Walking Through Pain

By Brian Johnson Clock Icon 3 min read

Brian Johnson, president and co-founder of Bethel Music, suffered from a 6-month nervous breakdown from which he thought there was no escape. Brian shares his journey as he learned to deal with years of pain and bitterness instead of burying it.


Peter was the disciple who was always first to speak up and have the answers. When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to be crucified, Peter told Jesus he would never fall away, even if he had to die with Him. That same day, Peter denied even knowing Jesus 3 times.

Peter was so confident in his ability, he didn’t acknowledge his own weakness.

He chose to cling to the illusion of his own strength and pride. After Jesus rose from the dead, He met Peter on the seashore in John 21, and instead of shaming him, Jesus called Peter the rock that would build the church. It wasn’t until Peter denied Jesus that he realized it was only by grace that he could carry God’s destiny for him.

We can fully step into ministry when we realize that it is only by the grace of God that we are able to do anything for the Kingdom.

People spend billions of dollars each year on prescribed drugs, and 80% of them are pain medications. We hate pain—physical and emotional. We live in a culture that tells us showing emotion is a weakness, and that we should “man up”. We eventually begin to guard ourselves from feeling and distract ourselves by coping with other things like sports, porn, drugs, alcohol, food and more.

Whether pain is caused by a situation or a person, pain will become bitterness if it goes undealt with.

The first day an animal dies, it doesn’t have a smell, but after a few days, you can smell a dead animal from far away. In the same way, it feels good in the moment to be angry, but anger actually festers inside of you and rots you from the inside out. After a while, bitterness affects your surroundings, and you will start “smelling” further and further out.

I found myself in a nervous breakdown because I didn’t offload my pain to God.

Even if a blade of grass was out of order I would start to have a panic attack. I was taking prescription drugs every day just to cope, and I realized if I don’t figure out what is going on inside of me, I’m going to become a major drug addict. One day God started pointing out things I didn’t even know about, and I started repenting and forgiving. I knew I was given an opportunity like Peter on that shoreline.

The business we are responsible for every day before anything else is our hearts, and finding joy in the Lord.

Everything changed for me when I approached my devotional times with God as building a relationship instead of trying to read as much as I could. I started focusing on God’s daily bread for me by reading slower, and taking in the moment, instead of trying to figure out the future.

No one is meant to handle the weight of unforgiveness and pain. We are supposed to offload pain to Jesus, who says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28). When we finally face pain, fear and bitterness head-on, God is faithful to bringing healing and wholeness into our lives, propelling us into our destinies.

-Brian Johnson