St. John of Kronstadt on Physical and Spiritual Sickness
If it falls to you to have to bear great misfortunes, sorrows, and sicknesses, do not grow faint-hearted or despondent; do not murmur; do not desire death for yourself; and do not speak audaciously before the all-seeing God — as, for instance: "O, what a cruel affliction! " "O, what an unbearable misfortune; let me rather die!" or "I would rather kill myself!" God save you from such faint-heartedness, murmuring, and audacity! But endure all this courageously, as having been sent to you from God for your sins; repeat with the wise malefactor, "We receive the due reward of our deeds," and contemplate with your mental eyes the Saviour suffering on the cross.
You are ill, and your illness is very painful; you have become low-spirited and despondent; you are troubled and tossed with thoughts, each darker than the other; your heart and your lips are ready to murmur, to blaspheme God! My brother! listen to my sincere advice. Bear your illness bravely, and do not merely not despond, but on the contrary, rejoice, if you can, in your illness. You would ask me what there is for you to rejoice at when you are racked all over with pain? Rejoice that the Lord has sent you this temporary chastisement in order to cleanse your soul from sins. " For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth."  Rejoice in the fact that now you are not gratifying those passions which you would have gratified had you been in good health; rejoice that you are bearing the cross of sickness, and that therefore you are treading the narrow and sorrowful way leading to the kingdom of heaven. Maladies in our eyes only appear painful, unpleasant, and terrible. It is seldom that any one of us during the time of sickness represents to himself the profit which his illness brings to his soul; but in God's all wise and most merciful Providence, not a single malady remains without some profit to our soul. Sicknesses in the hands of Providence are the same as bitter medicines for our soul, curing its passions, its bad habits and inclinations. Not a single malady sent to us shall return void. Therefore, we must keep in view the utility of sicknesses, in order that we may bear them more easily and more calmly. "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin,"  says the Holy Scripture.
When your spirit is dejected during sickness, and begins to represent to you the terrors of death, then tranquilize and comfort your troubled, trembling, and sorrowful heart by the following words: "Thou, O Lord, in the depths of Thy wisdom and love to men, orderest everything and givest unto all everything that is profitable for them," and believe that He will unfailingly order everything for your good, whether it be life, sickness, misfortune, sorrow, or death, so that you could not even desire better. Do not say: "It is early for me to die. I would have wished to live a little longer for the glory of God for the advantage of my relatives and neighbours. I should have liked to look a little longer upon the world, to enjoy earthly blessings." Be thankful to God for having enjoyed up till now His blessings, favours, and bounties. Now submit to His will, to His call, but at the same time do not despair of the continuation of your earthly life.
If a human physician can sometimes bring back to life a half-dead person by means of the knowledge of his profession, and skilful, well-directed action upon the cause of the illness, cannot, therefore, the Creator of physicians and of the science of healing cure, at His single wish and word, every illness? Cannot the Creator even raise the dead at His single word? Let us render glory to Him, we of little faith, and let us say to Him from our hearts: "All things are possible unto Thee, Lord, and nothing is impossible to Thee. Amen."
By striking our bodily structure with sickness, the Lord crushes the old, sinful, carnal man, in order to give strength to the new man, whom we have weakened by the works of the flesh: gluttony, slothfulness, amusements, and manifold sinful attachments and passions. "For when I am weak, then am I strong."  Therefore, we must accept every malady with gratitude.
When you are asked to pray that someone may be saved from bodily death, for instance, from drowning, from death through any sickness, from fire, or from any other disaster, commend the faith of those who ask you to do so, and say in yourself: Blessed be your faith, according to your faith may the Lord fulfill my unworthy, feeble prayer, and may He increase my faith.
When the Lord strikes you with sore affliction or sickness, or misfortune, then be assured that He will also truly send you consolation, and will afterwards bestow upon you the grace of peace, strength, and joy corresponding to your previous sufferings. For "the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide, neither will He keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities."
All sorrows, sicknesses, torments, deprivations, are allowed by God in order to drive out the enticement of sin, and to implant true virtue in the heart, that we may learn by experience the falsehood, insolence, tyranny, and deadliness of sin, and may be inspired with a loathing for it; also that we may learn by experience the truth of meekness, wisdom, of gently ruling the hearts of men, and of the life-giving properties of virtue. Therefore, I will bear all afflictions courageously, with gratitude to the Lord, the Physician of our souls, our Most-loving Saviour.
You ask the Lord that you may love Him with a love, strong as death, or until death. Suppose, now, that the Lord sends you a terrible inward disease that may bring you nigh unto death itself. Do not, then, murmur against the Lord, but bear it bravely, thanking the Lord for His fatherly visitation, and this will show that what you call your love for God is strong as death. And during the most violent fits or spasms of your illness trust in God, that He has the power to save you, not only from suffering, but even from death itself, should it please Him to do so. Do not spare, do not cherish your perishable body, but give it up willingly and wholly to the Lord, as Abraham gave his son Isaac as an holocaust, to the will of the Lord Who punishes you — not losing faith in God's goodness, not growing despondent, not foolishly accusing God of injustice for so severely chastising you — and you will thus offer a great sacrifice unto God, like Abraham or like the martyrs.
In sickness and, in general, during bodily infirmity, as well as in affliction, a man cannot in the beginning burn with faith and love for God, because in affliction and sickness the heart aches, whilst faith and love require a sound heart, a calm heart. This is why we must not very much grieve if during sickness and affliction we cannot believe in God, love Him, and pray to Him fervently as we ought to. Everything has its proper time.
I marvel at the greatness and life-giving properties of the Holy Sacrament. An old woman who was spitting blood, and who had lost all strength, being unable to eat anything, after the Communion of the Holy Sacrament, which I administered to her, began to recover on the same day from her illness. A young girl who was almost dying, after the Communion of the Holy Sacrament began to recover on the same day from her illness; began to eat, drink, and speak; whilst before this she was almost in a state of unconsciousness, violently tossed about, and could neither eat nor drink anything. Glory to Thy life-giving and terrible Mysteries, O Lord!
When you are granted recovery from any illness, render thanks to God in the following short form of praise: — Glory to Thee, Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the everlasting Father, Who alone art able to heal all manner of sickness and disease in men, that Thou hast had mercy upon me, a sinner, and hast delivered me from my sickness, not allowing it to develop and slay me according to my sins. Grant to me, from this time forth, Master, strength to firmly fulfil Thy will, to the salvation of my accursed soul, and to Thy glory, and that of Thy everlasting Father, and of Thy consubstantial Spirit, both now and for ever, and to ages of ages. Amen.
When your flesh suffers through maladies, remember that it is the greatest enemy of your salvation that suffers, that is weakened by these sufferings, and bear them bravely in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who for our sakes endured the cross and suffered death; also, remember that all our maladies are God's punishment for sins; they cleanse us, they reconcile us with God and lead us back to His love. Grant us "Thy peace," it is said, "and Thy love, as Thou hast granted us all things." Remember, that during your illness the Lord Himself is with you ("I am with him in trouble"); that it has proceeded from a sign of the Master, punishing us as a father. You who believe in the time of your welfare, see that you do not fall away from God in the time of misfortune, but, like the martyrs, be constant in faith, hope, and love.
"Make us glad according to the days wherein Thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil."  The merciful Lord, having punished us, forgives us afterwards by His temporal and eternal mercy. Sometimes a sick person suffers a long while from his malady, as from a wicked tyrant; but during this malady his soul is purified like gold; he obtains the freedom of God's children, and is deemed worthy of eternal peace and blessedness.
Do not despond in the time of violent temptations, afflictions, or sicknesses, or at obstacles arising from the disturbance of the enemy; all this is the reproof and chastisement of the righteous Lord, Who trieth the hearts and reins, for your cleansing, arousing, and correction, for burning out the thorns of carnal passions. And therefore do not complain if you sometimes suffer greatly. Do not think of the suffering, but of the blessed consequences of this chastisement, and the health of the soul. What would you not do for the health of your body? Still more must you bear everything for the health and salvation of your soul, which has eternal life.
It is never so difficult to say from the heart, "Thy Will be done, Father," as when we are in sore affliction or grievous sickness, and especially when we are subjected to the injustice of men, or the assaults and wiles of the enemy. It is also difficult to say from the heart "Thy Will be done" when we ourselves were the cause of some misfortune, for then we think that it is not God's Will, but our own will, that has placed us in such a position, although nothing can happen without the Will of God. In general, it is difficult to sincerely believe that it is the Will of God that we should suffer, when the heart knows both by faith and experience that God is our blessedness; and therefore it is difficult to say in misfortune, "Thy Will be done." We think, "Is it possible that this is the Will of God? Why does God torment us? Why are others quiet and happy? What have we done? Will there be an end to our torments? " And so on. But when it is difficult for our corrupt nature to acknowledge the Will of God over us, that Will of God without which nothing happens, and to humbly submit to it, then is the very time for us to humbly submit to this Will, and to offer to the Lord our most precious sacrifice — that is, heartfelt devotion to Him, not only in the time of ease and happiness, but also in suffering and misfortune; it is then that we must submit our vain erring wisdom to the perfect Wisdom of God, for our thoughts are as far from the thoughts of God "as the heavens are higher than the earth."
Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it: where there is no struggle, there is no virtue; where there are no temptations for faithfulness and love, it is uncertain whether there is really any faithfulness and love for the Lord. Our faith, trust, and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow, and privations.
Lord, how shall I glorify Thee? How shall I praise Thee for Thy power, for the miracles of healing by means of Thy Holy Mysteries, manifested upon me and many of Thy servants, to whom I, an unworthy one, have administered these Thy holy, heavenly, life-giving Mysteries after the sacrament of penitence. They confess before me Thy power, Thy goodness, loudly proclaiming to all that Thou hast stretched out Thy wonderworking hand over them and raised them up from the bed of sickness, from their death-bed, when no one expected that they would live; and then, after the communion of Thy life-giving Body and Blood, they soon revived, were healed, and felt upon them at the very same hour and day Thy life-giving Hand. And I, Lord, the witness of Thy deeds, have not hitherto praised Thee in the hearing of all for the strengthening of the faith of Thy servants, and even do not know how and when to praise Thee, for every day I am occupied with some kind of work. Create Thyself a name, Lord, as Thou hast done; glorify Thyself, Thy name, Thy Mysteries.
When you pray, say in your heart, against the various thoughts and provocations that come from the enemy: " The Lord is everything to me." Likewise, during all your life, when passions attack you, and during every oppression of the enemy, and during sickness, afflictions, misfortunes, and disasters, say: "The Lord is everything to me; I myself can do nothing — cannot bear anything, cannot surmount, conquer anything — He is my strength."
A certain person who was sick unto death from inflammation of the bowels for nine days, without having obtained the slightest relief from medical aid, as soon as he had communicated of the Holy Sacrament, upon the morning of the ninth day, regained his health, and rose from his bed of sickness in the evening of the same day. He received the Holy Communion with firm faith. I prayed to the Lord to cure him. "Lord," said I, "heal Thy servant of his sickness. He is worthy, therefore grant him this. He loves Thy priests, and sends them his gifts." I also prayed for him in church before the altar of the Lord, at the Liturgy, during the prayer: "Thou Who hast given us grace at this time, with one accord to make our common supplication unto Thee," and before the most Holy Mysteries themselves. I prayed in the following words: "Lord, our life! It is as easy for Thee to cure every malady as it is for me to think of healing. It is as easy for Thee to raise every man from the dead as it is for me to think of the possibility of the resurrection from the dead. Cure, then, Thy servant Basil of his cruel malady, and do not let him die; do not let his wife and children be given up to weeping." And the Lord graciously heard, and had mercy upon him, although he was within a hair's-breadth of death. Glory to Thine omnipotence and mercy, that Thou, Lord, hast vouchsafed to hear me!
I recognise, I feel clearly, that I receive help through the names of those saints upon whom I have called, because of my lively faith in them. This happens just as everything happens in the usual order of earthly things. First, I see my helpers by means of earnest faith; then, seeing them, I pray to them also with my whole heart, invisibly but intelligibly to myself; after this, having received invisible help in quite an imperceptible manner, but sensibly to my soul, I simultaneously receive a strong conviction that this help has been obtained from them, just as a sick man, cured by a doctor, is convinced that he has been cured precisely by that doctor, and not by anyone else; that his illness has passed away not by itself, but through the help of this particular doctor. All this comes to pass so simply that it is only necessary to have eyes in order to see.
As quickly as the pleasure of eating and drinking passes away in those sitting at table dining, for instance, so quickly shall pass, and passes away the present life, with all its pleasures, joys, sorrows, and sickness. It is like morning dew, vanishing at the appearance of the sun. Therefore the Christian, who is called to a heavenly country, who is only a stranger and a sojourner upon earth, ought not attach his heart to anything earthly, but should cling to God alone, the Source of life, our resurrection, and the Life eternal.
Give yourself up entirely to God's providence, to the Lord's Will, and do not grieve at losing anything material, nor in general at the loss of visible things; do not rejoice at gain, but let your only and constant joy be to win the Lord Himself. Trust entirely in Him: He knows how to lead you safely through this present life, and to bring you to Himself — into His eternal Kingdom. From want of trust in God's providence many and great afflictions proceed: despondency, murmurings, envy... We, as Christians, as "fellow citizens with the Saints and of the household of God,"  ought to commit all our life, together with all its sorrows, sicknesses, griefs, joys, scarcities and abundance unto Christ our God.
Always remember that your neighbour, whoever he may be, if he is a Christian, is a member of Christ, though he may be a sick one, but then you yourself are also sick, and you must always receive him with respect and love, converse with him heartily, entertain him, and not grudge him anything: neither food, drink, clothes, books, nor money, if he has need of them. The Lord will reward you for him. We are all His children, and He is — everything to us. We are all sinners, and "the wages of sin are — misfortunes, troubles, sorrow and sickness, and — "death."  In order to be saved from sin, we must pray; and in order to pray, we must have faith and hope. Thus for us sinners, prayer, faith and hope, are most necessary. Prayer ought not to cease coming from the mental, and even from the outward lips of a sinner.
You know that eternal life in God is promised you, that you must earn it by obedience to God and His Church during this transitory life, by patience in sickness, sorrows, misfortunes and various privations — and yet you do not wish to obey the Creator, you live in carelessness and neglect of your souls, in neglect of virtue, in continual sin! What can you expect after this, ungrateful, evil-natured, and disobedient creatures? My soul, think and direct all your earthly life to the glory of God and the good of your neighbour. Do not gratify flesh and blood, but seek to please your Lord; for flesh and — blood are — perishable like all earthly things.
Be especially meek and patient in sickness and in other various unfavourable circumstances; for, spoiled by health, plenty, happiness, and peace, we are then particularly apt to become irritable. Happy are those of us who do not passionately attach themselves to anything, for they are not bound by avarice.
Ought not the Christian who looks for eternal peace and joy in heaven to courageously and joyfully bear all sorrows, labour, sicknesses and injustices, all sufferings, all unpleasantnesses? In truth he ought. Otherwise, what would be the meaning of future rest and peace? What peace and rest shall there be for him who has already had peace and rest here, without enduring anything? Where would God's justice be? " We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." 
Bear with humble submission to the will of God every sorrow, every sickness and infirmity, every labour, every offence and disappointment, saying: "Thy Will be done,"  knowing that God's mercy orders everything for your good, and that the Lord can easily change every disappointment into happiness and joy.
Health and the belly, these are the two idols — especially with men of the present age, of whom I myself, a great sinner, am one — for which we live, and which we continually serve, even to the neglect of the duties of our Christian calling — for instance, to the neglect of the reading of the Word of God, which is sweeter than honey and honey-comb; to the neglect of prayer, that sweetest converse with God, and of the preaching of the Word of God. To walk a great deal for health, and to incite the appetite, to eat with appetite — such are the objects of the desires and aspirations of many of us. But through our frequent walks, through our fondness for food and drink, we shall find that one thing has been neglected, and another irrevocably missed, whilst others have not even entered into our minds; for can the time after a good dinner or supper be really a good time for any serious work! Even if we would like to occupy ourselves with work, the belly, full of food and drink, draws us away from it, and constrains us to rest, so that we begin to slumber over our work. What sort of work can it be? Indeed, there is nothing left, if it is after dinner, but to lie down and rest, and if it is after supper, after having prayed somehow or other (for a satiated man cannot even pray as he should), to go to bed and sleep — the miserable consequence of an overloaded stomach — until the next morning. And in the morning there is another sacrifice to your belly ready in the shape of a dainty breakfast. You get up, pray, of course not with your whole heart — since with our whole heart we can only eat and drink, walk, read novels, go to theatres, dance at evening parties, dress elegantly — and thus you pray, out of habit, carelessly, to save appearances, only as a form, without the essence of the prayer, without lively faith, without power, without any fervour in your petitions, praises, and thanks to the Lord God for His uncountable mercies, and then you hurry again to food and drink. At last, when you have eaten and drunk so much that now, scarcely able to move, you are ready to begin work, if it really is work, and not rather inactivity — such, for instance, as trading with some worldly vanities, accompanied by an abundance of swearing, lying, and cheating. In such or a similar way, with many and many of us, our present life passes away, and our days consume in vanity,  whilst we care little for that which is the most important matter on earth — the salvation of our soul. Thus our life is spent mainly in the worship of two brittle idols — health and the belly — and then dress; so much so that many, by worshipping fashion, sacrifice even their health and food, thus going to the other extreme. Furthermore, people worship money, this great god, the Jupiter of our age; for the sake of this idol many sacrifice their health, spending sleepless nights for its sake, swearing falsely for it, violating the laws of friendship for it, becoming cold to their relatives through it, all with the one purpose of accumulating as much money as they possibly can. There are money-lovers who, if it were possible, would turn everything into money, and would live by it, like Judas Iscariot, who wished to turn into money even the precious ointment with which the pious woman who loved her Lord with her whole soul anointed His feet, and then wiped them with her hair. Christian! it is not for your health, belly, dress, and money that you must care; you must strive after love for God and your neighbour, for these are God's two greatest commandments. " He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him." 
During the life of the Christian there are hours of inconsolable sorrow and sickness, when it seems that the Lord has completely abandoned and forsaken him, for there is not the least feeling of God's presence in the soul. Such hours are the hours of the temptation of the faith, hope, love, and patience of the Christian. "But better times shall soon come for him, and He shall send Jesus Christ, Which before was preached unto you."  Soon the Lord will again rejoice him, so let him not fall under temptation.
God tries the various sinful attachments of our hearts in different ways: one, the miserly, He tries by the loss of his money or his property, or a part of it, allowing thieves to steal, or brigands to rob him; another by fire, or inundation; another by useless expenditure through unsuccessful business affairs; another by illness and expenses for medicines and doctors connected with the illness; another by the loss of wife, sister, or friend; another by dishonour. He tries all in different ways, in order to disclose to each the weak diseased parts of his heart, and to teach each one to correct himself. In many a sword shall pierce through their own soul that the thoughts of their hearts may be revealed.  Therefore, whatever loss may have occurred to your property, believe that it is the will of God, and say: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." 
It was through the eating of the forbidden fruit in Paradise that mankind acquired the cruel sickness of the soul, attachment to this transitory life, to earthly blessings and pleasures, that most destructive division of the heart between God and the world, between good and evil.
It is a remarkable phenomenon in nature that, if you put a plant into a large, wide pot or tub, it grows very much at the roots; they thicken, they give out many ramifications, but the tree itself does not grow much in height, and only yields few and small leaves and flowers. But if it is planted in a small pot, then the roots are small, but the plant itself grows rapidly in height and yields beautiful leaves and flowers (if it is the nature of the plant to produce flowers). Is it not the same with man? When he lives in full liberty, in abundance and prosperity, then he grows in body and does not grow in spirit, does not bring forth fruits — good works; whilst when he lives in straightness, in poverty, sickness, misfortune, and afflictions, in a word, when his animal nature is crushed, then he grows spiritually, bears flowers of virtue, ripens and brings forth rich fruits. This is why the path of those who love God is a narrow one.
I myself am nothing, but by the grace of the priesthood, by bestowing upon others the Divine Body and Blood, I become the second or third means of healing sicknesses. Through me the grace of the Spirit gives new life to infants and grown persons;
What is holiness? Freedom from every sin and the fulness of every virtue. This freedom from sin and this virtuous life are only attained by a few zealous persons, and that not suddenly, but gradually, by prolonged and manifold sorrows, sicknesses, and labours, by fasting, vigilance, prayer, and that not by their own strength, but by the grace of Christ.
Do not confound man — that image of God — with the wickedness that is in him, because the wickedness is only accidental, his misfortune, sickness, an illusion of the Devil; but his being — the image of God — still remains in him.
If the carnal man is at ease and happy, the spiritual one feels oppressed; if the outward man flourishes, the inward one perishes. So opposite in us are the old, sinful, carnal man and the man renewed by Christ's grace; this is why the Apostle said, "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."  And we often experience this ourselves. Therefore the true Christian ought to long for outward, carnal, worldly sufferings, for they strengthen his spirit. He must not even think of murmuring. How can he murmur at that which is profitable to his immortal soul, although the means by which this is attained are very repugnant to his carnal man? Illnesses, fires, robbery, poverty, misfortunes, wars, famine, often act beneficially upon the soul.
One meets with distorted hearts in some men. At the celebration of the sacraments they breathe unbelief and insensibility, moral impotency or mockery, disturbance, and diabolical fear! During the illness of those near to them one is also struck by their insensibility and even diabolical malignancy. They consider their sick brother as superfluous in the world, and inwardly think "There will be more room for me if he dies," not reflecting that every man — and they themselves — may perhaps die to-morrow, and not pitying the sufferer in their hearts as their own member.
As God is Life, and diseases and maladies are a deviation from life, therefore the touch alone of the first Source of Life cures us of them. This is why the Saviour, Who is the Life of all, cured and still cures men by His touch alone. The same may be said of the change in any contagious objects — at a single sign or single word of the Creator and Founder of everything, they become harmless (air, water, plants and animals).
When your faith in the Lord, either during your life and prosperity, or in the time of sickness and at the moment of quitting this life, grows weak, grows dim from worldly vanity or through illness, and from the terrors and darkness of death, then look with the mental eyes of your heart upon the companies of our forefathers, the patriarchs, prophets, and righteous ones — St. Simeon, who took the Lord up in his arms, Job, Anna the Prophetess, and others; the Apostles, prelates, venerable Fathers, martyrs, the disinterested, the righteous, and all the saints. See how, both during their earthly life and at the time of their departure from this life, they unceasingly looked to God and died in the hope of the resurrection and of the life eternal, and strive to imitate them. These living examples, which are so numerous, are capable to strengthen the wavering faith of every Christian in the Lord and in the future life. Those Christian communions who do not venerate the saints and do not call upon them in prayer lose much in piety and in Christian hope. They deprive themselves of the great strengthening of their faith by the examples of men like unto themselves.
 Job i. 21.
 St. Luke ii. 35.
 Job i. 32.
 Psalm ciii. 8-10.
 Isaiah lv. 8, 9.
 Psalm xci. 15.
 2 Corinthians xii. 10.
 Psalm xc. 15.
 Hebrews xii. 6.
 St. Luke xxiii. 41.
 Acts xiv. 22.
 St. Matthew vi. 10; St. Luke xi. 2.
 Psalm lxxviii. 33.
 1 John iv. 16.
 Acts iii. 20.
Excerpts compiled from: My Life in Christ or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God, St. John of Kronstadt. (source)