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Bethel’s Brian Johnson Gets Real About Anxiety

WHEN FEAR CREPT IN
Brian recalls when fear truly gripped him as a kid. He explains, “The terror started when I was just seven years old. It came fast, unexpected, and out of nowhere.” It was during worship with other kids at church. During their singing Brian recalls, “It was if someone opened a door, letting in a cold draft. A presence filled the room, but this presence wasn’t holy…. It was dark, and I knew immediately it was evil.” He had seen people get set free from demons before at church but for the first time, in his little mind, he wondered if a demon could manifest in him. “It was such a scary thought, and it played over and over in my head. I was losing my grip and sinking under waves of fear,” Brian shares.  His father, Bill Johnson, helped Brian learn to fight when the enemy attacked him with fear. Brian learned to use four weapons to fight his attacks—the name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, the Word of God, and worship. “The terror came and went all the way into my preteen years, there was no rhyme or reason to its coming and going,” he explains, “…when it did, and with my parents help, I was learning how to handle it.”

FINDING PEACE IN THE PANIC
For a while the fear subsided, and Brian thrived in life and ministry. He found his calling when leading worship and writing songs. Then, he met and married Jenn, they started a family, and co-founded Bethel Music together. As the ministry began to grow, the pressure mounted. Brian explains, “I was balancing so many things—the highs of writing and producing new songs, the pressure of building a ministry, the changing team dynamics, our house remodel, raising a family, managing situations that we didn’t have answers for, leading a team of over 100 worship team leaders, and figuring out my role in the middle of it all… Pressure catches up with you, and if you don’t deal with it, eventually, you’ll pop.”

That is exactly what happened to Brian. One day while he was catching lizards with his son—an activity they liked to do together—Brian had his first full-fledged panic attack. “This spiral was unfamiliar, not like the episodes of panic that I’d had through my childhood. This was different.” Brian couldn’t breathe and wasn’t sure if he was having a heart attack. He raced home and his wife called an ambulance. When the EMT’s rolled Brian away, he told his weeping family, “This is when God becomes real.”

At the hospital, they diagnosed his condition as a panic attack. Years of stress that Brian pushed down and unresolved feelings from conflicts that he did his best to avoid, came crashing in that day. Doctors told Brian that he had to cut his schedule down and try to simplify his life. His body was telling him that it was all too much. They put him on anti-anxiety meds. The months that followed were some of the darkest of Brian’s life. For a while, Brian relied on his meds to get him through the day, but he started noticing that they were only masking him symptoms. He knew he needed to deal with the root problems of facing the stuff that he didn’t want to face like conflict resolution and learning to rest. After several months and panic attacks, Brian found that forgiveness, worship and morning devotions were the key to breaking his cycle of fear. God was teaching him the importance of receiving the daily bread that is found in the Lord’s prayer. Brian shares, “He was asking me not to think about the next year, the next month, or even the next day. He’d given me enough grace only for today.”

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Guest Info

Guests
Credits

Author: When God Becomes Real (Bethel Book Publishing, 2019)

Co-founder of Bethel Music w/wife Jenn & Worship U

Lead worship pastor at Bethel

Songwriter producing 15 worship albums like “Victory,” “One Thing Remains”

“One Thing” awarded No. 1 song for ASCAP Christian Music & No. 1 Radio Single 2013

Bill Johnson’s son

Married to Jenn and father to four kids

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