OCD and Christianity

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope  (Psalm 130:5)

‘Fiery ordeals’ come upon us to prove us, as noted by Saint Peter. What are we OCD sufferers to do about them? As discussed in the previous blog, we are to stay on the battlefield and not run away. Okay, we get that…but what are we to do? This is always the big question for OCDers. Any concern that arises, we are always driven to do something to take care of it. We are ceaselessly self-reliant. And that is a big problem. We need to learn to trust that God will take care of us, and stop relying on ourselves. We do that by enduring the fear, suffering it willingly; and waiting on the Lord. As Luther notes in his commentary on this verse:

Those who wait for the Lord ask for mercy; but they leave it to God’s gracious will when, how, where, and by what means He helps them…But he who designates the help, does not receive it; for he does not wait and submit to God’s council, will, and delay.

We are not to designate the help! A very important instruction for OCDers. We’re not to reach any conclusions about how or when God will come to our aid. These sorts of musings become compulsions. We must stay in fear and uncertainty, maintaining only hope. In that way we will learn that we can trust in God. Luther He explains:

God deals strangely with His children. He blesses them with contradictory and disharmonious things, for hope and despair are opposites. Yet His children must hope in despair; for fear is nothing else than the beginning of despair, and hope is the beginning of recovery. And these two things, direct opposites by nature, must be in us, because in us two natures are opposed to each other, the old man and the new man. The old man must fear, despair, and perish; the new man must hope, be raised up, and stand.

We are raised up and stand in the new man when we receive the gift of faith. The gift is given when God chooses, at the time our excessive self-reliance has been purged. In psychological terms, such waiting represents an exercise in ERP. In the clinical treatment, an individual purposefully exposes herself to an obsessional fear, prevents compulsions, and waits in hope for habituation to take place. For the Christian, the exercise is not about exposure leading to habituation, it is about suffering leading to faith.

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