“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…” There is a reason the 23rd is the most popular of all the psalms: It illustrates perfect faith. The sheep walks through the valley of the shadow of death without fear, trusting that the shepherd will take care of it. The sheep, therefore, is a model for all Christians; and especially for OCD suffers, who spend much of their lives in terrifying uncertainty. OCDers must set their sights on developing the kind of trust that is displayed by this sheep in this psalm. To do so is the whole purpose of our lives: to grow closer to God through trusting Him. As we have been told, we are saved by faith.
How do we trust like the sheep? The sheep didn’t do a lot of thinking about how to trust, studying up on it, asking other sheep their opinions, or googling on it. It learned to trust through experience! Maybe the sheep had to enter the valley of the shadow of death a hundred times before it learned that the shepherd would always chase away any threatening wolves. This is the way it is for OCD sufferers with tormenting thoughts. The thoughts are the wolves. They snarl and threaten. But the shepherd, our Lord, has watch over us. The situation is in his hand. We just need to learn to trust in that.
The bottom line is that we must take the risk of enduring fear and uncertainty in order to learn God’s love and his power. When faith is hard to grasp, when it seems impossible to attain, when it seem that God has turned his back on us, we must go forward in hope—hope that the shepherd is watching—while we enter into the dark valley. We must stop compulsively reassuring ourselves and take the risk of enduring fearful uncertainty until we learn to have faith.
7 Response Comments
I believe everything you say here. And yet, as a typical OCD sufferer I suppose, I have this thought. There are plenty of believers whose situations do not get better. People around the world are murdered for their faith, die of starvation or neglect, can’t afford healthcare, are badly injured in accidents and suffer terribly for years. On and on. This seems to fly in the face of the promise of being watched over. Or does it? I know we have no promises for a “rosy” outlook – especially as Christians. We are told we will suffer for Christ’s sake – as He did. I suppose our faith in His attention to us lies in our hope for deliverance from fear and not the situation. This has been on my mind for some time and I had no one I felt comfortable saying it to. Thanks for giving this outlet!
Hi Dr., I was wondering if you have any suggestions about sin obsessions? What I mean is obsessing that everything I do is tainted with sin. I’ve never had a contamination obsession but it feels very much like how I imagine that might feel. Like everything I do is tainted or “contaminated” with it. I think reassurance seeking is my biggest compulsion with this. I know the gospel of grace, but I know we should take sin seriously too. How do I do this without obsessing or falling into legalism?
Most obsessions deal with realistic concerns, like whether our hands are clean after we use the bathroom. So, concerns about sin are serious. They only become obsessional when they are exaggerated and accompanied by compulsions. It’s too big a topic for for me to say anything more here. You might well benefit from consulting a pastor or therapist, Krystal.
Dr. O, where can I find these commentaries, Biographies etc. and learn more about Luther?
Hi Austin, These quotes come largely right from Luther’s full works. This is available for about $200 from Logos software. Sometimes, biographies are quite helpful, such as those by Bainton, Brecht, Oberman, Kolb, and Lohse. A good collection of some of his greatest works are found in “Martin Luther,” by Dillenberger. But I’m afraid that’s as good as I can do for you.
Hi Dr. Osborn,
Without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6. And Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see. Hebrews 11:1. So I’m confused because you encourage us to endure uncertainty, but uncertainty according to Heb. 11:1 would be lack of faith. It seems to me we would be sinning by not having any faith, only hope..?? Thoughts?? And thanks!
The idea is that although we always want very much to have faith, sometimes even people who are committed Christians can’t find faith no matter how hard they try. In this situation, we have to bear uncertainty until faith is revealed to us. At that point, we can nourish it and cling to it. According to Luther, God allows this to happen because of our excessive pride.