“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1Peter 4:12 )
God tests those he loves with fiery ordeals. They may be outward afflictions, such as war, disease, or abuse; or they may be inner torments. As the psalmist says: “Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind with fire.” (Ps. 26:2) For most people reading this blog, the fiery ordeal is OCD. This is how God tries us, and it undeniably is a fire. When an obsessional fear strikes, there is a sense of desperation—yes, a burning, such that we feel that the most important thing in the world is to do something to address it. So, we do compulsions, and keep on doing them.
Peter says that we should not be surprised by our trials. Fat chance! We are always surprised by our obsessional fears. The same one hits again and again, maybe thousands of times, and we are shocked every time. That’s not normal…except it is normal for OCDers. We are stupendously afraid; and what our inordinate fearfulness exposes is a glaring lack of trust in God’s mercy and his providence. The advice of St. Peter, therefore, is directed especially to us, because we especially need it.
We must learn by the grace of God to not be surprised when a fiery ordeal comes upon us in the form of an obsessional fear. We must realize that, as Saint Peter says, the fear is present only in order prove us and make us stronger in faith. It is part of God’s plan for our salvation and sanctification. Martin Luther tells us in a commentary on this verse,
When faith begins, God does not forsake it; He lays the holy cross on our backs to strengthen us and to make faith powerful in us. God inflicts no glowing fire or heat—cross and suffering, which make you burn—on you for any other purpose than “to prove you,” whether you cling to His Word. God lays a cross on all believers in order that they may taste and prove the power of God—the power which they have taken hold of through faith.
It is only through enduring trials that we “taste” the power of God. Our faith grows through the process of bearing suffering. We learn that God will take care of us. Since our faith is proven through trials, we should neither be surprised nor afraid of them. Obsessional fears are custom designed by God for our good. We should not try to escape from them. If we perform compulsions of any type, we are bypassing God’s plan, a plan for us to grow in faith through tasting the power of his strength and mercy.