Saint Paul talks about the new man and the old man in his New Testament letters. The concepts are very helpful for OCD sufferers—especially the way Martin Luther develops them. According to Luther, fear represents the “the cross of the old man,” who is tormented by uncertainty about his fate. The New Man, on the other hand, rests in peace, because trusts the Lord to take care of him. Take note OCDers—the old man is where we live most all the time; the new man is who we want to become. As the Great Reformer puts it,

God deals strangely with His children. He blesses them with contradictory and disharmonious things. And these two things, direct opposites by nature, must be in us… The old man must fear, despair, and perish; the new man must hope, be raised up, and stand.

According to Luther, life is a continual process of being raised up into the new man. God is in charge of the process. We don’t have to do anything—becoming the new man just happens to us, because that is God’s plan for us. “Our outer nature is wasting away, while our inner nature is being renewed every day.” God plans and executes the process in order to shape us into the people he wants us to be. As Paul says in Romans, “All things work for the good.” The good is to become the new man, the person who has faith and doesn’t fear.

If we grasp that this process is at work, our attitude changes towards our obsessions. When we know that God is working in and through our OCD for our good, then we are led to trust God with our fears. And that’s the main thing the Lord wants: He wants us to have faith in him.

One other thing: Right behavior follows from right belief. Therefore, if we are trusting in the Lord, we do not feel the need to perform compulsions in order to counteract our fears. We’re fine with God’s plan. We let him work it out. As Luther notes in his commentary on the verse from Psalm 130, “I wait for the Lord:”

In this cross-bearing I did not retreat or despair; I think nor did I trust in my own merit. I trusted in God’s grace alone, which I desire, and I wait for God to help me when it pleases Him.


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4 Response Comments

  • Mike  November 7, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I have read this more than once – it is a favorite for sure.

    • Samantha Barton  November 16, 2017 at 3:21 pm


  • Scott  November 29, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Thanks for the wisdom on dealing with OCD in your posts and the references to Luther they are helpful.

  • Claire  July 22, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Kendra, I have dealt with the same fears myself. I have received some helpful advice from others on this topic that I’d like to share with you and hope it will provide some clarity. If you have a earnest desire to be saved, and have asked Jesus to come into your life as your Lord and Savior, then you are born again. It is done. You are saved. You do not need to rely on your feelings or obsessive thoughts to prove to yourself that you are saved, as Jesus is not a liar and he says “whoever comes to me I will never, ever turn away” (John 6:37). And, although saving faith does produce good works, and a desire to do God’s will, if we look internally and to our works to prove to ourselves that we really are born again, more often than not we will end up more convinced that we’re not saved as we tend to focus on all of our shortcomings, especially those of us with OCD. Until the day we die we will always fall short of God’s perfect will and be tempted with sin and unbelief, but when this happens, turn your eyes back to Jesus, not yourself or your own mind, and thank Him for His promises, despite the fact you don’t “feel” saved.


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