As we continue through Lent, Father Dave welcomes Gary Zimak to help us give up one more thing: worry. Gary is a speaker, retreat leader, and author with a focus on anxiety, and his book is called, “Give Up Worry For Lent: 40 Days to Finding Peace in Christ.”
The instruction to let go of worry is seen throughout Scripture, but Gary explains how he struggled with this saying, “I used to ignore it for years…Jesus doesn’t know about my problem.” He explains, “We get attached thinking we’re in control. We don’t like to give that control up, even to God. But when we do it, that’s when peace comes.”
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“Jesus said, ‘Do not worry,’ therefore, it must be possible,” Gary says. “It’s one thing to eliminate fear. We can’t do that, that’s an emotion. But we can choose how we respond to that fear. I always like to point out how Jesus says that your heavenly Father knows that you have material needs, because it’s easy to fall into that way of thinking that, ‘Well, Jesus just handled spiritual stuff, I’ve got money problems, I’ve got real material type problems.’” He cites an example from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, explaining that we can remain strong during life’s storms if our foundation is in Christ.
“I’ve been learning that peace lies in embracing the cross. Fighting the crosses that we get in life? That’s a great way to make yourself even more anxious. So the peace is in following Jesus wherever he leads,” Gary says.
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Father Dave points out one of the daily reflections from the book called “fruitful waiting” that centers on patience. While we wait for answers to prayers, Gary says, “One of the things I like to ask in that situation is, ‘All right, Lord, what do you want me to do? What are you trying to teach me?’ Not necessarily, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
He continues, “I find it more productive to ask, ‘How can I respond to you, Lord? You’re making me wait, there is a reason.’ Rather than just being impatient and worrying [that] he’s never going to answer or he’s not listening. To actively wait, because you know he’s going to answer in some way at the right time. Unfortunately, sometimes his answer is to wait. Or his answer is no, that’s hard. But it comes with trust.”
Gary expands on trust and says, “When I do my [parish] missions and throughout my writing, and I’m working on this every day, I try to make the point that trust is a choice. It’s not a feeling. So I have to choose to trust in Jesus when, I hate to say it, it doesn’t seem like he knows what he’s doing. But I am asked to trust him, and I can do that, whether I’m scared to death or not.”
While Gary shares his personal story and advice, the book notes that he is not giving a medical opinion. Some suffering from anxiety benefit from professional treatment in addition to prayer, and if you or a loved one is ever experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 988. And consult Suicide Prevention Hotline if you are concerned for yourself or another.