By Tony Rossi
Sleepless nights. Stomach problems. Panic attacks that required a trip to the emergency room. Those were just a few of the symptoms experienced by Catholic author, speaker, and radio host Gary Zimak. The reason? He had been a chronic worrier since childhood, and the problem wasn’t getting any better. During an interview with me on The Christophers’ radio show, he recalled that this had been going on since he was six or seven years old.
Gary was a cradle Catholic who went to Mass every week, but he admits his prayer life was “pretty lukewarm.” In times of turmoil, he would ask God for help. But when things got better temporarily, he would forget about God again.
Eventually, the medical issues got so bad that Gary said to God, “From now on, I’m going to take you and our relationship seriously.” And this time, he meant it: “I got to know Jesus on a personal level, and started feeling all kinds of peace...[I take] one day at a time, with God’s help.”
Gary shares his anxiety issues in his book “Stop Worrying and Start Living” in order to help other worriers like himself. Among his sources of inspiration are biblical figures, such as Abraham. He explained, “Abraham was asked to do something frightening. The Lord said, ‘I need you to follow me and leave your homeland.’ And Abraham did it. He didn’t have any concrete proof, and he didn’t have a game plan. The Lord just said, ‘Follow Me.’”
Another way that Gary learned to deal with worry is by taking himself less seriously, which means “we cut God out of the picture, and start feeling like this is all up to me.”
In addition, Gary has written another book called “Find a Real Friend in Jesus,” to help readers develop a close relationship with the savior.
For instance, “We have the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Sometimes we get so used to the routine that we don’t take it a step further and say, ‘I’m receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, but am I really doing my part to be His friend?’ Friendship has to go both ways.”
The first step in building that friendship, says Gary, is to simply tell Jesus, “Lord, tell me what I can do to get to know you better.” Reading Scripture is another important step because it’s “one of the best ways to listen to the Lord. Start by reading the daily Mass Readings or the Gospels...Make some quiet time for Him and say, ‘Lord, speak to me and let me know You’re there.’ You’re going to hear Him speak in the silence of your heart.”
Also crucial, love your neighbor. “We can sit in church all day long, but if we get out of church and we’re not being kind or charitable, we’re going to be in for a rude awakening when we’re judged.”
In a nutshell, Gary advises people to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. It’s the best way to stop worrying, start living, and nurture your friendship with Jesus.
Tony Rossi is executive director of communications for The Christophers.