Obsessions occur in two forms: questions and assertions. For instance, a contamination obsession might take the form, “what if my hands are still dirty?” Or it might pop up as, “your hands are dirty!” Uncertainty in present in both. In assertions, it becomes prominent as the OCD sufferer begins begin to question why the thought of dirty hands has become so distressing. Therefore, uncertainty in one form or another plays a central place in the great majority of obsessions. That’s why OCD is called “the doubting disease.”
Why does God allow tormenting uncertainty? The reason is, according to Luther, the deep-seated, almost ineradicable pride we have in our wisdom. We think we can figure everything out, including how to overcome all our fears and feel good. This pride must be destroyed. How does God destroy it? By allowing us to suffer tormenting uncertainty. God has to teach us that in the last analysis we cannot rely on ourselves for anything, including certainty about our well being. Rather we must learn to rely on Him. Luther writes,
God does not want us to glory in our physical birth, in our strength, in the freedom of our will, or in our wisdom and righteousness. All this must be mortified…God mortifies His own in various ways to the point of despair, and then He lifts us up again, so that by experience we are compelled to say, “I did not do this, though I expended all my strength, but the hand of the Lord did it.” Therefore He thoroughly afflicts us, He purifies us well so that we may learn to rely on Him completely. But this will not happen unless our presumption has been destroyed.
This is all part of God’s plan for shaping us into the sort of people he wants us to be—namely, people who trust in him fully and not in themselves. We have a choice: We can willingly go along with his plan for shaping us or not. In one sense it doesn’t matter; because God loves us and his plan for our salvation will move forward no matter what. Yet it is pleasing to God when he sees us cooperating with him and following his commands—and we are commanded to have faith and trust in him. For the OCD sufferer, therefore, it is wise to set the goal of willingly tolerating painful uncertainty as much as we can in order to obtain the gift of trusting in him.
10 Response Comments
Thank you, Dr. O. This is so very helpful and really rings true. I look forward to these articles every month. God bless you and your good work!
Hi Dr. O,
I only recently came to the realization that I have OCD and just discovered your website about a year ago. I thank God for resources like this website. I feel so alone with my OCD. I don’t know anyone who can relate to what I’m going through. My OCD has gotten extremely bad over the last year or so. The doubt I feel toward the Bible and Jesus in particular is so overwhelming at times I don’t know what to do. I try to pray and I try to read my Bible but sometimes it seems that just makes my OCD worse. There is always another what if question and my doubts go in cycles. The particular obsessive thought I cannot get past right now is this…The passage in the gospels where the Pharisees accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. The unpardonable sin. My mind keeps asking WHAT IF they were right? What if it is all somehow a deception from Satan? I do not want to believe this, yet day after day I battle these thoughts no matter how illogical they may be. Doubts like this and others scare me so much. The Bible says if we know Christ we should display the fruits of the Spirit. But I feel like I have no peace, no joy, etc. The book of James says, “the one who doubts shouldn’t expect to receive anything from God” (paraphrasing). This causes me to doubt my salvation. I need help and I don’t know what to do. I’m doing my best to hold on to the Lord’s promises.
I too am suffering with these same thoughts and questions. The Bible confuses me at times too with the way things are worded. I become obsessed with finding answers and then I get more anxiety. I too feel that my doubts mean that I am not truly saved.
I’m sorry that you’re dealing with these things too. I wish I had some great advice for you. The only thing we can do is to hold on to hope and not give up. Keep reading, keep praying. We have to trust that God will bring us through this battle.
Brandon and Jenna, you are not alone. So many of us have gone through what you are experiencing. Never lose hope. It gets better. Romans 8:38-40 has often given me comfort when I’ve struggled with those awful OCD doubts: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This includes OCD doubts. No matter how much you doubt and worry, God’s got you and he understands what you’re going through. Your doubts cannot separate you from God or his love, even though it may feel that way. Think of them as a layer of clouds, hiding the sun from you. The sun is still there, shining. You just cannot see it right now. You are concerned about these things because your faith is important to you, not the other way around. Even if you can’t believe because doubt has you all tied in knots, know that God is with you and will lead you through this dark valley. On the other side is a deeper faith. I know. I have been there many times as I’ve had OCD for decades. Your suffering will make you grow in compassion for others. There is a silver lining to this, hard though it may be to believe that right now. May the peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, be with you. All will be well.
Hello, I’m really confused about something.i think I may have ocd , I was diagnosed by my counselor, and since 2011 I have always doubted if I was really saved.2011 was when I asked Christ to save me. I asked many times and would spend time researching how to he saved, signs you’re saved, etc.but it wasn’t enough to make me feel sure I was saved. I became depressed and angry with God because it felt like he didn’t want me. I never suspected back then or even knew OCD could cause this. Can it? Even now I sometimes think I have it, but still am scared that if I don’t have OCD, what is the reason for my salvation doubts? No matter what I do, ask to be saved, ask God to convict me, show me my sinful nature, convince me of my need for salvation, try to trust Christ, I just always come back to questioning am I saved? I get scared when I hear preachers say ” if you’re a child of God” the if part of the sentence scares me. Or today I heard a pastor say, ” if you’re not corrected by God, then you need to wander if you’re his Child.because God discplines or corrects his children”. It made me scared and I started praying and telling God that I don’t know if he ever corrects me. I dont hear him tell me, ” that’s wrong, or you shouldn’t do that, etc”.all I know is that if I recognize something is wrong or may be wrong, I will ask for forgiveness from God. buy I don’t know what conviction from the Holy Spirit feels like or is.
Currently I’m dealing with many obstacles. I understand that these happen everyone whether saved or unsaved.but I know fir christians God allows trial and difficulty to grow them and teach them, and he wants them to trust Him. so in my difficulty Im confused as to whether my issues are just issues and there’s no purpose or lesson, and I’m on my own because I’m not saved, or if I’m saved and God is teaching me and wants me to trust Him through my problems. If I’m saved and God is allowing difficulties in my life for a greater purpose He has and wants me to trust Him, I can find hope to persevere. But if I’m saved, that means I’m on my own and Im just unlucky and God isnt with me. I don’t know. I have asked God to save me, to help me to truly trust in Christ for salvation, but no matter what I keep asking to he saved. It’s nearly an every day thing, especially if I’m engaging in spiritual things, like church, listening to sermons, reading bible. If I’m not, I don’t worry as much about salvation because there are no triggers in those times.
I don’t hear from God when I try to have quiet time with Him, like prayer and bible reading. This scares me.i dont have the inner witness of the spirit which scares me. when I ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me as I read the Bible or direct me to a passage that relates to my current life, nothing happens. All of this scares me. I don’t know where I stand with God.i have been honest with Him. I just prayed and said i can’t do anything to save myself please save my soul.
Hang in there. From what you say, it definitely sounds like you have OCD. Try to look at it that OCD is the cross that God has given you to bear. You must have patience. It is for your good, although why that is we do not know at this time. Try to just let the dooubts be there without responding to them. In time God will give you the faith that you desire, but you must have great patience. Maintain hope, but don’t try to force the issue.
Thank you Dr.O for your reply. The one thing I’m not sure that I have is the intrusive thoughts?? Aren’t they unwanted, but in my case I feel like I question on my own, if I’m saved. I don’t think the question “am I saved just pops up in my mind or intrudes my mind?
The only positive thing I have experienced through this battle is a deeper compassion for others and for those struggling with mental illness. I would really like to work in the field
Feeling like the thoughts are your “own questions” is completely compatible with OCD. The hand washer, after all, might well say she questions on her own whether hands are clean enough. Sounds like OCD to me although sometimes it can be tricky. If unsure about diagnosis, best thing to do is to get an evaluation from someone who really knows about OCD.
Thank you for your help