More and more people are starting to realise that their spiritual health affects their physical health, and the idea that an illness could have a spiritual cause is becoming more mainstream. If you are struggling with symptoms with no logical physical cause, or if you have come to suspect something ‘funky’ going on, and especially if you have been unable to get relief despite trying many treatments, then maybe it’s time to think outside the box! There is certainly no harm in considering that there may be a spiritual component to your issues, so let’s get into it!
So how can you tell if your illness could have a spiritual component? In this article we’ll explore:
- Identifying when something is purely physical;
- Identifying illnesses with spiritual causes;
- What counts as “spiritual”;
- The interaction of illnesses with both physical and spiritual components; and
- Why it matters.
When it’s purely physical
Superstitions aside, it’s pretty safe to say that if you fell over and broke your leg it was probably just an accident, one of those things that happens.
Some people want to read signs in the stars or the tea leaves warning them that something bad is going to happen, and then interpret every accident or mishap as confirmation.
But chances are it wasn’t a demon that pushed you over or a curse that caused you to fall off the ladder. Unfortunately, accidents happen. (Now if you are very accident prone or your family has constant ‘bad luck’ then maybe something else is at play spiritually, as we’ll discuss below.)
Infections and Slow Healing
If that injury gets infected, then that is probably a purely physical cause too. The same goes for infection due to surgery or poor hygiene. If you go the toilet and rub your eyes before washing your hands, the stye or conjunctivitis you get is not a spiritual problem. If you leave raw chicken out on the bench and don’t wipe that bench properly before you prepare your salad on it, the food poisoning bacteria were not sent by a spiritual entity.
When our bodies clash with the physical world – be it via injury, bacteria or snake bite – we expect them to heal quickly, or at least in the normal time frame as predicted by medicine. It is only if our healing takes much longer than expected or is incomplete that we may begin to wonder if there is something else going on.
Self-Imposed Physical Ailments
If you have been eating poorly, taking medications inappropriately, drinking too much alcohol, getting dehydrated, over-exercising, staying up too late, taking supplements you don’t need or staying out in the sun too long without covering up, then you are going to reap the natural consequences of those poor decisions.
That’s just a fact of life, and while you may still ask God to heal you, and he often will, the problems will not just disappear without you changing your own actions too. There is typically no quick fix for self-caused health problems.
This is why it is important to do a full diet and lifestyle check when pursuing healing.
It is possible for those who are seeking spiritual healing to see prayer or some other spiritual technique as an escape route to avoid making lifestyle changes. You don’t want to be making that mistake.
If you are not treating your body the way God intended, then that is what you need to work on. Of course, if you are struggling with the discipline, energy or motivation to make the physical changes you need to make, then you may need to seek spiritual healing to help remove any barriers to change.
In short, before discarding the potential for a physical cause, you should take a good look at your diet, your lifestyle and habits. Check any medications you take for side effects that may cause your symptoms. See if you really do need your supplements. Ask someone who is close to you for their honest opinion on how you are taking care of yourself.
If that turns up nothing or the issue persists following appropriate changes over time, then there is every chance that your illness may have a spiritual component.
When there is a spiritual component
I am going to say something that many people will think is outrageous.
I am going to say that if you are looking after your body well, and your illness is not caused by an obvious physical cause like those above, then there is highly likely a spiritual component is involved.
But the Doctor Said…
You may feel incredulous at this.
“The doctor said it’s high blood pressure causing my leaky heart valve, not a spiritual problem!”
“But it started when I had this virus!”
“My anxiety is due to a high histamine level, which is due to my mast cell disorder!”
“My headaches are due to blocked sinuses which is due to my pollen allergy!”
These types of scenarios may well be true.
Keep Asking Why
Those surface links do not exclude a spiritual component. All you need to do is to go back through the list of causes and ask yourself or your doctor why each of those causes happened. Even if there is an initial answer, inevitably there hits a point where the “why” becomes unclear.
“So Doc, if my leaky heart valve is caused by my high blood pressure, why is my blood pressure high?”
In most cases, most honest doctors will answer you that they don’t know why. (They may suggest too much salt but you can easily rule this out.)
Ask a doctor why you got a virus then never got over it – they will sometimes come up with a biochemical explanation, but if you ask them why those biochemical things happened, they will usually tell you that they don’t know why.
Ask your allergist why you have pollen allergies and they will tell you that it might be genetic. Asked why your genes are doing this to you when plenty of other people have the same genes and no allergies, and they will say they don’t know why.
When you hit “I Don’t Know”
Modern and alternative medicine both have LOTS of “I don’t knows” in response to our “why?”. And as science progresses and understands the human body even better, we are getting to understand the processes behind more illnesses, but we still have no idea why those processes start off in some people and not in others. I propose that it’s often for spiritual reasons that these processes are triggered.
This suggestion is backed up by the mounting research showing that trauma, grief, bitterness, stress, cynicism and adverse childhood experiences contribute to many different kinds of illnesses, and even to having a rough time during menopause!
What is “spiritual” anyway?
I define ‘spiritual component’ very broadly.
Anything that relates to your mind, thoughts, memories, relationships, sexuality, emotions, imaginations, dreams, beliefs or stresses has a spiritual facet.
The reason I consider these things to be spiritual, rather than just psychological or emotional, is that our spiritual health significantly affects all of these different elements. In return, our thoughts and beliefs also impact our spiritual health – both positively and negatively depending on what we are believing and thinking.
Spiritual health refers to what is going on inside your spirit, with your connection to God and in the interactions, positive or negative, that you have with the spirit world.
If you have a view that God is out to get you, then your entire body will be on edge, producing anxiety, stress, worry, guilt and potentially shame. These emotions then affect your body.
If you believe that you are no good because you once did something bad that you have never told anybody, then your sense of shame and guilt may cause stress and poor digestion.
In addition to these components of yourself that are essentially spiritual, it is also possible to have other spiritual causes going on. Not everyone believes in them, but I personally have seen many cases where curses and evil spirits (some people call them demons) can attack or harass a person’s physical health.
There are a multitude of reasons why this might occur. When it happens, most people don’t recognise it. They simply think they have an illness (or an unwanted emotion or thought) that feels like any other illness. The proof of whether something is spiritual only comes if you deal with it as spiritual and that serves to resolve the problem.
Can illness be both spiritual and physical?
Yes, an illness can be (in fact, often is) both physical and spiritual. Even if an illness has a spiritual ‘trigger’, it will still be triggering physical processes to go awry.
For example, your nausea may have been caused by fear, but the chemicals that register ‘nausea’ in your brain are still being pumped out in the process.
Sometimes the physical process will stop for a time, though the spiritual component is still present. In these cases, the physical symptoms may come and go. You may also experience different, seemingly unrelated symptoms, all caused by the same spiritual problem.
For instance, you may be stressed about something you have to deal with. That stress may cause a headache. The headache might die down after a few hours, but a few days later you get badly constipated. This could well be the same spiritual cause (anxiety/stress/worry), but different physical outcomes.
In that example the spiritual component comes first and influences the physical body, but it can also happen in the reverse.
Sometimes, a physical problem can be a point of weakness where your body later redirects all of its stress and pent up emotions. Everyone can think of that person whose old injury causes them pain when they are too tense, right? This is because an old physical weakness can become a place where we are vulnerable to attack from a spiritual source.
Why is it important to identify if it’s physical or spiritual?
Correct diagnosis results in lasting healing.
Pursuing the wrong type of healing, especially for an extended period of time, can have negative consequences.
Pursuing Spiritual Remedies for a Physical Problem
For instance, if you rely on a spiritual technique to heal a condition caused by a drug you are taking, you are only going to continue to get worse as long as you are taking the drug (unless, of course, in your prayer time you are open to sensing that the problem is not spiritual!)
If you are abusing your body but going to a priest for healing, your own conscience will sabotage any benefit you might get from prayer because you know that the problem is with your personal habits, not with God.
Pursuing Physical Remedies for a Spiritual Problem
In the more common situation, we have people trying through physical means to heal a problem with a spiritual root.
This can result in burdensome dieting, expensive pills and people twisting themselves into a pretzel in the name of getting well, but actually getting nowhere.
Worse than the immediate physical effects of these treatments however, is the psychological distress we can experience if we ‘try everything’ and still get no relief. That can be demoralising, depressing and isolating.
But it Seemed Like it was Working?
Sometimes taking physical action against an illness with spiritual cause does appear to improve an illness.
This happens when we successfully manage to intervene in the physical process that the spiritual cause is triggering. For instance, if anxiety about our identity causes poor digestion, we may be able to take stomach acid support supplements and get our digestion back on track.
While this is perhaps better than simply putting up with symptoms, it’s not ideal because it usually involves long term dependence on the physical support, rather than true freedom from the condition.
Even if it did result in long term resolution, if the spiritual cause is unresolved it will rear its ugly head again to cause a new problem in the future.
When you don’t really know
If you don’t know whether your cause is spiritual or physical, do a personal habits check. If there are no red flags with regards your diet, lifestyle, exercise, hygiene, home environment (mould etc), chemical use, medications or supplements, then you can probably assume that there is at least some spiritual component.
Remember, you shouldn’t need to avoid healthy foods, go on a highly restricted diet, exercise excessively or stress about a glass of wine every now and then in order to be healthy.
If you are looking after yourself well but are sick despite that, then your problem is certainly not purely physical.
Of course, it is a good idea to also seek the opinion of a qualified healthcare practitioner to determine if there is anything physical that can be safely addressed, but you can do this at the same time as pursuing spiritual healing. Addressing a problem as spiritual is only harmful if you do it in place of needed healthcare, or if it is done inappropriately.
Where’s the proof?
I am not the only one who sees the spiritual roots of various health problems.
Modern psychology and science are catching up to the idea that spiritual problems can cause health problems, especially mental health problems. Here are a few articles to demonstrate this:
For those who believe that the Bible or the Jewish scriptures are the word of God, there is a lot of discussion about the spiritual roots of ill health there as well.
The Bible teaches that emotions and experiences can influence our health:
Proverbs 12:18 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
It also teaches that God heals:
Exodus 15:26 “For I am the LORD who heals you.”
It specifically teaches that serving and submitting to God brings healing.
Obedience to God will logically bring healing, because the commands of God are really a list of things that make humans thrive if they do them.
Exodus 23:25 “So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take away sickness from among you.”
Conversely, it also teaches that sin, which is failure to live up to God’s moral standard, can cause sickness:
James 5:14-16 “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
1 Corinthians 11:30 “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against thebody and blood of the Lord. …..For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”
The Bible also clearly teaches that illnesses can be caused by evil spirits:
Luke 13:11: “and a woman there had been disabled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was hunched over and could not stand up straight.”
Do you think that your illness might have spiritual causes?
The good news is that there is help! God provides a solution to all spiritually-caused sicknesses, and the ‘how to’ of his way of healing is outlined in the Bible. I have very many stories of seeing friends, family, myself and clients healed through addressing illnesses as spiritual, and see the power of God heal very often.
Sometimes, stopping our search for a physical cure and seeking the spiritual root is the beginning of a journey to true health and freedom. If you are feeling frustrated with your health, if no one seems to have the answer, if your condition is inexplicable or if you’ve tried everything and nothing works, then maybe it’s time to open your mind and consider that maybe, just maybe, you are dealing with a spiritually-caused problem.