“God has imposed the cross on all Christians to cleanse and to purge them well,” writes Martin Luther. One of God’s most painful crosses—one that Luther suffered himself—is the agonizing fear and uncertainty of what we now call OCD. We must understand that this disorder is for our good. Through it we are purified and made into the type of people God wants us to be (See last month’s blog.) Of course, OCD sufferers will ask (because they need to have everything figured out), “Exactly what is it that I am being purified of?” Luther, in speaking of Christians who “tremble so much that they are afraid even of a rustling leaf,” says,
We are reminded of our weakness in order that no matter how great the gifts are that we possess, we may not exalt ourselves but may remain humble and fear God.
OCDers, more than most people, need to be reminded of their weakness. We ‘exalt’ ourselves continually, although we don’t realize it. The proof is in the fact that we keep relying on ourselves to deal with our obsessional fears, failing to put trust in God. We exalt ourselves so much that we keep relying on ourselves, doing our compulsions over and over, in spite of the fact that they don’t work and actually make our fears worse. What we need purified from is the inordinate trust we put in our own abilities. We need to get rid of our prideful self-reliance. What we need is faith.
God has imposed the cross on all Christians to cleanse and to purge them well, in order that faith may remain pure. For we really need such purging and affliction every day because of the coarse old Adam.
Our compulsions are an affront to God. They represent inordinate, self-centeredness—‘old Adam’ to the extreme. We must understand God’s purifying process: Terror and fear will remain until we stop trusting in ourselves. Not until then will we be gifted with a faith that is pure. Luther, in addressing people who are “deprived of peace of conscience and quietness of heart,” explains,
You must know that it is a benefit to you to be confined and perplexed this way; but you must see to it that you use your confinement correctly, that is, for the sake of the faith to come. For God does not want to trouble you in such a way that you remain in trouble…He wants to trouble you so that you may be humbled and may acknowledge that you need the mercy of God and the blessing of Christ.