Jesus’ Four Steps of Spiritual Healing: Repent, Believe, Trust, and Follow

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In today’s culture, the world tells us that each of us is supposed to have what it takes to satisfy our interior sense of emptiness—this hunger for more that we all feel. Those of us who have been blessed with what we call “addiction” (and yes, it is a blessing for those of us who need to experience the lows of addiction in order to finally turn our hearts to the Lord) are invited to embrace our inability to fill this hunger on our own. We in recovery are called to embrace that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable. While we do this by working the Twelve Steps of recovery, we also do so by following Jesus’ four steps to repent, believe, trust, and follow Him.

Step One – Repent

When John the Baptist broke onto the world stage, he came with a message to repent. Those who were hungry to satisfy the emptiness they were experiencing in their lives clamored to hear the message of John and be baptized. And this wound of emptiness is experienced by all of us.

The painful first step of spiritual healing is to accept that our path to satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentment is not up to us beyond our willingness to surrender. As Jesus reminds us like John before Him, we must be willing to repent from our former lives of addiction and sin in order to receive the Lord’s healing, peace, and fulfillment.

Step Two – Believe

Without grace, we might become desperate and despair over our inability to find fulfillment in our lives on our own. However, we must now believe that God loves us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). Step Two of recovery gets at this same idea: “Came to believe in a power greater than ourselves who could restore us to sanity.” Restoring us to sanity is restoring us to fullness

When we contemplate the nature of God, we contemplate a God who is all-powerful, all-loving, all-merciful, all-present, all-knowing, and who desires fellowship with each one of us. But believing that God exists isn’t the same as believing that God truly loves us. The latter is the kind of belief that Jesus wants from us. 

For a long time, I saw myself as innately flawed and only prayed that God would somehow save me from the eternal damnation that I deserved. I merely believed in God. But now I believe that God continues to patiently reveal His love and mercy to me, inviting me to trust that His love and mercy are offered freely. I don’t just believe in God but also in His deep and everlasting love and mercy.

Step Three – Trust

After John the Baptist was martyred, Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus came to give us life to the fullness, to heal those of us who recognize our brokenness. Once we have repented and believed, the path to finding satisfaction for our hunger is to trust. To trust that Jesus will fill our hunger and raise us from the dead in His almighty power. That He has the power to release us from the stronghold sin and addiction can have in our lives. 

Ultimately, coming to realize our salvation, and the fullness that Jesus wants to offer us, has more to do with our trust than our actions. In recovery, the first three steps are often summarized like this: “I can’t. He can. I’ll let Him.” When we grow in trust of the Lord and His desire to heal us, letting Him direct our path, we experience the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Step Four – Follow

Recall Mary’s instruction at the wedding in Cana: “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you.” Recall also the story of the rich man asking Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. After Jesus acknowledges that the man had kept the commandments from his youth, Jesus tells him this: “Come, follow me.”

For Step Four in recovery, we make a fearless moral inventory. Yes, this ought never to be done without bringing our loving, merciful Lord along with us on the journey. Addiction brings with it difficult emotions of shame, regret, guilt, and anger. When we work through Step Four through Step Seven and follow Jesus on our recovery journey, the chains of our negative emotions fall away, leaving us with God’s hope and peace instead. 

As we ponder our journey through the Twelve Steps, we discover that God has been with us from the very beginning. The only reason we were able to take that scary first step was because God first sought us. Because He searches for each of us constantly.

When we choose Jesus’ four steps—to repent, believe, trust, and follow Him—our lives and the lives of those around us are transformed. As we grow in our awareness that we are indeed children of the most high God, we can boldly take these four steps as well as the Twelve Steps of recovery with hope and faith. And when we fall, we can allow Jesus to pick us back up as we continue on our path toward healing, freedom, and recovery.


Jim Gorski is a father of four children who has been married to the same woman for 36 years. He completed his master’s degree in social work in 1984 and has directed church music groups for the past 41 years. He remains a grateful child of the most high God and strives to trust in God’s loving mercy and His ability to provide for Jim’s every need.