Bruce and I have been close friends for over a decade.

My journey with Bruce’s struggle with depression and anxiety started around 2010. We had just completed our National Service and came to a crossroad of our lives. Most of our friends were preparing to enter university. Bruce, on the other hand, felt a constant flurry of anxiety and a lack of direction.

“Bro, I don’t know why God puts me in this position,” he began while we were catching up at the hawker centre near our church.

“What do you mean, bro?” I asked.

“Others seem to have such a smooth life. Studies, work, relationships… whereas I have nothing going right for me. I don’t know what to do with my life, and I’m afraid of making mistakes. I’m constantly worried about how others would perceive me,” he explained.

With each setback that Bruce faced, I observed how he would ruminate on the situations that reinforced his perceived identity as a failure.

Whenever we had our “heart-to-heart” talks (HTHTs), our conversations centred mainly on both our struggles and encouragement for one another. In that season, we were both serving as youth leaders in church, and we were accountable to one another and our leaders. Having these HTHTs was our way of supporting and sharpening one another (Proverbs 27:17).

2012 was the breaking point for Bruce. That year, he was studying in a local university but decided to transfer to another university for another course he deemed more suitable. As Bruce did not meet one of the course requirements, he had to take a bridging course. However, he failed the exam of the bridging course and that was when the downward spiral started.

“I’m such a failure,” Bruce lamented.

Being the eldest child in the family, Bruce felt heavily pressured to financially support his elderly parents. As he was not able to study the course he wanted, he decided to work instead to make ends meet. Moreover, what contributed to his sense of self-loathing was the rejection he faced when he pursued a romantic interest in church.

With each setback that Bruce faced, I observed how he would ruminate on the situations that reinforced his perceived identity as a failure.

The word “ruminate” is derived from the Latin word ruminari, which is used to describe chewing cud. A cow grinds up, swallows, regurgitates and then re-chews its food.

Similarly, I observed how Bruce mulled on his issues at great length during our HTHT sessions. I could only be his listening ear.

While chewing may ease a cow’s digestion, it did the opposite for Bruce’s mental health. By 2013, his mental health had deteriorated. His negative narrative soon turned into suicidal ones and he shared that he struggled with suicidal thoughts daily. He wanted to end the pain once and for all, and entertained thoughts of jumping off a HDB block.

However, he was also keenly aware that if he did not die, he would be in a worse state of being alive while suffering emotionally. He also confided in me that he had contemplated the thought of using a weapon during his reservist to end his life.

All this while, I found myself increasingly burdened and exhausted after listening to his sharing. Only on hindsight did I realise it was because I was dealing with his wounds all on my own strength.

At one point, I tried to re-invite him back into our church’s young adults’ community so that more of our friends could share his burdens.

However, it was not long before he isolated himself from the community, in fear that others would perceive him negatively. On these occasions, he would express feelings of hopelessness and helplessness despite countless reassurances.

“Paul, God is unfair to me. I have been dealt with a bad hand in my life!” Bruce snapped.

I sat there with a heavy heart, uncertain about the right words to say. This was not the first time I had heard him lash out with these words. All I could do was simply to listen and offer a word of prayer.

God is unfair to me. I have been dealt with a bad hand in my life!

I remembered several occasions when I broke down in tears, broken and frustrated at how my brother could not see beyond the negativity. It was during times like these that I turned desperately to Jesus and cried out for help. I knew I could not do this on my own. I prayed on multiple nights for God’s mercy and grace to be upon my brother who was hurting inside.


It is never easy to care for someone deeply enough to tell them that they require professional psychiatric support. Bruce feared the stigma. He feared that seeking professional help would be a stumbling block to his future, such as the difficulty in finding jobs in the future or for someone to accept him for who he is.

I was somewhat familiar with the stigma given that my major was in psychology then. By God’s grace and with some gentle prompting, Bruce sought professional help. He knew that he did not want to go on living like this. Thinking that we had overcome the greatest hurdle, I was proven to be so wrong. The journey itself proved to be more challenging than I had expected.

Bruce’s mother tried to understand what depression was in her own ways, but one statement affected Bruce greatly: “Oh, just don’t think about these negative thoughts. You just need to snap out of it!” she advised.

During church services, my friends and I would encourage him to seek healing from God. He visited his uncle’s church and during one of the healing services, the same message was repeated in both churches: “Believe, and you will be healed!”

Over time, I saw Bruce questioning those closest around him, even me as his brother: “Bro, I believe and I want to be healed! But why am I still not healed of my depression? Why do I feel that God is unjust? Why do non-Christians appear to have a better life than I do?

“Does God not love me?”

Bruce shared that being told by church friends and leaders that he needed more faith – that he would just need to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – was very damaging to him. Being advised to “pray it away” was most unhelpful to him. He started to doubt that God was listening to his prayers. He felt he was cursed and short-changed.

Being depressed was as if Bruce was wearing a pair of apocalyptic glasses where his situation appeared futile and pointless to him. To Bruce, God was indifferent and distant, caring for others and not him. God’s promises that would bring hope and life were bleak and dead to Bruce.

Being told by church friends and leaders that he needed more faith – that he would just need to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – was very damaging to him.

On the exterior, Bruce would try to look his best to keep it all in order. He would go to work normally and would take a half-day leave each month to see a psychiatrist. His bosses and colleagues did not pry, which he appreciated.

In church, he shared with a small group of us as he did not know how others might view his situation. Bruce did attempt to share with others he trusted, but he reflected that many did not know how to react after he shared what he was going through.

He admitted that despite his calm appearance, he felt he was dying inside. It was almost as if despite the privacy he was given, he yearned for others to understand what he was going through. No doubt, the overwhelming negative feelings he had were real. I could only pray that Jesus would reveal Himself to Bruce and comfort him during his darkest moments.


Over the years, I continued to journey with Bruce. I had also embarked on my career as a psychologist. In 2015, Bruce received an academic award for his studies, and I was especially proud of him! I thanked God for His grace upon Bruce. He had come a long way since 2012. Identifying his strengths and celebrating small milestones was our way of encouraging him.

It was moments like this that reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12:26, that “if one part (of the body of Christ) suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it”.

Though Bruce was coping better with his battle with depression and anxiety symptoms, I sensed his growing bitterness and resentment towards God and with some church members.

Though it pains me that he has recently left the faith (at the point of writing), I still pray for him regularly and hold on to the verses from Romans 8:38-39.

The Apostle Paul does not say that we are immune from trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. However, he does say that in the midst of all these things, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Whether you’re a church member, friend, family member or a spouse, you may be wondering how to care for someone you love. In that question lies the answer – that you love them. Loving Bruce meant being present for him. Sometimes, all it took was being silent and listening, especially when it felt like he was not responding to that support.

Bruce would confide that advice-giving was not helpful at all. The worst was when someone did not listen and pretended to “understand” him. What he appreciated was a safe space to share of his experiences in his own dark tunnel.

There are many more in my church whom I know are struggling with their self-worth and battling with mental health issues. It has been many years of struggling, but it has only brought me closer to God and deepened my friendship with Bruce.

Bruce, when Christ returns, I know your tears will be wiped away and you will be restored. For now, please know that you are loved, you are held and you will be sustained.

This story was first published in Good News for Bruised Reeds – Mental Health & The Gospel Community and has been republished with permission. The book is the second volume in the Good News for Bruised Reeds Series under Micah Singapore and GraceworksThe author has requested for only his first name to be published.