“A Daring Confidence in the Mercy of God”

These are the words used by Celine, sister of the Catholic saint Therese of Lisieux, to describe Therese’s spirituality. I deal with the life of Therese in my book on OCD and Christianity. She had a severe case of OCD, and overcame it through developing an unusual and striking degree of confidence in God. When obsessions hit, she learned to leave everything to God. She turned responsibility for whatever happened over to Jesus. She knew that God was merciful; that was enough. If God allowed the worst to happen, he would have a very good reason. And he would give her the strength to deal with it.

When we are sitting back in a relatively relaxed state, it is rather easy to imagine that when obsessions strike we will leave the outcome to God. It turns out to be much harder than we think. That’s because at the moment an obsession strikes, the probability of bad outcome seems about a hundred times more likely than at other times. And that is why more is required than simply promising ourselves that we will leave everything to God.

What is required is, indeed, a daring confidence in God. “Daring,” according to my dictionary, means: bold or courageous; fearless or intrepid. We must prepare ourselves and energize ourselves to make a fearless leap of faith when an obsession strikes. It will take a great act of courage to resist a compulsion in the face of what looks like impending disaster. To do this, as Therese points out, we must lean on God’s mercy.

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