OCD and Christianity

“Learn to say  ‘Away with you devil, you compel me to care for myself, when God everywhere says -I care for you; depend upon me.”
–Martin Luther

Martin Luther gave this advice to a member of his congregation who suffered from what we would now call OCD. Luther knew firsthand about the agony of tormenting thoughts, since he himself had suffered from them. They abated only after he learned to abandon his fears, completely and radically, to God’s mercy. He called the path of utter dependence on God, “by faith alone.”

This path is open to believers of the present day who suffer from OCD. When we identify that we are in the grips of an obsessional fear, we can give to God the responsibility for the outcome of that fear.  This is very difficult, but look at it this way. We know that God has control over all events and engineers all circumstances.  If He would for some reason want make the outcome of our greatest fear come true, shouldn’t we (in theory, at least) be willing to let him do it? Of course,  we can still have a very comforting degree of confidence, or hope, that the fear will not materialize, and that God will not test us severely. After all, He is merciful, and cares for us immeasurably.  He died for us.  Furthermore He has promised that he will not test us beyond what we can bear.

The biographer Richard Marius observes that Luther’s faith denotes “an attitude of heart and mind that leaves everything to God in the way that we might trust a promise from a loving father even when that father is distant from us and we have no visible proof that the promise will be kept.” Marius concludes tellingly that faith alone worked for Luther because it “translates responsibility to God.”

That’s what we OCDers must do. Give God the responsibility for obsessional fears. That’s what having faith means—to trust in God whatever may happen.  Let God do what He wants!

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