Brian Johnson of Bethel Music wrote of his experiences with anxiety and panic attacks throughout his life, that culminated in his breakthrough in a recent major episode, in this book When God Becomes Real.
Mental health in the church is a huge issue. Every other year, we would hear of a Christian figure who has left the faith, committed suicide, or simply stepped down for a quieter life. Many of us would probably have wondered, what was their inner world like, and how could things have turned out differently?
Johnson’s memoir, When God Becomes Real, gives us an insight into the thoughts and experiences of a Christian leader who continually struggle with panic and anxiety since the age of seven. Better yet, he has written of his support system of friends, family, and practices in his path to freedom from—anxiety—in God (hence the title).
The central focus of his book is on the return of anxiety into his being in the midst of his success, with significant experiences added in between in his childhood for context. He learned from his father how to use praise and worship to overcome such attacks with the presence of God; this time, however, seemed to be different. A variety of factors like stress has been simmering, with his family’s move to Bethel up to the success of their label, Bethel Music, reaching a crescendo in a crash one day. And Johnson now must deal with the root of what is causing this new anxiety that could not seemed to be solved in his usual ways.
Reading this book, you come to realize why the songs Bethel Music has written are so powerful in worship. What can resonate better than from a place of reliance on God in overcoming issues through worship?
If you want to help a friend who is struggling with similar problems and are thinking of getting When God Becomes Real, you might want to pair it with something more practical. This is less a guide for how to deal with such issues, and more a memoir of Brian Johnson’s journey in how he has managed to conquer this with God working in him.