OCD and Christianity

This blog is for people to make comments on the book, and especially to dig into the possibilities for effectively and practically employing Luther’s therapeutic strategies to overcome their own symptoms. I welcome your comments and thoughts!

19 Response Comments

  • JimmyPouby  02/15/2024 at

    Good luck 🙂

  • Katie D.  11/02/2023 at

    Hi Dr. Osborne, thank you so much for the Martin Luther book! I finished it a few weeks ago and found it really helpful. I’m sure I’ll be referring to it in the future.
    Do you have any materials or blogs on cancer/health obessions?

  • Katie  11/02/2023 at

    Hi Dr. Osborne, Thank you so much for your Luther book, I finished it a few weeks ago (and left a review on Amazon). It REALLY helped me with my scrupulosity, and I’m sure I’ll be referring to it often.
    Do you have a blog on cancer/going to the doctor/medical tests, etc., obsessions?

    • admin  11/03/2023 at

      Thanks for the comments on the book, Katie. Sorry, nothing on the specific medical stuff you mention. I.O.

  • George  09/16/2023 at

    Still working through the book but finding it really helpful. My problem always comes down to feeling like overcoming the OCD with ERP means never “acting” on an obsessive thought. But sometimes you do need to “act”. Years ago, I was in a relationship that wasn’t right, and I knew it. But because I was obsessive about it not being right, I was told it was “just OCD” and to ignore it and not compulse by ending the relationship.

    Thankfully I eventually ended it anyway, but if I had purely resisted and not acted, I’d still be in an unhappy relationship today! (I have also had OCD in happy relationships and resisted acting).

    Do you – or anyone – have any wisdom on when it IS ok to act? We would not suggest that anyone with health OCD never go to the doctor. Or someone with relationship OCD should never break up with a partner they genuinely don’t have feelings for. So when is it ok to act?

    • admin  09/18/2023 at

      I think the key here may be identifying exactly what the obsessional thought is. For instance, in the case of the first girlfriend, I am assuming you felt excessive fear at the thought of breaking up with her. But what is the thought that caused the fear? Most likely (and I can relate to this very well) it was what people would say or think, including the girlfriend, if you broke up with her. Or else bad consequences that would occur if you broke up with her. Presumably, the fear of breaking up with her had become so strong that it affected your rational judgment on what to do about the situation. In any case, the rational thing was to break up with her, and at least a part of you knew that. In this case, not breaking up with her was avoidance….we avoid doing things that we ought to do because of obsessional fears. But often it is difficult to determine what is the best, and what is most rational when a concern becomes obsessional. That’s because when that happens, we begin to overvalue the fear and can’t balance our thinking correctly. In those cases, often OCDers can only go on the judgment of others. If other people were telling you, after you really explained the situation, that you should not break up with her, then you were pretty much trapped. Tough situation. Thank the Lord year did break up with her. What do you think?

      • George  09/19/2023 at

        I think the fear was breaking up with her and then realising it was “just OCD” that was stopping me finding her attractive, and I’d regret it. But then equally a fear that it wasn’t the OCD and I would be stuck in a miserable relationship. And probably ALSO the fear of being stuck in not knowing!

        Truly I think if I’d waited in the “unsure” state, I would have found clarity. It tends to work when I think “what would I do if there was no fear here?”. Ultimately God’s will will come to pass and he will convict me in his timing. But knowing how to interact with the other person in the mean time is hard.

  • admin  08/22/2023 at

    Hi Justin, Great question. I tried to reply to that in a new post, “Luther’s OCD Cures.” Maybe let us know what you think of that by posting there. Thanks, I.O.

  • Justin  08/04/2023 at

    Hi Dr. Osborn, I just finished your new book on Luther. Question: Your last book (very powerful for me) focused on the therapy of trust (R.T.P., recognize, transfer responsibility, prove your trust in God), which I’ve found very helpful–hyper-responsible me finds great freedom in transfering responsibility to God. In your new Luther book you frame his break through a bit differently and bring in more of the ERP, though you sill emphasize the key of faith/trust. The twist/difference I note is the Luther book says “Allow it and don’t respond to it” whereas your last books emphasized transferring of responsibility and then doing something that you want to do/that proves your trust in God. So, these two solutions seem a bit different, but they are compatible. Curious your thoughts on this? Also, curious why in this new book you didn’t references Can Xianty Cure OCD, which I think is such a rich resource? Related to these two “therapies,” what I’ve always found so helpful and freeing is Augustine’s great line: “Love God and do as you please.” I love transferring responsibility to God (trusting him boldly is how I can best love him), then doing what I want (proving my trust in God). Thank you. God bless you.

    • Rosa  08/24/2023 at

      What a helpful response. Thank you!

  • Mark  08/04/2023 at

    I just finished the book and it was truly amazing. So helpful for someone like myself who has suffered incredibly at the hands of OCD. I’m a little confused though on one point – are you advising not to deliberately bring up the obsession in order to do ERP as this goes against conventional ERP advice from my knowledge? I have obsessions over John Pipers work on the glory of God and get so afraid that if I don’t like the image of God he is saying is biblical, I’m not a true Christian and going to hell – I was always taught you need to read his material to deliberately trigger the OCD in an ERP experiment then resist any compulsions. Did Luther not do this and are you advising against this in the book?

    • Kelly  08/08/2023 at

      Mark, I understand how painful worries like what you describe can be. I don’t mean to comment too much on this blog and I’m not trying to answer your ERP question, but I will share something theological that has helped me in the hope that it helps you too.

      Luther talked about the difference between the “hidden” and the “revealed” God. As I understand it, the “hidden God” is our Creator whose “ways are above our ways” (Is. 55:9) The “revealed God” is Jesus, who shows us the loving heart of God in a very tangible way. When we are frightened or confused by different ideas about the “hidden God” (as you describe) we can find true comfort in Jesus, who reveals God’s loving heart and saving will for us. In other words, look to Jesus and see God’s deep love for you there.

      John 14:8-9 and John 14:27 describe this, when Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father and Jesus replied, “He who has seen me has seen the Father…” Later Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

      So when troubled by things that are above our human ability to fully understand, know that you’re not alone and we all feel that way sometimes. We can leave those things to God’s sovereignty, and “turn our eyes upon Jesus,” as the hymn says, who shows us how deep the Father’s love for us truly is.

      God bless you.

      • Mark  08/22/2023 at

        Thank you for your comment that’s really helpful.

        I’m still confused though in regard to the ERP question…..

  • Nick  07/30/2023 at

    Thank you so much for both of your books. They have both been extremely helpful. I have also really loved the 100 Topics blog (only recently found it). Please keep the encouragement and insight coming. I finally realize what true faith means after years of chasing emotions and feelings. Thank you again!

  • Kelly  07/28/2023 at

    I am a Lutheran and have read your book on Christianity and OCD (which is fantastic, by the way). Your grasp of Martin Luther’s theology is really impressive. I agree that we who suffer from scrupulosity can find true kinship in Martin Luther. He understood the deep pain we experience. After all, it was his own suffering that drove him so deeply into the scriptures where he came to understand justification by grace. I love how you have applied Luther’s theology to the treatment of OCD—it is brilliant and truly helpful! Thank you for your excellent scholarship. It is no small feat to wade through Luther’s works!

    I myself try to apply Luther’s theology in my own suffering. I take deep comfort in my baptism, as Luther did, and in knowing that no matter how much my fears and doubts assail me, I belong to Christ, now and always. This does not depend on me or my feelings, but on his saving work. In our baptism service the pastor traces a cross on the person’s forehead and says, “You, child of God, have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” Forever! I used to remind my children of that when they were little and frightened. They had been baptized. God would never let them go.

    I also find comfort in remembering, as Luther taught, that “legalism breaks the 1st commandment, placing hope in oneself that truly belongs to the Savior.” (I think that quote comes from Luther’s Commentary on Galatians). God wants us to trust in him, not in ourselves and our own very imperfect works. We do good works out of love for God, but not because those will save us. Only Christ can do that. “All have fallen short…”

    Finally, I find it helpful to trust in the sovereignty of God above all. Scripture reminds us again and again that God is good, and his ways are above our ways. We may not always understand his ways, but we don’t have to. I believe it was Victor Frankl who said that a dog does not understand why it is getting an inoculation at the vet—such a thing is beyond its comprehension. Yet it is for the animal’s good. In the same way, if God allows something in our lives, he can ultimately use it for a positive purpose. This even applies to failures and mistakes—God can even bring good out of those! Ultimately, when we acknowledge that God is God and we are not, and we trust him with everything (including our terrifying doubts and fears) then we can find rest. But it is a daily practice. To quote Luther again (at least I think this quote comes from him?), “We cannot live today on yesterday’s faith.”

    • admin  07/30/2023 at

      Thank you Kelly, for sharing this beautiful message. Without a doubt, a strong belief in God’s providence is key. I believe Calvin said, “Absence of providence is the greatest of miseries.” I think believing in God full power over our lives (or making the assumption that is true and acting on it) allows us to proceed in therapeutic ERP exercises. God will make sure the outcome is what is best for us!!

      • Kelly  07/31/2023 at

        Thank you, Dr. Osborn. As a follow up—I also bought your Luther book and read the whole thing this week. I couldn’t put it down! Your scholarship there too is amazing—it is so well researched. Anyone can learn so much from the book in so many areas (history, medicine, theology, etc). But most importantly, it is truly helpful for any who deal with scrupulosity/OCD. Like an earlier commenter, I also loved the “stand alone and endure” approach. And to quote (or maybe paraphrase—I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment) from your book, the idea of facing severe anxiety by telling yourself, “Right now it is more important for me to trust in God’s sovereignty than to make certain that my fear does not come true,” is really and truly helpful. Thank you again for your great service to the suffering. May God bless you now and always.

  • Colton  07/22/2023 at

    After a long bout of depression I stumbled upon ‘Can Christianity Cure OCD?’ It described my thought patterns perfectly and I was drawn to Luther in the book. It took me a couple of years and I almost lost my career but God saw me through and I am living a mostly normal life now.

    Luther’s belief that works do not contribute to or help our righteousness was a massive help. Many times it took more trust for me to not pray or seek assurance from someone. It helped me to make set times of prayer that I would use regardless of my feelings and that would help me not pray during other times when I felt compelled to from anxiety. To “stand alone and endure” the trial was the trust that I believe God wanted to build in me. I have found that although I made it through severe OCD I still have to go back to my therapy from time to time.

    • admin  07/24/2023 at

      Great comment. Love the idea that to “stand alone and endure” was the trust God wanted to build in you. I have found that some people are simply able to transfer responsibility to God fairly easily…like “handing a letter to someone” as one person told me. But more commonly for OCDers, learning to trust God requires what we might call ERP in some form. Luther illustrates it beautifully for us when he says, “stand alone and endure.” Luther’s final great insight, of course, was learning that God in his mercy provides salvation to us freely. But a lot of us OCDers have to go through the crucible of enduring an obsessional fear first, as did Luther himself.


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