The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:11)

Sometimes OCDers have only hope to lean on in order to endure their fears. This happens when faith cannot be found. One powerful reason to keep hoping is, of course, our anticipation that we will receive what we hope for. Yet often it seems even that is not enough. The verse quoted above provides another reason to keep on hoping: The act is, in itself, very pleasing to God. He loves those who have hope in Him even as they fear. Commenting on the verse above, Luther writes,

God hates those who are proud and presumptuous, and He loves those in whom fear still retains some hope and confidence, not in ourselves but in the mercy of God.”

Luther points out there are two types of people: Some who need to fear more, and some who need to hope more.

Just as some people have too much fear and too little hope and security, so others have too much security and hope and almost no fear….Thus these must fear the Lord, and those must hope for His mercy.”

OCDers pretty much have the fear-part down. We need to focus on hope. Specifically, as Luther points out, we need to hope not in ourselves, but only in God’s mercy. We shouldn’t put our hope in what we can do, because we are not that strong. We shouldn’t put it in what we think ought to happen, because we’re not that wise. We need to simply and humbly put our hope in God’s love and mercy. We just hope that he will cause things to work out in the best way possible for us and those we love. That is what is pleasing to him. In his commentary on Psalms, Luther offers advice to pastors regarding the best way to help people suffering in fear and despair.

I exhort and admonish you, teach them in such a way that they will lift themselves up and dare to hope, because it is written that hearts which are contrite and humble this way are a most pleasing sacrifice to God, which He prefers to all acts of worship.

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9 Response Comments

  • Katherine Shaver   at

    In these last two articles on hope I understand we are supposed to lean on hope when we can’t believe but what is the hope for someone who struggles with scrupulosity? What is the hope you lean on when you don’t believe you are saved or you struggle with any of the common scrupulosity struggles?

    • admin   at

      Heck of a good question, and thank you for asking it. Say that you “don’t believe you are saved.” Hope focuses on the possibility that you are. It is certainly possible you are saved, as many who doubt are saved. It is the enemy that causes us to believe that we are not. So, even though we can’t attain any sort of certainty about the matter (which would be “faith”), we need to try to our best to retain hope that we saved and not give in to despair. In the meantime, we patiently wait for the faith that we desire to be revealed. Sometimes that waiting is for a long time. But God is behind the whole trial, and he knows what he is doing. It is for our good even though it feels very bad. It is very pleasing to him if we can just wait patiently in hope for his grace.

  • Gail   at

    These posts are so incredibly helpful!! Thank you so much.

  • Kelly   at

    I’ve spent a lot of time here at this site the last couple of months and have read a lot of things that have been so helpful for me.

    I don’t have an official diagnosis of OCD; but I relate to everything I’ve read here and elsewhere and have had many O’s and C’s going back to childhood.

    A term I came across elsewhere was Real Event OCD. Description here at this link:

    I wondered if you have any thoughts about that? This is the nature of what I’ve been struggling with. As a Christian, I feel like a failure since I cannot ever seem to be sure I am forgiven; this is complicated by the fact I’m not sure if people I hurt have forgiven me. I also doubt at times that I am truly repentant so then I must pray for God to make me truly repentant, in case I wasn’t the last time I confessed to Him. My primary compulsion is confession to others, even when it is unwise to do so, and then of course I have the aftermath of all these unwise confessions. By this I mean, confessing thoughts as well as actions, even actions that weren’t on purpose, but also sins/actions that are very real.

    I feel also that because I’m never sure if God forgives me that I am now guilty of my lack of faith in his promises to do just that, so then I keep confessing to God, both the prior bad actions, as well as bad thoughts, as well as my current lack of faith that He forgave the prior acts. I also worry that I have not been as complete or thorough as I should have been in my confessions to others and have to work so terribly hard to prevent myself from re-confessing to people or clarifying, etc.

    I have managed of late to stop confessing to other people and just confess to God. I then obsess over wondering if I am praying too much or getting on God’s nerves where he may stop listening to me.

    This latest exacerbation of symptoms began when I decided to quit smoking, which I did something like 5 times in 5 days and at around hour 16 of my quit, these OCD symptoms would get so bad I would be in a state of anxiety and hysterical crying from these thoughts, I began to obsess over the idea I am demon-possessed. I had prepared for my quit by reading my Bible and claiming a number of promises, but when the anxiety climbs to that level, it’s like I can’t even bring the promises to mind anymore. I would rather be dead I think than experience that level of mental torment. I didn’t even notice any real cravings for cigarettes – it was these thoughts about the past that tormented me.

    If anyone has any thoughts about Real Event OCD (is it a ‘real thing’? or am I just still in my guilt because I didn’t confess properly or didn’t really repent?) I would love to hear them.

    • Kellie   at

      This sounds very similar to what I am processing through right now. I have been overcome with guilt about my past, specifically behavioral choices, mostly from my college years. It is paralyzing; I described it to somebody as an almost PTSD moment when the shame of having been there/done something overwhelms me and condemning thoughts overwhelm me. I can’t tell you how to “fix it” because I am going through it myself but wanted to let you know you…are…not…alone. It is not just you. Some things that are helping me:

      1. I am going through a period of doubt right now, but have decided that the greatest act I can do is choose faith anyway. Worship God even as I question Him, take Communion even when I fear I am insulting Him by doing so. My faith is that He wants and will take me, even me, as His child.

      2. When I have a “flashback” of something I did, I confess it, and try to do so only once. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to confess, and repentance looks different in different situations. Sometimes we must go ask a person’s forgiveness, but sometimes for whatever reason that is not possible, and know that if they withhold their forgiveness that does not mean God withholds his. Write down 1 John 1:9 and remind yourself that it is our responsibility to confess and He is the one Who cleanses the unrighteousness.

      3. When I begin to go back, mentally, to the past, I bring up a mental image of the cross between me and that past sin. Work on viewing your past through the lens of the cross. I am also asking God To show me how I can use my story, mistakes and all to serve Him and His people.

      4. Lastly, obviously compulsively confessing isn’t healthy and feeds the OVD cycle. However, if there is something in your past you are keeping secret, that nobody knows and you find yourself thinking “if they knew they wouldn’t even look at me” find a trusted friend, mentor, pastor or even therapist to confess to. It isn’t for nothing we are to le to bring our sin to light. It festers in darkness and bogs us down, and feeds the lies that we cannot be loved. It also often grows because we don’t have another believer helping keep us accountable (as in drug or alcohol abuse but so many other sins as well).

      I hope this has been encouraging for you, if for nothing else than for you to know you are not the only one to go through this.

  • Krys   at

    Your posts are always so helpful. Do you have any suggestions for someone who struggles with worrying that everything is sinful? Particularly with things that are more “gray areas.” I tend to seek reassurance from others whether they are or not, but get conflicting messages and I end up even worse off. Then I get upset, then I worry I’m not “producing fruit,” then I’m back at square one and it’s exhausting! Anyway this is longer than I intended, any advice our past blogs you can recommend?

    • admin   at

      “Producing fruit” can become a very nasty obsession. It is a form of “works righteousness”–the idea that in order to be worthy, you have to produce works. This is not, as Luther emphasized 500 years ago, what Christianity is about. We don’t do works in order to be righteous. Very important you treat the worries about sinfulness as obsesssional fears, and go from there to work on ways to overcome them through ERP, etc.

      • Krys   at

        I understand and wholeheartedly believe we are not saved by works in any sense. I think it’s more tied up with assurance. The idea that those that are saved will produce works, including “killings sin” so to speak. But when it seems that everything I do is tainted with sin or could possibly be sinful but I’m not sure that’s where the fear comes in.