A Letter from Pastor Shawn Johnson
We recently polled the people in our church and asked them what they were struggling with most in life. Unsurprisingly, anxiety and depression were at the top of the list. The CDC
currently says that 50 percent of all Americans will struggle with some form of mental illness (such as anxiety or depression) in their lifetimes. This means just about every single person in
our churches either deals with this stuff themselves or loves somebody who does. That’s why I believe it is time for the church to start addressing anxiety, depression, and mental health. But if you are anything like me, you probably don’t feel equipped to do so.
I have personally struggled with anxiety and depression for more than twenty years. And three years ago, I hit rock bottom. I’d been trying to hide my anxiety and cover up my depression for so long because I was feeling so much shame for being a pastor who struggled with these issues. But eventually, it got to a point where I couldn’t hide it anymore and had to face it head
on. One of the best pieces of advice I received during that time was from another pastor who told me it was time to stop blaming myself and it was time to start fighting back. It reminded me of Galatians 5:1 where Paul tells us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Jesus died so that we can be set free, but then he tells us to stand up and learn how to live free. If we want to experience freedom in the here and now, we must learn to fight!
That pastor’s advice began a journey for me that ended up looking like hundreds and hundreds of hours of counseling, therapy, pastoral care, and time spent in the Word. What I have learned is we don’t just have to deal with depression and be attacked by anxiety, but—through the powerful name of Jesus and the spiritual weapons God has given us—we can attack back. And we can help those in our churches do the very same thing. When we do, we will start to experience levels of peace, joy, and freedom that we never thought possible.
Attacking Anxiety is my attempt to equip every single one of us to fight. The book starts with the three truths we have to know before we even begin. Then I talk about the things we have to
start doing to enter into the battle, and then I talk about some things we’re going to have to stop doing if we want to win the battle. Then the book ends with some things we all have to
remember along the way, especially on the hard days. Plus, there is an appendix, “The Panic Attack Survival Guide” where I give you five things you can do if you are in the middle of a panic attack, and five things you can do for a loved one if they are having one.
I can’t wait to share this with you, and I hope this resource is an incredible blessing to you, your family, and your church.
God bless you,
Pastor Shawn Johnson
Are you looking to start a conversation within your congregation about mental health issues? I’ve shared some tools that I created to go with my book that pastors can use, including my sermon notes, a discussion guide and some scripture cards to use with Attacking Anxiety, download them for FREE here.