It seems unfair that God allows some of his children to suffer for no apparent reason in terrifying uncertainty, fearing this disaster or that and never obtaining quietness of heart. Despite everything they do, their fears become only stronger. Trying their best to have faith in God, they are unable to feel his comforting word of grace. These people, of course, are OCD sufferers. But take heart. There is a reason for all this. God must teach us faith.
In his Commentary on Galatians verse 3:23, Luther discusses the purpose of the trial of anxiety and fear that God allows his children to endure. He likens it to a theological prison. What he says applies directly to people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Just as civic confinement or prison is the affliction of the body by which the prisoner is deprived of the use of his body, so the theological prison is the trouble and anxiety of the spirit by which the prisoner is deprived of peace of conscience and quietness of heart. Yet this is not forever, as reason supposes when it feels this prison. The heart that has been confined should be encouraged and comforted this way: “Brother, you have indeed been confined. But you should know that this is not being done so that you will be held in the confinement of this prison forever, for it is written that we are confined ‘until faith should be revealed.’” Therefore you are being afflicted by this prison, not to do you harm but to re-create you. You are being killed in order to be made alive through Christ.
In times of fear and doubt when faith seems beyond our reach and God is nowhere to be found (and this happens frequently in OCD), we are in a special situation. We are in the “theological prison.” We are “being killed in order to be made alive through Christ.” Our minds are being renewed. Our faith is being refined. We must not attempt to escape from this prison through the use of compulsions and avoidance. God has a reason for our imprisonment, and we need to take the risk of trusting him: It is for our growth as Christians. When faith is revealed—which it will be!—then we will we receive the peace of Christ.