OCD and Christianity

Consider the OCDer who wouldn’t commit a sin for the world. Every day, she spends hours and hours attempting to make sure that she doesn’t. An unbidden thought enters her mind: She is “gay.” In her mind’s eye, she sees herself touching another woman. Terrified, at that moment she thinks that the most important thing in the world is to get rid of that thought. She struggles to push it out of her mind. She prays that it will go away. She tries to override it with thoughts of attractive men. Then she prays for forgiveness. She says over and over “I’m not gay, I’m not gay.”It might seem that this woman is an especially good Christian, in view of the fact that she is so  concerned about sinning.

But she’s not. She is actually a most selfish Christian. That’s the way it is with all of us OCDers.  We don’t put any trust at all in God when obsessions hit. We are (face it) control freaks. We won’t let go. We won’t leave to God the things that no one else even worries about. This is offensive to Him. We are seriously displeasing to God (even though God he easily forgives us), for the reason that we lack in faith.

An OCDer goes for a walk in the woods and hears a twig snap. Startled, he snaps his head around. Nothing is there; yet he still worries. Visions of terrible occurrences assail him. He thinks  that the most important thing in the world is for him to do something about this situation. He moves behind a rock. He takes out his cell phone and pre-dials 911, ready to put through the call in an instant. Silently he peeps out, ever alert and vigilant, scanning for danger over and over, in order to reassure himself none is present. What is going on here? This guy trusts neither God to take care of him, nor his own eyes telling him that nothing is there. How self-consumed can you get?

It is said that God permits us to sin more or less grievously in proportion to our pride. My OCD  friend, your OCD is there for a specific purpose–that you become aware of how self-centered you are. You are too blind to recognize it in any other way, God allows this sort of crisis to develop. Then, your eyes finally open, he shows you the answer.

It is to have faith. OCDers are called with a special urgency to put trust in God above all concerns. For OCDers, that task is the most important thing. Take one look, label it as an obsessional fear, and then trust in God’s power and mercy. Give to him the fear and all its implications. God will not allow us to be tested beyond our strength (1Cor 10:13).

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11 Response Comments

  • Jean   at

    Amen! I have seen this in myself recently and it makes me so thankful for the cross of Jesus Christ!

    • david   at

      thanks for the reminder of the cross. I get so selfish and can relate to this post. It is good to be reminded that even my selfishness is taken on the cross of Jesus Christ. I am forgiven and free.

  • Rebecca   at

    For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. Psalm 22:24

    For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrew 4:15

  • David   at

    I wrestle with this and have at times been so extremely self focused that it is nauseating. Maybe self focus isn’t even correct…fear focused. Pain focused. Negative focused. Fear, pain and negativity cannot produce sacrificial love, they have always in my life produced selfishness whereby everything in my life, relationships, money, time and energy are devoted to the eradication of those things. When I see this, I truly do mourn. When I see all of the love people in my life have poured on me and how many times God has lifted me up and how obsessed I become at times with feeling peace. I realized how self centered this makes me and it is truly sad

  • Nick   at

    Wonderful. Thank you Doctor O.

  • Scott   at

    What of the Christian who is suffering from Harm OCD and is terrorised by thoughts, not of harm coming to himself, but of causing harm to others? Isn’t this indicative of altruistic concern rather than selfishness?

    • admin   at

      Yes, you are certainly right about that. OCD sufferers, in fact, strongly tend to be caring people and “good scouts.” What I am pointing out here is how prideful and self-centered we are in insistently relying on ourselves rather than relying on God. We are prideful in the sense that we try to obtain 100% certainty of safety based on our own actions. It is just in that sense that I mean that we are selfish.

      • Grant   at

        How do I give the fear of going to Hell over to God if I’m afraid my motives for being a Christian (avoiding punishment being a big one) are wrong and might send me there?

  • Cat McNamara   at

    You’re not selfish. If You were cursed with an illness that causes uncontrollable suffering it’s not your fault. Think about it: if God was that cruel to mentally ill people, why serve such an inhumane leader? He understands you, and sees that you’re one of the strongest people. These thoughts are not our fault and he knows that. The Church brainwashed you into being afraid…don’t let it have that power over you.

    • john   at

      If everything ultimately derives from God, through creation/manifestation, then ipso facto God created OCD, along with a bunch of other stuff, good and bad. OCD is a brain malfunction, which tends to actualize at times of acute stress. We can’t help it. It’s our burden. To claim that sufferers are morally culpable is to discriminate against the mentally ill. So if we are self absorbed we need a psychiatric evaluation of that and not one deriving from moralism.

  • Teri   at

    I think we can see our self-centeredness through our OCD and I don’t doubt that God uses this affliction to draw people closer through needing to trust Him. However, I would never say that people with OCD are more selfish than other people. I think we are all selfish and perhaps those with OCD have different areas where this is manifest because we have to deal with extreme fear and we try to alleviate it in wrong ways. If someone without OCD developed OCD, he or she would have the same temptation to compulsions/not trusting God as we do.