OCD and Christianity

It seems unfair that God allows some of his children to suffer for no apparent reason in terrifying uncertainty, fearing this disaster or that and never obtaining quietness of heart. Despite everything they do, their fears become only stronger. Trying their best to have faith in God, they are unable to feel his comforting word of grace. These people, of course, are OCD sufferers. But take heart. There is a reason for all this. God must teach us faith.

In his Commentary on Galatians verse 3:23, Luther discusses the purpose of the trial of anxiety and fear that God allows his children to endure. He likens it to a theological prison. What he says applies directly to people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Just as civic confinement or prison is the affliction of the body by which the prisoner is deprived of the use of his body, so the theological prison is the trouble and anxiety of the spirit by which the prisoner is deprived of peace of conscience and quietness of heart. Yet this is not forever, as reason supposes when it feels this prison. The heart that has been confined should be encouraged and comforted this way: “Brother, you have indeed been confined. But you should know that this is not being done so that you will be held in the confinement of this prison forever, for it is written that we are confined ‘until faith should be revealed.’” Therefore you are being afflicted by this prison, not to do you harm but to re-create you. You are being killed in order to be made alive through Christ.

In times of fear and doubt when faith seems beyond our reach and God is nowhere to be found (and this happens frequently in OCD), we are in a special situation. We are in the “theological prison.” We are “being killed in order to be made alive through Christ.” Our minds are being renewed. Our faith is being refined. We must not attempt to escape from this prison through the use of compulsions and avoidance. God has a reason for our imprisonment, and we need to take the risk of trusting him: It is for our growth as Christians. When faith is revealed—which it will be!—then we will we receive the peace of Christ.

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9 Response Comments

  • Susan   at

    I completely agree, but in order to receive faith one must first humble themselves completely just as Jesus did. My best advice is this: Stop running from who you are and ACCEPT the fact of who you really are. We are sinners, there’s no escaping this fact. We are lost and helpless. We want to be perfect but it’s impossible. If we could find perfection within ourselves then we would not need Jesus. But the fact is, every single person needs Jesus regardless if they believe it or not. Stop avoiding and ACCEPT the fact that you are a sinner (think of your own greatest weaknesses here) and this will humble you, and in that, you will find Gods Grace and Peace in your soul.

  • Josh   at

    So applicable Dr. O! Love your posts! They bring comfort to us believing OCD’ers.

  • Brandi   at

    I really look forward to your posts every month. It brings me so much comfort to know that others have and are going through this and there’s hope. This is only temporary. Thank you God! Wish there was a meeting place for everyone who goes through this.

  • Rob   at

    It’s not working so far. Instead of faith I find hard-heartedness and hate. Maybe it’s because of decades of finding no peace, instead finding guilt, fear and self-loathing.

    • Joe   at

      Rob, never give up. The fact that you’re grieving over years of backsliding is evidence that the Holy Spirit is in you. I know you’ve probably heard that but God forgives 70 times 7.

      I highly recommend “getting back in the race” by Joel Beeke. Hosea 14 says that I will heal their backsliding. He sent the Lord Jesus Christ to die for us while we were yet sinners.

      I struggle too. See my post below. I will pray for you brother. I pray we both are renewed by the Holy Spirit and sing His praises. He will restore unto you the joy of Hid salvation and you will teach transgressors His ways.

  • Joe   at

    So glad that I found this website.

    I was saved and enjoyed a joyous walk with the Lord for almost a year but backslid around my 20th birthday. I fell deeper and deeper into sin and gradually quenched the Holy Spirit. About 6 months ago after trying to “change” for so long I finally started attending a good church and confessed my sins. Ive done everything I know to remove temptation. I desperately want to know Jesus intimately again but I cannot get past my feelings of coldness and emptiness. I meet with my minister frequently and met with a bible counselor who told me I need to change my thinking.

    I preach the gospel to myself and this comforts me but eventually I have to return to ordinary life and my obsessions come back. I know I need to change and I want to change. As the post says, if God brings me out of this I know my faith would be unshakable and joyous and His name would be glorified. I am a selfish and unhappy Christian which is a bad witness for Christ. I want to be joyful and pure and worship Him the way I once did. I am realizing I have many characteristics of OCD. I want to change but don’t know how. Also have mental illness history in family. Should I see a psychiatrist? Are there Christian counselors who deal with this?

    • Marie   at

      I can give you my opinion, as someone who’s had OCD for many years and has talked to many people with OCD. I’ve never gotten counseling, but yes, there are Christian counselors who deal with this (Dr. Osborn is one of them). But I think the essential thing is to look for someone who knows how to treat OCD. Even if a counselor is not a Christian, he/she should be understanding of and willing to work with your beliefs. Mere “talk therapy” is not enough for OCD – it requires learning specific mind strategies, through CBT and especially ERP. These are things you can learn to do on your own, but depending on your situation, it might be easier with a therapist. Have you struggled with OCD in the past?

  • Gail   at

    This is so helpful and encouraging! Thank you.

  • Vicky   at

    Hi….this website i believe was a God sent message for me this morning.
    Got saved in 2003…and struggled with blasphemous thinking since after baptism after 6mths approx after getting saved. I struggled with this since then…this has affected my approach to God as Father and my reading…singing…praying…fellowship (especially when everyone can talk about it freely when my mind twists the truth or anything that is Holy.
    This has caused me much distressed and caused alot of doubt in my faith and salvation. I know in my heart that I gave my heart to the Lord and i absolutely despise this troubled thinking pattern…thank you for reminding me that maybe this trial is a trust issue and I am not taking God by surprise in all of this.