When was the last time you had a cold? Or the flu? You probably woke up coughing, achy, and wishing that you could stay in bed for the rest of forever. Maybe you went to the doctor, called in sick to work, and camped out on the couch watching movies, or maybe you dragged yourself to work anyway until your body couldn’t take any more of real life.
We’ve all been there. It’s no fun getting sick, but after a few days of extra rest and medicine, you recover and dive back into normal life.
There’s another kind of sickness we all experience at some point in our lives – spiritual sickness. Spiritual sickness is an internal pain or suffering that holds you back, injures you (and maybe the people around you), and leaves you wondering if there’s hope for you.
Again, we’ve all been there. Spiritual sickness can be more taxing and frustrating than the flu. But remember this: There is always hope for recovery. You can be cured of spiritual sickness, and here are five steps to help you along the way.
Step 1: Go to Our Healer
When you have the flu or strep throat or whatever, you go to the doctor. When you’re spiritually sick, your doctor is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Healer.
Often, when we’re spiritually sick, we don’t want to admit it. We like to think that it will pass, that there isn’t anything wrong, but the fact is we can’t recover from spiritual sickness alone. It’s actually not possible.
Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane, and He died for us. He is the most qualified being to help us through our spiritual sickness because:
…he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.Alma 7:12
Jesus Christ is our Healer because He voluntarily took our “infirmities” upon Himself. Not just our sins – everything we experience, every pain we feel, every heartache, guilt, and loss – He chose to feel it all so that He could know exactly how we feel in every moment of our lives. Christ’s suffering brought Him close to us.
As Elder Holland describes it:
It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “None Were With Him,” April 2009
Our Savior knows exactly how to help us. So when we are spiritually sick, we need to go to Him, show Him our suffering, and let Him reach out a pierced hand in loving aid.
Step 2: Diagnose the Illness
Once you know what kind of sickness you are suffering from, it’s easy to know how to care for yourself so you can get better.
Spiritual sickness can come in many forms, and with Christ’s help, we can identify what kind of spiritual sickness we are facing. Some common types of spiritual sickness are:
- Guilt – Recognizing that we have done wrong
- Bitterness – Holding on to pain or injury unnecessarily
- Loss – Losing a loved one or something relied on
- Hopelessness – Nothing left to believe in
- Anger – Looking for someone to blame
- Fear – Unwilling to take necessary risks
- Apathy – Unmotivated or don’t care
- Distraction – Lack of focus on priorities
- Rebellion – Fighting tradition or dependence
Many other feelings can indicate spiritual sickness, but these common types of spiritual sickness are ones we all face throughout our lives. Knowing how to face them not only helps us heal, but can help others heal as well.
When we go to Christ, He will show us which sickness we are facing or, if we are facing several, He will point us to the one that needs more immediate help.
Step 3: Accept Treatment
Each type of spiritual sickness has a different process for healing because Christ tailors the process to the individual. One person’s battle with loss is not like another’s. Christ knows our individual needs, and He gives us that personalized treatment.
But, like Step 1, Step 3 requires a choice on our part. We have to choose to accept the treatment/process needed to heal us.
This seems like an easy choice. If you want to heal, you accept the treatment. End of story.
But treatment for spiritual sickness isn’t as simple as popping a pill once a day for a week. Instead, it requires us to take action, obey God, and go through some painful growth. Christ will be there right beside us all along the way, but it can be scary or seemingly unpleasant to accept a treatment that requires so much effort.
Often that treatment will include things like repentance, forgiveness, sacrifice, and service. These are acts of progress. We may not enjoy them initially, but the long-term result of this kind of treatment/growth will bring us more joy and healing than we ever expect.
Step 4: Focus Forward
Because of how challenging it can be to accept the necessary treatment, Step 4 goes right along with Step 3. Treatment for spiritual sickness can be long and challenging.
But if we focus forward, we can remember our goals and the coming results. We’ll also be able to see Christ leading us through the process. We do our best in the present when we can see that Christ has prepared a future ahead of us.
Satan battles us all along our healing process, but this may be the point when he has the most success. Focusing forward is what you do during the healing process, and the process may be longer and harder than we ever expected. So Satan will start hitting us with distractions and discouragement to break us down and get us to give up.
Whatever Satan throws at you, keep focusing forward. Remember the story of Peter walking on water to the Savior – the moment he looked sideways at the waves, he began to sink. But while he looked forward at Christ, he stayed above the surface. And as long as we look to Christ, we won’t drown in Satan’s attacks.
Step 5: Have a Grateful Heart
When you recover from a cold, you stop taking cold medicine, but when you heal spiritually you need to continue through this process of turning to Christ and growing with His help.
One of the best ways to maintain our treatment and recovery is to have a grateful heart. This is more than saying “thank you.” Instead, it’s the desire to serve others the way Christ has served you. It’s looking at the world with optimism and trusting that Christ will lead you to become the person you have the potential to be.
Gratitude, as a way of life, changes us deeply. Our desires and tendencies shift closer to Christ, and it becomes easier to accept His will and follow Him.
Spiritual healing is possible. We don’t have to be spiritually sick all the time. But remember this:
These steps aren’t so much a checklist as stair steps; they build on each other, and you can’t reach the second step if Step 1 is nonexistent. And if you have to circle back to Step 1 over and over before you finally reach Step 5 – that’s okay.
When it comes down to it, the order of the steps and how many times you walk the same steps doesn’t matter. What does matter is walking the steps at all. And as you do, Jesus Christ will walk those steps with you and take you further than you’ve ever gone before.
Trust Him. He loves you and knows exactly how to help you. And be kind to yourself. Healing isn’t an overnight process. Take the time you need to recover properly and completely. Christ won’t give up on you whether the process takes two weeks or twenty years, so don’t give up on yourself either.