“Your life depends upon this book.”
This opening line of Gary Jansen’s, “Life Everlasting: Catholic Devotions and Mysteries for the Everyday Seeker,” is a bold one. But for those of us who have become lost in a sea of stress, fear—and most of all, longing—it is also a true one.
C.S. Lewis, in “Mere Christianity,” wrote that “'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists…If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Lewis was correct; this other world is none other than Heaven, itself.
Since our exit from Eden, humankind has suffered from a God-shaped hole in its collective heart. We’re meant for Heaven, for an intimate, face-to-face relationship with God. We try to fill this hole with money, status, plans, relationships, and more, but it’s not enough. Like a thirsty castaway gulping down seawater, it’s never enough.
Because of this, we wither and hurt. Stress begins to break down our minds and bodies, shortening our lives, stunting our careers, and wrecking our relationships. And in our age of instant information, the constant flow of negative news threatens to sweep us out into a sea of suffering.
But in “Life Everlasting,” Jansen offers readers a spiritual salve he’s prepared over the course of his career as publisher and editor to Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, and a host of other New York Times bestselling authors. Here, he blends modern psychological techniques with ancient Biblical wisdom, creating a series of steps that will help you reconnect with God on a daily basis.
There is a solution to your longing, and “Life Everlasting” can set you on the path to find it through a series of life-affirming Catholic devotions. Here are a few tips from Jansen’s book that will help you learn how to find a bit of Heaven on Earth.
Embrace the Mystery
“Life Everlasting” found its beginning in mystery, in the contemplation of the impossible. Jansen opens his book with a taste of the unexplainable—examples of miraculous healings, divine interventions, and more.
But the contemporary world in which we live spurns such mystery. Rationality has become a sort of tyrant, telling us that the world does, and always will, work a certain way—that there are no miracles, no exceptions to the rules.
But such certainty can blind us. If you take the time to look beyond the thin veil of mundane, day-to-day life, tales of exceptions abound. We live in a world alive with spirituality, and the countless stories of men and women encountering God through the ages are a testament to this.
By focusing on this reality as we enter into our prayers and devotions, we can change our mindset. Belief comes just a little bit easier. Jansen encourages readers to live by the words of John 14: 14, where Christ proclaims that “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
As a Christian, making the conscious, daily choice to believe that you live in a world of miracles and answered prayers, overseen by a loving Creator, brings with it a much-needed change of mindset. It helps us to set aside the material worries which plague us, bringing us closer to the Heaven we yearn for.
Become Honest to God
Complete honesty, while sometimes bearing the sting of a freshly-yanked Band-Aid, can be one of the most freeing experiences of your life. Many studies cite the health benefits of honesty, but truthfulness shouldn’t be limited to our interpersonal relationships—Jansen recommends that we embrace honesty in our prayers, as well.
Jansen writes that our unexpressed fears, self-doubt, and guilt can create a “mental pressure cooker,” leading to a variety of mental and physical ailments. And worse, refusing to be open in prayer puts a wall of unspoken words between us and God, leaving us feeling alone and morose. But making yourself vulnerable before God may very well change your life for the better.
To do this, simply tell God what’s really going on. Do you struggle with a certain sin that makes you feel unworthy of speaking with God? Are you anxious about a million different things, despite His promises? Are you having trouble intellectually believing that God exists at all? Tell Him everything.
Remember that all truth belongs to God, and He will never begrudge you for speaking it. He loves you to a degree you can never imagine, understands you perfectly, and is more forgiving than you think. Being open and honest in your prayers will remove the barriers that exist between you and your Heavenly Father, allowing you to truly enter into a devotional life.
Visualize Your Way to Faith
Your imagination holds the key to powerful, life-saving faith, and one powerful passage in “Life Everlasting” shows us just how to use it for maximum effect.
Here, he recommends a technique known to the psychological world as “visualization.” Visualization involves repeatedly imagining a desired action or outcome. Surprisingly, this has a very real effect on your mind and body. Athletes who visualize the physical act of, say, throwing a football or lifting a weight, actually activate the neurons which control those movements in real life. And when they perform a real throw after a few visualization exercises, they often show marked improvement.
Everyone from CEOs to actors to sports stars use the power of visualization to up their game. As a Christian seeking a better connection with God, you can, too. Jansen uses the example of visualizing the Sacred Heart, imagining Christ’s heart becoming one with your own as you repeat the words, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in thee.”
When you do this, engage all of your imaginary senses. Feel the warmth of Christ’s embrace. Experience the tingle of the air as it is charged with His divinity. Hear His voice as He tells you that He loves you, and that you belong.
Now, with your mind, heart, and senses engaged, pray. It will be an experience unlike any you’ve had before.
A Life of Devotion
These are only a glimpse of the spiritually transformative tools featured in “Life Everlasting.” The remainder of the journey prepares the heart, primes the mind, and proceeds to ease you into a series of powerful Catholic devotions that you can call upon at any time when you need a little spiritual 911.
And in a world where spiritual protection may be all that stands between you and disaster, this might just save your life.