In public, J.P. Moreland is best known for battling in the arena of Christian apologetics. But privately, he has waged a personal struggle against occasionally debilitating mental illness. The longtime Biola University philosophy professor opens up about this side of his life in Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace. Eric L. Johnson, director of the Gideon Institute of Christian Psychology and Counseling at Houston Baptist University, spoke with Moreland about the spiritual and psychological lessons he’s learned.
Finding Quiet is centered on the story of your journey of recovery from anxiety and depression. Tell us some of that story.
I was born into a family with a genetic predisposition, on my mother’s side, toward an anxiety disorder. I went through life with periods of anxiety, but in 2004, following my most stressful year as a professor, I had a complete nervous breakdown, complete with daily panic attacks and irrational fears. I was afraid when the phone rang, afraid to check my email. This lasted seven months, before therapy, medication, and other measures helped me regain stability. Then, ten years later, the same thing happened. By fall I was unable to teach my classes because I was completely dysfunctional. I couldn’t even let my grandchildren visit because it was too much stimulation.
After recovering once more, I began reading everything I could about dealing with anxiety, along with many books about spiritual formation. From this, I learned that anxiety was largely a habit—though of course not entirely a habit. So I began practicing habit-forming disciplines to help reprogram my brain, heart, and nervous systems, as well as my soul. It changed ...1