Spiritual influenza is treatable

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- Almost everyone has been sick with it -- influenza, a.k.a. the flu. There are remarkable parallels, though, between this medical illness and the "spiritual illness" that can also afflict us.
   First, consider the symptoms of both of these diseases. In the case of the flu, it can bring on headaches, muscle aches and overall weakness. As for spiritual illness, it can result in heartaches, as well as an overall weakness of the soul.
   Second, the flu can become serious, even deadly. For example, the infamous 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic killed at least 500,000 Americans -- more than were slain in all of America's 20th century wars. Spiritual illness, however, can cripple a person's morale and lead to a loss of the will to live -- even to suicide.
   Third, the flu is highly contagious, and can infect many others. The Spanish Flu, in fact, slew entire army units overseas and wiped out whole towns at home. An individual's spiritual illness can eventually affect many others, too, including his family, friends and colleagues.
   Fourth, the most stricken victims of the flu tend to be the very young, the very old and those in poor health. The Spanish Flu, nevertheless, often spared no one. Spiritual illness, likewise, can strike anyone.
   Fifth, like the common cold, there still appears to be no absolute cure for the flu; it simply has to run its course. The Spanish Flu finally faded away, as did the notorious outbreaks of the Asian Flu (1957) and Hong Kong Flu (1968). Fortunately, spiritual illness can be treated readily by good spiritual health -- including a renewed purpose in life, a strengthened set of personal values, and a right relationship with one's God and others.
   Sixth, flu prevention should be a priority. We need to maintain a good immune system via a proper diet, rest, and exercise. In addition, it is no surprise that an annual inoculation is not only recommended, but is also required for Air Force members. As for spiritual illness, it can be held at bay through a recommended diet of faith, prayer, reflection, fellowship, service and study in one's belief system.
   Seventh, an annual check-up is a good step toward establishing good health to combat the flu. On the spiritual side, all of us would do well to regularly evaluate where and how we stand regarding our God and others. Your chaplain stands ready to assist you with this.