I remember sitting in my car, parked at work, crying into my hands asking, “Why is it never enough? Why do they always leave?” It was my 5th failed attempt at a serious relationship, and I had never felt more defeated than I did at that point in my life. “Will it always be like this?” I thought. “Will I literally be forever alone?”
I looked at the steering wheel of my Nissan Rogue and I remembered all the goodbye meet-ups I’d driven to. The drive would always start with the hope of maybe things turning around. Maybe this final goodbye doesn’t have to be final, maybe it could still work out if we gave it another try. But they never did. Each meetup would end with a quiet drive home alone. I was 0 for 5. Depressed, I felt like a part of my heart died with each consecutive failure, and I was running out of what I had left to give.
This time was a little different though. With me in the parking lot, sitting in the passenger seat was my friend Ben. Ben was more than 5 years younger than me. Outspoken and always ready to say what’s on his mind. We couldn’t have been more different. We became friends while preparing for a concert the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) was putting together. He was rapping, I was directing, and we kind of bonded in the trenches of weekly rehearsals.
At this point in our lives, I’d known him for less than two years, but he had already become like a younger brother to me. He lived almost an hour away and was busy climbing up the ranks at his new job. His hours were erratic, his free time was scarce, but when I told him I needed someone to talk to, someone to just listen while I felt sorry for myself, he was there.
“Actively engaging with the people and activities that bring you joy will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
When life gets hard, we tend to lean on others for support. We look to our friends or family for answers and encouragement. But have you ever wondered why? What is it about having someone there, near us, listening and empathizing with our defeats that feels so comforting? Why does it help? And why is it important?
According to experts, “It’s important to lean on the people and into the activities you love when you’re at your emotional lows; actively engaging with the people and activities that bring you joy will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.” We look to our friends during our times of need because they provide us with positive feelings when all we can focus on are the negative ones. They reassure us that everything will be ok, even if at that moment we don’t believe it will.
“I’m done putting myself out there, giving 100%, only to fail every single time. I’m done.”
I turned to Ben and I said to him “I’ll just be single bro. I’m done trying. I’m done putting myself out there, giving 100%, only to fail every single time. I’m done.” He stayed quiet for a while, and I thought it was confirmation that maybe I was right. He eventually said “You’re Kuya Martin” (Kuya means older brother in Filipino). “Stop thinking you’re worthless. There’s always a reason for everything. God has a reason for everything.” That surprised me. He surprised me.
Where did this version of Ben come from? I was the one usually giving him advice, giving him encouragement to have no fear and to put his trust in God. When I met him, he was going through some tough times and I had done my best to be there for him. And here he was now, not only being there for me but showing me that anyone could rise up from rock bottom so long as they had a little faith in themselves, and a lot of faith in God. I couldn’t help but feel proud at how far he’d come, and how valuable our friendship had become to me.
“If you went through, or are going through something like I did, who would you want in that passenger seat? A person, or your phone?”
Friends like Ben are hard to find. The kind who are willing to take the negative from you without judgment, and give you back the positive. The kind who also go through rough times but are willing to learn and grow with you. The kind who you know, in your moment of need, that they’ve got your back. I could count on one hand the people in my life I know would be there for me the way he was that day.
The way he’s always been in our friendship. In a world that is continually shifting towards online connections, it’s getting harder and harder to make actual friendships that matter. You might say, “But I can make substantial connections with people online! They’re my friends too.” Maybe. I’m not discounting them completely, but if you went through, or are going through something like I went through, who would you want in that passenger seat? A person, or your phone?
“I never would have met Ben if I had never volunteered more at the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ)”
So where do we find friends like these? Mental health experts say “Volunteering is a total win-win. If you do it regularly, you’ll meet people who care about the same things you care about. If you don’t meet people, you’ll still use your talents to do something good for the world.” I know for me, I never would have met Ben if I had never volunteered at the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ). Not only was I feeling good and doing good for God, I was meeting people who really impacted me for the better. Every week we’d worship together and then go out to eat, sing karaoke, laugh, and then eat again. And it wasn’t just Ben; I made lasting friendships with so many whom I now consider friends for life.
That moment in the parking lot wouldn’t be the last struggle in my life. It would be followed by many more challenging moments of sadness, inferiority, and depression for myself, Ben, and the others we had forged friendships with along the way. But in every one of those moments, we all grew closer and grew stronger in friendship and in faith.
If you’d like to see loving friendship and fellowship first hand, join us for worship service at any of our many locations around the world. And if you’d like to see how we give back to those in need, sing to the elderly, offer a helping hand to impoverished communities, and show our appreciation to our first responders, all of our volunteer efforts can be found here.
FOR OUR NEXT HEART AND SOUL CONVERSATION…
In our second episode, we spoke with Amanda Santiago and Vince Cadigal. Amanda is Nurse here in Toronto, Canada and Vince is an Analyst for the Navy based in Washington D.C. Both had challenges with self-confidence, fitting in, and finding the right kind of friends.
On our episode, they talked about overcoming debilitating self-criticism, the challenges of starting life over after moving from place to place, and how a prayer for friendship changed everything.