OCD and Christianity

Suppose you have a thought that is heart-stopping blasphemous, maybe an image of yourself stabbing a loved one, an urge to desecrate a picture of Jesus, or an idea that you are a sexual pedophile. Shocks of anxiety surge through your whole body. You try to shove it out of your mind, but you can’t. You must do something to deal with it right now.

In your better moments you know, because your therapist has told you so, that you suffer from classic obsessional thoughts. They issue not from you, but rather from OCD. They are meaningless and hollow, and kept in your mind only by the fear that they cause and the compulsions you do to get rid of them. You know that you should “ignore” the thoughts and stop the rituals. You try your best, and this helps some…but they keep on coming. What’s the next step?

For the Christian, it is to move on to the therapy of trust. It is to leave in God’s hands the occurrence of the obsessional thought as well as its accompanying anxiety. If God wants to allow the painful thought to occur; well, that’s up to him. If he wants to allow it to get better or worse, that’s up to him. If he wants to allow you to live in severe anxiety all day all day long, that’s up to him. We leave the occurrence of all of it to God.

But why, you ask, would God want that? “What I want,” you say, “is to get rid of these awful obsessions, and to stop feeling anxious!” But that’s the point. Maybe God wants you to give up what you want, and to consent to what he wants. Maybe he wants you to simply accept this trial, and to put your trust in him. Isn’t it clear that God tests us for our own good? To bear obsessional thoughts without fighting, to willingly endure painful anxiety, to hold on just to his grace: This is the weakness through which we become stronger (2Cor 7). Perhaps you are too self centered right now, feeling that you must be in control of everything.

We must be willing to let God mold us into better people. In the therapy of trust, we do nothing to curtail an obsessional thought when it occurs. We do not attempt to put the terrible thought out of mind. We also do not perform compulsive acts to correct it. We accept the presence painful anxiety, uncertainty and guilt; and we move on to doing what is important in our lives. Our attitude is simply: “If this is what you want, Lord, then bring it on. Your grace is enough or me.”

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