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“The Lord was always…trying to get my attention, but for some reason, I just ignored Him.” So recalls author and speaker Gary Zimak about his younger years, when he struggled with chronic worry. Despite being a cradle Catholic who attended Mass every week, he felt determined to make it through on his own, never asking God for help. “He just wasn’t real enough to me,” admits Gary. Certain experiences changed that, however, leading Gary to a deeper relationship with God—and a greater sense of happiness. He shares some of the wisdom he’s learned in his book “Journey with God: Finding Peace and Happiness,” and we discussed it recently on “Christopher Closeup.”
Gary dedicates “Journey with God” to his parents, who planted the seeds of faith in him that took a long time to flourish. For years, he attended Mass simply out of obligation, calling on God only in times of crisis. But then, Gary would go back to ignoring God when the problems got resolved. That changed in the 1970s, when a friend invited Gary to a Charismatic Renewal prayer meeting.
“I went kicking and screaming,” said Gary. “Then I got in there. I was used to doing things the way we do it at Mass each week. [But here], people were praising the Lord, and they had their Bibles with them, and they were hugging me. [I thought], ‘Whoa, these people are weird…but they’re happy. They have something that I want.’ I kept going back…and I started to realize, ‘God is real, and He’s bigger than my problems. And He loves me. Maybe I should ask Him for help.’ That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. It’s something I’m still working on. Unfortunately, the problems that we face every day, they’re visible. He’s invisible. So there’s a bit of a learning curve involved.”
Though it might seem counterintuitive, accepting our crosses in life can lead us to happiness. Gary acknowledges that this is a paradox and makes no sense in worldly terms. However, we create a lot of stress when we fight against them, so instead we should ask God to bear the burden with us. Another key to happiness is service to other people. Often, we may get sidetracked in nurturing our relationship with God by trying to make some big gesture. But true happiness is found—and spread—in simple, daily acts of loving. Sometimes it involves handing out donuts in church. Other times, it’s about helping your spouse with the dishes instead of reading your prayer book. We need to pay attention to our surroundings and circumstances and ask, “How does God want me to love Him today?”
Helping other people isn’t easy, however, when those people are annoying. Gary admits he struggles with this himself. The trick, he says, is asking the Holy Spirit for help: “I want to be able to look at people who drive me crazy and see them the way Jesus sees them. Part of it has to do also with His patience with me…For years, He waited for me. Yet I get impatient with other people. But I think this is an ongoing process…I’m a big believer in the sacrament of Confession. The grace I receive in Confession helps me to get better at this because, yes, people do drive me crazy sometimes. It’s easier to spend time with the Lord alone, but what are the two greatest commandments? Love God and love others. That’s what He wants.”
For free copies of the Christopher News Note ASKING FOR HELP IS A SIGN OF STRENGTH, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org