological advancement yada yada yada)—every lie thrown by the devil into a world that has become so susceptible to deception…that person who has removed God from the equation…has virtually written their own death sentence. They have practically removed any chance of finding real happiness. And that is the ugly truth.

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Credits: TMZ

Some people explain this fact away by painting a picture of depression as a sickness caused by a chemical imbalance, a mental disease just like other diseases that can be “cured” or managed by science and medicine. Well, science has proven that our bodies naturally react from triggers from our minds, our hearts, and our spirit. For instance, nurturing hurts and bitterness for long periods of time affects the heart, the kidneys, and other internal organs.

The human being is simply not meant to live a life independent from his Creator. We have been “designed” to live in close communion with Him, and even our bodies react to the absence of the love and light that comes from knowing Him. THIS is what the world calls depression. In reality, it is simply the absence of God in your life.

Every single person in the world has felt hunger for God at one time or another. But because we give in to the world’s convention of what is right, or what is real, or what is truth, or what is “cool”, we push this innate thirst for meaning aside, and replace it with our own life philosophy, our own survival mindsets, our own religion. The fact is, God has intentionally placed that natural thirst in your heart for you to seek Him.

You may ask—So, do Christians never ever experience depression? If you mean by “Christians” those who go to church or post bible quotes everyday, well, they do get depressed if they don’t have that real connection, or have not experienced a real encounter with God. Not everyone who goes to church and posts bible verses have a real connection with God. Religion will NOT give you real and lasting happiness. Only a genuine, personal, heart-to-heart connection with God can. It is simply impossible for anyone to be touched by God and not be happy.

 

Ask me how.

“My God is amazing”

Ann1by Ann Ronquillo

Church usher, housewife and mother of 3

as told to Carol delos Santos

I was rebellious. When I was 18, I ran away from home because my father was always drunk. I was totally lost, without friends, with nowhere to go. I was traveling around aimlessly.

But somehow I knew this one thing—God was my only hope. I used to cry to Him and ask “Is there any man in the world who could ever love me?” I cried out to Him all my frustrations over my parents, over my life. I kept telling God, “You’re the only One I could lean on. I could only trust You and no one else”. There was no one else in my life.

For several months, my parents didn’t hear from me. They could’ve been wondering where I was, or whether I was still alive…

After some time, my aunt got to me and took me with her to Manila. Going to Manila was one thing my father could never allow. Be there was nothing he could do about that anymore.

Barely a year after, I got married. Life with my husband at that point had been tough. We weren’t really prepared for marriage at that stage.

My husband’s father turned out to be a Pastor. It was because of him that I opened a Bible for the first time.

I came to Victory Churches of Asia (in the Philippines) for the first time in 2016. That was when I really began to grow spiritually. That was when I finally realized that in everything I’ve been through, in those difficult, ugly times, God had been keeping me safe. I realized that even without my parents, when I was all alone, I’ve been protected from harm. God had protected me. God was with me all along. Through my terrible journey, He had been there with me, taking care of me. He had never, not even once, left me alone. And the best thing was He led the way for me to meet my husband.

I never even asked for such a good, responsible husband like what I have now. I’ve only asked for a man who would love me. But God exceeded my expectations. “Lord, what You have given me is just amazing”.

Now, I’ve finally realized just how much God truly loves me, and it’s because of the things I’ve been through. Because He has truly carried me. He guided me and fixed my life. I have a responsible husband who never stopped me from going to church. He takes care of our children whenever I attend the church training classes. He truly supports me in everything I do. This is why I always say, “Lord, You are truly amazing”.

As I look back, I realized that, through all the ugly experiences I’ve had, God had a purpose for allowing some things to happen. They truly reveal God’s glory in my life.

 

 

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Confessions of a Former Bully

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The mere sound of her high heels clicking on the floor, signalling her approach, used to scare a lot of people. No one wanted to mess around with this feisty lady with a sharp tongue and a stern demeanor. Magica Molina is a woman who always got what she wanted, and woe to anybody who dared stand in her way.

But unlike most people hardened by pain or life’s circumstances, Magica knew the exact point in her life when she turned from innocent little girl into a cold-hearted bully.

She was six years old, in grade school, when a classmate she looked up to (who we shall call Angie) made up a story—a clever piece of deception that Magica believed for three long years. Angie had tricked her into thinking it was her fault that Angie had lost a very expensive wallet—a wallet too costly that not even years and years of her school allowance could ever pay for it.

Overwhelmed by guilt and fear of Angie’s parents, and the threat of being reported to authorities, Magica allowed Angie to bully her into handing over her entire school allowance daily—every single centavo day after day. Whenever Angie would see her with a sandwich or a meal, one painful squeeze on her skin was all it took, and Magica would willingly give up her food for Angie. Without her parents’ knowledge, every single day she endured hunger and deprived herself of little comforts so she could pay this huge debt and somehow ease the terrible guilt of losing something so valuable that wasn’t even hers. This, she believed, was just as horrible as stealing. The sad part of it was, because she happened to be her father’s favorite, her school allowance was bigger than most kids her age. And she gave them all to Angie, secretly, everyday, for three years straight.

The guilt, the fear, the terrible sense of failure had gnawed at her young mind continuously, and in her innocence, she had thought, surely her suffering was much deserved.

Until that day when, three years later, she discovered that everything had been a hoax. A cleverly concocted lie. She realized she had been victimized when she saw the precious wallet, the object of her misery, in one of her classmates’ possession. Angie had sold it to her three years ago. It had been with her all along. The shock, the sheer realization of how a little girl so young could be so evil penetrated the core of her being.

Suddenly, all her suffering and torment of three long years snapped and gushed out of her in one powerful torrent of hatred and revenge. Her body shaking, she came looking for Angie and when she saw her, reached for her neck and banged her face against the wall. At nine years old, that had been the first of her many violent outbursts that eventually forced Angie to drop out of school in fear for her life.

That traumatic episode drastically changed her view of the world, of people in general, and of life as a whole. Magica was technically just a kid when she came to this morbid conclusion: People are not really as kind and honest as her parents had brought her up to believe. Like Angie, they are so capable of evil. And she must not let anything like this happen to her again. Ever.

From that point on, she followed only one rule: Bully or be bullied. Bad people must never be given the chance to do their thing. They must be stopped right at the onset. Hurt them or get hurt.

She carried this mindset on to adulthood, never for a moment tolerating any whiff of mistake or wrongdoing from anybody, always ready to raise a storm against anyone who she thinks deserves it.

Just over a year ago, she started going to Victory Churches of Asia every Sunday with her son. And even then, she doubted that anything could ever change the way she was—nothing, not even the awesome moments of worship that brought tears to her eyes, nor the powerful spirit-filled preaching, nor her care group friends who teasingly call her “Mayora” (female Mayor).

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Victory Churches of Asia in the Philippines. Photo credit: Apple Buenaobra-Pre

“This is just who I am,” she had said, not defensively, but with the somber acceptance of a solid fact that cannot be altered.

Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil. - Jeremiah 13:23

Sunday after Sunday and in midweek worship services, she gradually formed the habit of listening to the Word of God, allowing eternal truths to sink deep into her heart, and experiencing the Presence of God in worship.

Soon, people began noticing something different about her. “She has changed,” was a common observation. “She doesn’t seem like the same person,” was another. Whether she had indeed “mellowed down,” became a little bit more patient, no one could put a finger on exactly.

Once, she discovered her maid had been stealing from her for months and, while normally this would have ended up badly, there was not even the slightest hint of outrage on her part. Instead, a solemn reprimand and friendly advice was all it took.

In another instance, she found out a friend had been lying to her and making up stories. Instead of an ugly confrontation as was expected of her, she patiently waited for a chance to help her friend out of her psychological and spiritual bondage.

Gone are the violent bouts with anger and drawn-out thoughts about revenge. She now encourages a lot of her friends to turn to Jesus.

“We really are not capable of changing ourselves,” she would declare to everyone, still with the same air of authority and self-assurance. “Only Jesus can do that”.

Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Jesus can.

 

 

 

 

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Featured

Many of the people whose stories are featured in this blog are not rich, educated, popular, nor influential. From the world’s perspective, they are nobodies. And they are far from being perfect. Yet they have what many of the world’s rich, educated, popular, and powerful could only hope to have — things that are seemingly beyond the grasp of most average normal individuals living in the world today — 

Real peace, lasting joy, healing, genuine love, the power to overcome weakness, fear, and sin….a life of color, meaning, and purpose.

These men and women see beyond the physical and the “normal”. They live in the light of eternity. Despite their frailties, they know they are called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They have an intimate, personal love-relationship with the Creator of the universe.

They are the people of destiny.