I have seen several people recently with exactly the same obsessional fear: that they have broken a promise to God. One person, a middle-aged businessman explained it this way:
“First, I’ll be looking forward to something, like watching a football game on TV. Then I will get hit with some sort of a fear, like something really bad happening in my family. Then this thought comes: “If I promise to God I won’t watch the football game, he’ll watch over them.” I’ll have an urge to make the promise, and I do. This all happens really fast. And then I do feel better, but I’m not able to watch the football game!”
As this OCDer began to make more and more promises that he really didn’t want to keep, he became more and more frustrated. Even though he knew he was being stupid to make them, he would be afraid to break them; because the Bible says: “You shall not make false vows, but you shall fulfill your vows to the Lord” (Matt 5:33 AMP), and “If a man vows a vow to the Lord, he shall not break his word.” (Num 30:2). Then things got even worse when he developed various related obsessions.
“Now, it’s got to the point that when I’m looking forward to doing almost anything, I’ll begin to get scared. I’ll think, “Oh, no, I’m about to make a promise that I won’t do that.” Then, maybe I’ll realize that’s stupid. But then I think, “Wait, maybe that’s the Holy spirit telling me to make the promise!” Then I’ll think I have to do it. Sometimes, I’ll even be hit with, “Wait, did I just make a promise? I don’t think I ever did; but it’s there now, so I have to follow it!”
OCD is so devious. The critical thing in dealing with all types of obsessions is to realize that they are from the enemy. We don’t do business with the enemy, who sends these fearful thoughts in order to keep us in fear and apart from God. Promises inspired from the enemy should not be kept; because they are not from you, they are from him! You are cooperating with the enemy if you keep them. It is critical, therefore, that when they occur you take the risk of labeling them for what they are: thoughts from the enemy to make you stumble. It seems like a great risk to label them as such at that time, of course, because when obsessions strike we are always thrown into agonizing doubt. But here’s something to remember: The Lord is always be pleased when we take a risk by trusting in his mercy. You can bank on that.