OCD and Christianity

Christ payed the price for our sins, yet we remain sinners and basically inadequate. Martin Luther, in his commentary on Romans, stresses the importance of recognizing this truth.

God wills that just as every man by himself is a liar, unrighteous, and weak outwardly (that is, before God), so he may become such inwardly (that is, he may confess and acknowledge himself to be such as he actually is).

We are unable to accomplish anything good by ourselves. It is critical for OCD sufferers to remember this— because we, more than anyone else, forget it. OCDers have a proven tendency to take “excessive personal responsibility for preventing harm.” They keep on trying over and over to prevent bad things from happening, even when it is clear that their fears are exaggerated and efforts are futile. Down deep, we OCDers are very prideful. We refuse to acknowledge our basic weakness and unrighteousness. That’s probably why the Lord allows us to be afflicted by OCD in the first place. An OCDer recently shared with me:

I had this profound idea come into my head after weeks of fighting my thoughts: ‘This is who you naturally are, and that’s why you need me.’ That was a great revelation to me. I’m still trying to digest it. I think God is really wanting me to let him do the fighting and let the spirit fight in me, because I’ve been fighting myself and I’ve been losing. 

Sarah Young in her popular devotional, “Jesus Calling,” puts it this way using Jesus’ words:

Awareness of your inadequacy is a rich blessing, training you to rely wholeheartedly on Me…Your very lack is an opportunity to latch onto Me in unashamed dependence. Rejoice in your insufficiency, knowing that My power is made perfect in weakness.

“Latch onto Jesus in unashamed dependence.” That’s terrific. That’s what we OCDers need to do.



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8 Response Comments

  • Chris   at

    How do we balance personal responsibility and dependence? For example, it would be irresponsible to leave the home without being sure the doors are locked, or to not install smoke detectors, or not get the proper amount of insurance coverage, etc. How does one differentiate between actions that are part of being a responsible adult vs. an obsession/compulsion? It’s not always easy to tell the difference.

    • Kelly   at

      I have struggled with that very thing myself, Chris. Dr. O’s writings, and particularly his blog piece on “Decisions,” was very helpful to me in that area. Basically, I now ask myself, “What would other (non OCD) people do in this circumstance?” Then, I go with that. If people I trust are not bothered by something, maybe I don’t need to be so over the top on it, either? So basically, I try to do what is reasonable and leave the rest in God’s hands. I hope that helps.

    • admin   at

      Kelly has definitely got it right in her answer to this excellent question. The big thing to remember is that OCDers actually lose their judgment about how to reasonably respond to their obsessional fears. The fears become unreasonably believable. Therefore we must use our willpower to make ourselves do what a responsible person without OCD would do. Sometimes this involves asking, although just once!

  • Autumn   at

    Dr Osborn,
    Are you able to recommend any OCD specialists who approach therapy from a Christian perspective? I am looking for someone to do therapy with in Virginia or someone who can do teletherapy ( phone or Internet).
    Thank you so much.

    • admin   at

      That is certainly a very good question, but I’m afraid I really don’t have any good answers. Best bet is probably to do a Google search for Christian Counselors in your area, and then phone or email them and ask if they specifically treat OCD, and if they do it using the techniques of exposure and response prevention therapy. Hope things work out!

    • Donna   at

      Hi Autumn,
      I found a Christian therapist by calling a few of the Churches in my area and asking for their recommendation. Not all did ERP, but I did find one that treats OCD.

      • Autumn   at

        Would you be able to give me the contact info of any of the Christian counselors that use ERP? Perhaps they can do teletherapy.
        Thanks so much.

    • Rebecca   at

      Hi Autumn! You can contact CCEF (Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation) in Glenside, PA. Very trustworthy, biblical, gospel-centered approach to counseling. They should be able to refer you to a therapist in your area.