Man in darkness looking out at light

I Found Christ. Then Came the Darkest Season of My Life

Written by Jensen, Philippines


It was like a scene in a romantic comedy—but not the feel-good part.

Picture the camera set across the street from a cafe with a brownstone exterior and a glass-panelled wooden door. It opens and two people walk out. They face each other for a brief moment and exchange a few words, which are almost too quiet to hear. Then they each turn back and slowly start to walk in the opposite direction.

I remember the day vividly from that perspective, which is weird because I was one of the two people walking away from each other. I remember thinking how dramatic it all was, even as I was processing what had just happened: we had just broken up, for good.

It’s got the bones of a familiar tale, especially for church folks. Boy meets girl; they fall for each other; a fundamental faith issue drives a serious wedge through their budding relationship.

In this story, I was the unbeliever, and she, the conflicted Christian caught between her heart and her faith.

But by the time we broke up, I had already been a Christian for a year. I had finally come to believe in Jesus as my Saviour after years of agnosticism and searching for answers. God had done His work in me. I was saved. What went wrong?


Starting things at the wrong time

Rationally, I knew the answer; we had talked about it many times over the years. Even at the start of our friendship-turning-into-something-more, she was already hesitant because of this core conflict.

In the Filipino church community, you’ll sometimes hear the word “evangeligaw”, a combination of evangelism and “ligaw”, the Tagalog word for courtship. It’s typically said in jest, but points to the serious pitfalls that occur when a believer and a non-believer start a relationship. It can turn into one person trying to convert the other, which isn’t a solid foundation for a relationship, and often results in frustration and eventually, a reckoning.

When we met, I was an agnostic seeking answers. Because of the baggage of “evangeligaw”, I tried my best to separate my spiritual search from our growing relationship, which is quite impossible to do when you’re starting to share the intimate parts of yourself with another person.

Even as our connection deepened, the doubt about my motivations never really went away. Over time, it became difficult for the relationship to progress further, especially to the point of introducing each other to our family and friends. It all boiled down to my faith—whether it was independent of her.

The fact is, she did play a key part in my faith journey. God did use her early on to nudge me towards the church that I would attend on-and-off over the years—where I would hear God calling out to me, and where I would eventually answer His call of salvation. She was someone I had serious spiritual conversations with, and someone I shared important milestones with, like the first time I really felt God’s presence while worshipping (the congregation was singing Calling All Sinners, which to this day remains one of my favourite songs).

While God’s call was all very real and true to me, neither she nor her family and community could be absolutely sure that my faith was genuinely just between me and God. And they could never be sure if we chose to continue in this relationship that began long before I came to the faith.


Keeping the faith against all odds

I sank into a deep depression after the breakup. I was also not doing well at work, and so could not find harbour in that aspect of my life. Those days were a blur. The only thing I remembered was the heaviness that muted all I experienced, an overwhelming sense of greyness to everything. Against that dreary backdrop, two memories stand out.

One was my discipleship group friend and a pastor at church reaching out to me. We met for lunch near my office. It was the first time I had really shared with anyone the depression I was going through. I remember thinking my meal was bland. I also remember appreciating how they just listened and empathised with what I was sharing.

Afterwards, my pastor shared a book with me—which I will admit, I never actually read. However, the title, Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy, has stayed with me until today.

The other memory was a moment of introspection—a realisation of time passing and what my depression journey had comprised.

It was December of the same year, roughly five or six months since the break-up. I was at the usual Friday night Bible study with my discipleship group when I was struck with the thought that for whatever reason, I was still regularly attending our weekly studies, even though I had grown more insular and preferred solitude in general. Of course most weeks I wasn’t an active participant, preferring to keep my reflections to myself. But my life group mates didn’t mind. They respected the distance I had created when I was in a deep funk and listened without judgement when I did choose to talk.

That night was a turning point—not that anything major happened, but somehow, I began to see His grace in my life breaking through those dark clouds. God had kept me close to Him through my church community, despite my obliviousness to it. Even though I was aimlessly drifting through life, He kept me bonded with my life group and kept me fed with His Word even in my bleakest periods. He did not allow me to lose my way.


He who holds the reins held me fast

I found a short note I’d written around that time, and it still resonates with me today. Here’s an excerpt:

This morning’s message resonated with me—it was about the “Violence of Grace”, how grace often comes in uncomfortable forms. Forms that may not gel with the plan you envision for your life. And that’s quite jarring, especially to someone who’s always had an independent streak.

But it’s true. I can certainly hope that my plans go well, but more often than not they go “awry”. I put that in quotes, because while from my perspective, my plans seem to have gone off the rails- in reality, it’s Him who holds the reins.

I still find it painful to acknowledge that. Because there is a very human bitterness in having all this will and agency for steering your own fate in the world, and in the end, realising your will has been subsumed by forces over which you have no dominion. And yet. . . there is also a peace in that. . . in knowing that the one whose plans are definitive is the God in whom you can put your full trust.

Years later, I stumbled on a psalm that really encapsulated the grace I experienced:

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs His love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:7-8)

I often reflect on the fact that it was only after I became a Christian that I encountered the darkest season of my life. Yet it meant I was able to cling to God in a way I could never have done before, depending on Him to be the God of my life, by day and by night.

I’ve since moved forward from the deep depression of those days, by the grace of God. Even as I’m still learning to trust Him more, I have personally experienced the depth of His love for me in the darkest valleys, and it carries me through more days than I can count.

As for that romantic comedy bit? It actually does get to a feel-good moment and a longed-for reunion, but that’s a story for another day.

1 reply
  1. Shaine
    Shaine says:

    Thank you for sharing this po! As a teenager, this is a great advice for me. Since everyone romanticise relationships I get really tempted to have one even they’re unbelievers, what you said about it not being the solid foundation of relationships is so true. God must be the center and His grace and love must be the foundation of all our relationships. Filipino rin po ako hehe. ☺️


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