The Passion City Church pastor's latest book is all about fighting the giants in your own life.
If a church member wants to talk to Passion City Church pastor Louie Giglio about anxiety or depression, Giglio isn't just a sympathetic listener. He speaks from experience.
The author and founder of the Passion Movement, which brings together young adults looking to grow and strengthen their faith, went through a debilitating struggle that began several years ago.
“I literally woke up in a panic thinking I was going to die at 2 o'clock in the morning,” Giglio tells Guideposts.org. That moment sent him on a months-long downward spiral into depression, fear, and darkness.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
“Spiritually I was out of whack,” Giglio recalls. “Mentally, for sure, I probably had something close to a nervous breakdown. I didn't leave the house most days for a long, long time. I had to seek medical help. I sought spiritual help. I cried out to God. It was a very, very dark season of life.”
Giglio’s been open about his mental health journey, most recently in his book, The Comeback, but in his new book, Goliath Must Fall, the pastor sought to use his own struggles to help others and bust some misconceptions about anxiety and depression in the church.
“I keep wanting to unpack that because so many people are struggling with it,” he explains. “I'm a pastor and there are people in our church here and in others that I run into almost every day who are frozen with anxiety. I'm talking about middle school kids and nine year olds and business professionals and CEOs and moms. It's not just one slice of life.”
For Giglio, learning to manage his anxiety is still an ongoing lesson in faith, trust, and acceptance.
“You have to start over again and I needed to start all over again, my brain needed to start all over again, my nervous system had to reboot again and all that took time,” Giglio says. “Almost six months time, but when you go through something like that it marks you. I don't struggle every day with anxiety, but I am marked by what I went through and it's still relevant to me every single day.
His new book doesn't offer a quick fix.
"I'm not telling people , ‘Just do this simple little spiritual formula and poof, you're going to forget about all your troubles.’ If you've been through the fire of divorce or the fire of addiction or the fire of anger or the fire of great loss or abuse, you're going to be marked by that, but what I'm trying to encourage people in is that doesn't have to define you and it doesn't have to define your outlook on life.”
Goliath Must Fall takes lessons from one of the most well-known stories in the Bible and applies them to every-day life, but first, he re-teaches the story of David and Goliath.
“The problem is that most of us know that in and of our own strength, we can't defeat these giants that are in our lives,” Giglio says. “Ask anyone who's struggled with rejection or struggled with anger or struggled with fear, anxiety, or depression. A lot of people have been around the block dozens of times trying to makes changes, but yet the giant is still there. The beauty in the book is that we're not David in the story of David and Goliath. From our perspective, Jesus is the giant slayer in the story. Jesus is David in the story of David and Goliath and He takes down the giants on our behalf and so we just learn to walk in what He's already done for us.”
To really face your giants, Giglio says you have to dig deep into what’s causing you pain, fear, or anxiety.
“Anxiety isn't a thing. It's the symptom of a thing and so we have to go a little deeper and ask a question, ‘What is making me anxious?’” he explains. “I gave too much credit just to anxiety. What was happening was something or someone was making me anxious and so I try to help and encourage people to go one step further, to go beneath the surface to ask, ‘What is it that I'm afraid of? Who is it that I'm afraid of? What was said that I wish I could now mange the way it was said?’ I was trying to manage every outcome and I was trying to watch over my shoulder all the time.”
The book outlines steps for preparing for the big battles in your own life, even the invisible ones. Giglio says plenty of people aren’t struggling with depression and anxiety like he was, but they might be unknowingly fighting a trickier problem.
“One of the giants we talked about in the book is the giant of comfort and I think for a normal person floating through life, they're like, ‘Comfort's a good thing. I'm trying to make my life as comfortable as I can,’ but for believers who think that there's something greater than this present life, comfort isn't always the best thing,” Giglio explains. “We're looking to make our lives count. We're looking to make a difference in the world. We're looking to serve and help people and no one who's ever done that in the world has had a comfortable life.”