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Throwing a Chair at My Anxiety: Brian Barnett

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
November 3, 2023 5:15 am

Throwing a Chair at My Anxiety: Brian Barnett

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 3, 2023 5:15 am

A miasma of life-upending health issues depended on Brian Barnett—and left a mark. Here's how he's surmounting and healing the anxiety following legit trauma.

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People who are dealing with chronic pain, oftentimes their brain goes into this state of extreme caution and now that even though you're in a safe situation, your brain is still functioning in that way. Welcome to Family Life Today where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today.

Today's an exciting day at Family Life Today. You know why? Yeah, I do know why.

Why? I'm looking across the table. I thought you were going to say because I'm sitting here.

You were looking at me. That's always good. But we've got Shelby Abbott in the studio with us today. And first of all, let me say welcome to Family Life Today.

Thank you. I don't know how many times have you been in the studio? I don't know. I mean, you're in here when we're not in here. I'm not sure. I mean, you've been in here when we're not in here.

Yeah, I record in here sometimes and do a few things for my podcast. And our listeners can't see you, but if they're watching on YouTube, they know you're freezing right now. That's true. Because you're in a t-shirt.

Florida overcompensates with the A.C. It's true. That is definitely the truth around here. Yes, I wore a t-shirt and I'm not an expert like you guys are. I forgot to bring a sweatshirt. Yeah, we should get a blanket for our guests because they don't know.

Especially the ones that are from Philly. Yeah, I don't know how I feel about wearing a blanket inside the studio while we're sitting here talking about stuff. And our listeners have heard Shelby's voice a lot every day. Yeah, probably. Yeah. I mean, you wrap every program.

Yeah, every program now. But you do something else that a lot of our listeners know that you do and some don't called real-life loading. Tell us what that's all about. That is a relatively new podcast from Family Life that launched last September. It's been that long. Yeah, so it's been that long. And really, they brought me on to start this podcast to aim at a new demographic for Family Life, and that is 18 to 28-year-olds. You don't think that's our demographic here, Shelby?

Not quite. You've got a couple of years on it, maybe four or five. But we really wanted to be intentional about reaching the next generation. So the idea really was, you know, what Family Life normally does is land the plane in terms of ministry with marriages and families. Well, the runway needs to be built before the plane can land, and before the runway can be built, the brush needs to be cleared in the field.

So consider real-life loading clearing the brush before we can build the runway to land the plane. So there's a lot of stuff that happens in the life of a person who starts at 18 and ends at 28. So much stuff can happen. So we're trying to address and really hit that age demographic and talk about the real things that impact their life on a daily basis. So that's what we're trying to do.

Yeah, and what's the title? Real-life loading. Real-life loading, dot, dot, dot. And those dots are intentional. They imply that we're in process, that we haven't arrived, that our lives are very much in a state of loading. So like, you know, when you plug your phone into your car, you get that loading and then the dots that come up.

Or when you get a text message and someone's responding to you and you see those three dots, it's happening in real time. It's in process. So that's really what we're going for. Give us a little bit of your background and why this matters to you. Yeah, I've been on staff with Crew for 24 years now, and I did the first 20 years in the campus ministry working directly with college students. And I love working with that target audience.

They are down for whatever all the time. They've got tons of energy. They're willing to be challenged and say, you know, I want to go help change the world. And so I've always loved working with college students for the longest period of time and did seven years of my ministry early on at James Madison University in Virginia.

And then done a number of communications roles, emceeing conferences, speaking, writing. Comedian. I did comedy for four years with the campus ministry, which is not fun, by the way. It sounds like it's fun. It's actually brutal.

Is it hard? Yeah. And I actually just recently got asked to do a stand up gig a couple months ago, and I stupidly said yes. And I went back and tried to write some new stuff, and I didn't bomb.

We'll put it that way. I didn't bomb, but it didn't go the way I wanted it to. So they said they were going to do it again. This church inviting like a bunch of comedians come in. They said they're going to invite me back. So at least I didn't mess up that that much.

If you get invited, you did better than you're saying you did. So we'll talk about today. We get to hear a little bit of a conversation you had with a friend of yours on Real Life Loading. And by the way, you can find that at under our network of podcasts, right?

Yeah. It's right there with the other podcast with Family Life Today and the Blended podcast and all the others that are there. And so today I'm talking, we're going to hear some clips of my conversation with one of my best friends in the whole world. His name's Brian Barnett, and Brian has had a very unique life, has gone through a number of different trials and suffering in his life. We've been in the campus ministry together for a while.

He's in southeast Virginia in the Tidewater area, Virginia Beach, Norfolk area. And he is working with college students there. We've served together on the Ocean City, Maryland summer mission, which is a summer mission for college students over the summer that takes place for 10 weeks for college students. We were on the same staff team, us and our families, for the last five years. So our kids have kind of grown up together.

We've spent tons of time together, and we've really bonded over that. But Brian has gone through a number of different experiences in his life that have given him a unique perspective on what it means to walk with God. And really, when the rubber meets the road, when all else is stripped away, what does it mean to have a robust, thriving relationship with God when things are kind of attached by a string? So that's what we're going to hear about today. So in 2018, I started to have unexplainable health problems, so much so that I was bedridden for two years. So I was experiencing migraines 24-7 through the night, struggling to sleep.

I had blurry vision. And so from 2018 to 2020, I lived most of my life in a bed, which was insane to even think about now, with two little kids, a ministry. I had to go on medical leave.

I felt like I was losing my mind, let alone my body, and at times feeling like I was losing my faith. And it turned out that it was the house that we were living in. We were living in an over 100-year-old house, and we found out that there was a lot of mold in the house.

So when we found that out, we made the hard decision to move out of our house to an apartment. And I thought I would get better, like right away, just being out of that moldy environment. But it led me on a year-and-a-half journey of trying to get healthy, both physically and mentally. Through that year, I started to get better, but I wasn't completely better. I was out of the bed, but I would have like relapses into so much pain every month or so.

And it was very alarming, and I couldn't figure out why this kept happening, even though we were in a safe environment. Yeah, and at the end of that year, you were in Ocean City, Maryland with us on the summer mission staff team, which I've talked about the mission several times on real-life loading. You were good over the summer. You were doing well, feeling healthy, energetic. And once you got back to Virginia, it was like you started to relapse into the same kind of symptoms that you had before, right?

Yeah. When we came back home after Ocean City, within hours, I was sick again. And it was, in some ways, it was the lowest point in our life, because for years, I was bedridden. But we kept pursuing different options, thinking maybe this would help me.

There was hope there, yeah. But when we moved out of the house, completely upheavaled our life, thought we had the solution to then come back, and to be back in the same physical and emotional and mental state, felt worse than even those years of being stuck in the bed. So you ended up seeing your Christian counselor, and he advised you to consider taking an intense, what he called, mental health program called DNRS, which is Dynamic Neural Retraining System.

So tell me what happened in that whole process. Yeah, it's surreal to think about, because it's through a mental health program that has no religious affiliation, but I feel like God used it to supernaturally heal me. And so seeing this counselor was helpful, and he put me onto this course in which it says that people who are dealing with chronic pain, that oftentimes their brain goes into this state of extreme caution. And now that even though you're in a safe situation, your brain is still functioning in that way, and so you need to retrain your brain to send the right messages to my body instead of the negative messages to my body.

Okay, that makes sense. Now, we're not explicitly endorsing DNRS here, even though God used it in your life to heal you, and not everyone gets the physical healing they desire. In fact, I'm living proof of that with my chronic nerve pain that hasn't gone away. But sometimes God does provide healing, so tell me how it worked out for you.

So I started this on a Monday. This is August of 2021, and I was in bed, massive headaches, blurry vision. I had planters fasciitis that was, like, diagnosed. I was wearing braces on my feet, and by the end of the week, I was too nervous to admit it in the moment, but I was completely healed. I didn't wear the braces on my feet. My body was healthy.

Within one week, I had gone back to work after I had spent months of not working, being on medical leave. It was completely surreal. Now, mind you, many people have taken this course, and many people, it takes longer than a week, but for me, it was such a drastic change. And some of the stuff they do is, anytime you have this negative thought that comes into your mind, or anytime, like, for me, anytime I smelled what I perceived to be mold, I would be filled with so much fear that this was going to be the beginning of the end of me just being stuck in bed. So basically, the program says, anytime you have any negative thought, tell yourself to stop, stop, stop, and tell yourself that you need to think about what is true and what is right, which you're seeing a glimpse already to biblical truths. They would talk about your truth, like, speak your truth, and for me, I was like, well, what's the greatest truth I know? It's Scripture.

It's Jesus. So I'm just going to speak the words of Scripture over my life. So I stopped the negative thoughts and then spoke Scripture, and within a week, my life was completely different. Okay, so you decided, after you saw this do such incredible things in your life, and you applied specific Scripture to go along with it, you created a document that's a collection of verses in Scripture that bridges the gap between the program that you went through and the Bible. So talk a little bit about bridging that gap and some of the scripturally-based stuff that connects so well.

Yes, and this is where I'm going to get most excited, shall we? Like, seriously, it blows my mind when I look at these verses in Scripture and what I went through in my life. So Romans 12 talks about, do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind.

So how do I renew my mind? And I looked up verses like 2 Corinthians 10 that says we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion that's raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. When I used to read those verses, I used to always think, like, I'm going to be in a conversation with someone about evangelism and apologetics, and I'm going to, like, capture their thought and be like, you're wrong. But I realized that most of the time, the lies that I'm believing aren't coming from outside, it's coming from within. I then remembered that Satan is described as the father of lies, that Satan most likely is not going to try to do something overtly to tempt you.

Most of the time, he's going to subtly implant lies and disbeliefs and half-truths in your mind. So in light of all of that, so transform my mind, take thoughts captive, make it obedient to Christ, how do I actually do that? And then I remembered Philippians 4, which says, do not be anxious about anything but through prayer, petition, and thanksgiving, present your request to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. So that was helpful, but then the very next verse is even better. You ready for this?

Give it to me. It says, whatever is true, whatever is holy, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is excellent, whatever is commendable, think about those things and the peace of God will be with you. So how do I take my thoughts captive? How do I stop them and make them obedient to Christ? I think about what is true and holy and good and all of these things, which is essentially DNRS. Stop the thoughts, take them captive, and then say what is true. And we know what is true about Jesus, that He loves us, that He cares for us, that we are adopted as sons and daughters.

It's not based on what we do. We are heirs of the King of Kings. Oh my goodness!

Come on! And through that, and trying to remind myself of that every day, the Lord has healed me, and it is amazing. It's incredible, yeah. You are transformed. You're different, not just health-wise, but your perspective on life is different because you're not worrying about stuff. That doesn't mean you don't struggle with worry or anxiety still. You still do struggle with it, but you're not the same person you were two years ago.

You're not. Yeah, and I'm still tempted by worry. I still worry. The difference now is I can notice the worry, I can notice the fear, and then I can actually practice these things by replacing these lies and worries with the truth of God. We've been listening to a segment from Real Life Loading, our podcast here with Family Life under our network of podcasts, and man, just that last part.

With Brian Barnett. Wasn't that inspiring? Oh, we all need to hear that. Yeah.

So we're going to let you go back and hear the rest of this story. So can you give us maybe a few relatable things to practice when we're going through something painful? Like maybe there's a 20-year-old person listening who doesn't necessarily need a program like the one you mentioned, but they are struggling. They're struggling with pain, anxiety, stress, the daily grind of wrestling with life's problems. Start by telling us what to do when life is life.

Yeah. Well, the crazy thing about the program I went through and then this deep dive of Scripture, which I have a list of like 15 verses related to thinking rightly and the promises of God associated with it, I got into all of this to try to get physically better so I could like have my life back. The thing that has really changed is not just my physical health, but my ability to fight against worry and anxiety.

And I know that one of the biggest problems every Gen Z student is dealing with is worry and anxiety. So you don't need to go through this program for worry and anxiety, but you do need to figure out how to use Scripture to fight against worry, to literally take those negative thoughts captive. I will be going about my day, and I have a negative thought, and I will literally tell myself, stop, stop, stop. That is not from the Lord.

Here is what is true of God in light of my situation. Sometimes I'll say it out loud. Sometimes I'll just say it in my mind.

And I'm doing this dozens and dozens of times every day. To me, that's a picture of how we walk in the Spirit, replacing these negative thoughts with what is true from the Spirit. So I would tell a 20-year-old that there is so much grace for you if you are riddled with worry and anxiety.

There is no condemnation at all for your anxiety or worry or doubts or depression. But at the same time, God does want to give you victory in this area. He wants you to grow in the areas of having a renewed mind in the things of Jesus. And He wants you to take steps of faith. For me, that involved counseling. That involved taking care of my physical health and diets.

And of course, it meant knowing Scripture and the Holy Spirit and how to fight against these worries. We can do it. We can do it together.

Let's go. Yeah. Well, I think that's an important thing that you pointed out there at the end, some of the things that you went through. How do you think that a young person can practically let God into the difficult parts of their life so that God can transform and heal them? Are there some other things that you can think about that the young person listening now can do?

Yeah. The first thing that comes to mind is be brutally honest with God about whatever difficulty you're facing, whatever pain you're facing, whatever worries, fears you have. Be brutally honest with God.

And this brings it full circle to the two years that I was in bed. I listened to worship music, which helped me cling to God. But the thing that I did most was I would listen to the Psalms, and it sustained me because I saw how brutally honest they were with God. There were things said in the Psalms about, Where are you, God?

You've abandoned me, God. Things that were said in the Psalms that I thought, If I said this in a church, they would think I was a heretic. But it's in the Psalms, and I realized through reading the Psalms, hearing the Psalms, that one of the best ways for us to come to God with our issues is to be brutally honest. He's not surprised.

He's not upset. So when I was honest with God about my troubles, it's what sustained me. I've talked to you about this verse, right Shelby, about 2 Corinthians 1. This section of scripture helped me survive and helps me survive as I still face trials and tribulations. It's Paul writing, and he says, I don't want you to be unaware of the troubles I experienced in Asia, but I was facing so much trouble that I despaired of life itself. That's not the end, but just right there is so encouraging for me, because I know it sounds weird to be encouraged by that. But I'm so encouraged by it because he was brutally honest. Paul, who wrote half of the New Testament, he said things were so hard, he essentially wanted to die. And he is telling God and he's telling other people this.

So being honest about what we're facing is so important. But then the next verse said, these things happened, these difficulties happened, in order that I would rely more on God and less on myself. Which now, looking back years later, all that I've faced with health and worries and fears, I can say without a doubt that God used that to force me to rely on God. Did I love it in the moment? No. Do I love that I'm closer to God now? A hundred percent.

A hundred percent. I'm really glad that you talked about that, because that is a very practical way for someone who needs some help right now to just basically be able to go, okay, I can do that. I can yell at God.

I can be honest with him. You also mentioned this at the end of when I asked you the last question, you said, let's do it together. What do you feel like community is like when it comes to someone suffering like this or going through pain? Oh man, Scripture is just riddled with this idea over and over again that we should mourn with those who mourn. I think that so many groups of Christians have this perception that we need to have it all together.

Or I have Jesus, everything's fine, which is kind of true, but not really. We need to be honest about the difficulties that we're facing. So I would say find a group of Christians. Find a small group, find a church, find a Christian organization in which you could be brutally honest with other people. Because here's the thing that I found out with being brutally honest. Everyone's dealing with stuff that is difficult in their lives. Everyone's dealing with it. When I was willing to be vulnerable, so many other people opened up and I had no idea that they were facing it. And then we got to live out great biblical community by encouraging one another, praying for one another, mourning for each other.

And it's sustained me and is sustaining me. Well, that's Shelby Abbott and Brian Barnett talking on Real Life Loading. And we've got Shelby sitting in here in our Family Life Today studios. You know, Shelby, as you listen back to that, do you remember your thoughts or how that conversation impacted you?

Yeah, well, not just the conversation. I walked with Brian through that season of his life. I mean, I wasn't with him in Virginia, but when he would have these breaks and come and spend the summers with us in Ocean City and have a little bit of a retreat from all the physical suffering that he was going through, we would unpack a lot of that. And then he would go back to Virginia and he would suffer again. And just really thinking through how I felt in those times of questioning why, you know, why is this going down for him the way that it is?

He's got two young kids. He's trying to be a husband and a father and run a campus ministry. But, you know, one of the things that we talked about in the interview here is that, you know, the Psalms are something that help us understand that we have permission to be able to have a problem with God.

You know what I mean? They give us this permission to kind of—I ran across this quote from a pastor one time that said, The Psalms give us permission to beat on God's chest. And I really felt like, you know, Brian did that.

I was able to do that with him as well. And I'm just thankful that God used this in his life, because Brian was an anxiety sufferer before all of this physical stuff happened in his life. And it's been cool to see how God used the physical sufferings in his life to really purge him of much of his worries and anxieties in life. He really is truly a different person now than he was before.

And God brought him through that to help him come to the other side and see that God is good when things are really hard, and He is good when things are really great. And, you know, like he said, he's not perfect now. He's not like, Oh, everything's great now. I just spent the weekend with him a couple weeks ago. He and his family, we went down to Virginia and spent some time there. I was speaking for his campus ministry, and it's just a joy to be with him.

He truly is one of those guys that when you see him, even though there may have been like two years between when you see him, you just hop right back into it. And we're just like really close despite the time. Yeah, I think even as we listen today, all of us, I think, want maturity. We want character. Very few of us want the process. Yeah, we always want the shortcut, like zap me with character, Lord.

It doesn't happen that way. Well, we would never make the plan to be healed and to get to this place of really knowing and trusting and encountering Jesus. I have to walk through this really hard valley.

And Jesus is in it, but it just feels so lonely. And as you said, it's just hard to understand when we see friends or we're walking through that valley. What do you want listeners to know? As you go through this and have that conversation, what do you hope they walk away with? I hope they walk away with a couple of things is that God can always be trusted despite our circumstances. Why don't we default toward God is good, He is loving, and He's in control in the hard moments as opposed to defaulting to the opposite, which is what we commonly do. When our circumstances get difficult, we usually default to, well, God can't be good or loving or in control. Why don't we default to what is actually true and what the Scriptures say?

I think that will lead us in a lot better places in life, and we'll learn a lot quicker. The suffering may not go away as quick as we want it to, but it will certainly draw us closer to God in those moments. And then secondly, I'd say it is okay to wrestle with God. It is okay to question God. It is okay to wonder aloud why things are happening the way that they are.

I don't think it's okay to stay there for a prolonged period of time, but it's certainly okay to have problems with the way that God is working in your life. You could take that to Him. This is one of those things that I've learned as I've vented to my wife.

She's prickled at that. She's rebelled and kind of pushed away, and I've thought, well, okay, maybe I shouldn't be venting to the people in my life, to my wife, but I can certainly vent to God. I can certainly take that in my life. And when I run to God in those moments, trusting that He's good, that He's in control, and that He loves me, I've actually found that in the arguing with Him, in the wrestling with Him, I am drawn closer into His loving arms.

And so that's always a good place to be. Yeah, and I would add, like Brian said at the end of your conversation, you need to tell somebody besides God. That community that comes around you, because we all struggle, and usually we're quiet, we're silent, we think our brother's not struggling, our sister, yeah, they are. And when you find a community that's like, okay, we can lament together and find God together, find God's healing together, that's a beautiful thing. So if you're struggling today, don't hide it. Tell somebody, start a journey, because that revealing, bringing what's in the dark into the light starts the healing process. Yeah, Christina, He's never meant to be a solo thing.

Even the Lord's Prayer, it's our Father who art in heaven. You know, our Father, it's like collectively, and we in our individualistic society don't often go there. So yeah, get with your people, choose them well, and make sure that those are people that are not only going to throw their arm around you as you suffer, but also guide you in the right direction as their arm is around you. I'm Shelby Abbott, you've been listening to David Ann Wilson with me on Family Life Today. You know, today we got to hear just a few snippets from my Family Life podcast for the upcoming generation called Real Life Loading. You know, on that podcast, we talk about everything in an honest and straightforward way that'll be helpful for young people, relevant to what they talk about, and some light heartedness thrown in there too. So if you know any young person or you have young people in your life, they'd love it if you would help them find Real Life Loading.

You can find a link to the podcast in our show notes today, and you can also just have them search for Real Life Loading wherever they get their podcasts or on social media. I think it'll be really helpful for them and something that'll really challenge them to walk with Jesus as a young person in this crazy culture right now. So earlier this week, we had on Jonathan Pacluta to talk about why I do what I don't want to do. His book talks about replacing the deadly vices that we have in our life with life giving virtues. So the book is called Why Do I Do What I Don't Want to Do, and it's going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially. You could go online to get a copy at and make your donation there, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Or you can feel free to drop us something in the mail, too, if you'd like.

Our address is Family Life 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. You know, I want to ask you to pray for the Weekend to Remember marriage events that are happening starting today going through Sunday. They're ones that are happening in Cleveland, Cedar Rapids, Pittsburgh, and Coeur d'Alene. And there's actually 40 Weekend to Remember events happening across the country and still happening between now and the spring.

There's still time to find a location near you. You can go to and find out all the information about that. And coming up next week, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be joined in the studio by former NFL player Jeff Kemp as he talks about the manhood crisis. That's coming up next week. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-03 07:27:26 / 2023-11-03 07:40:03 / 13

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