OCD and Christianity

In a commentary on Psalm 90, Martin Luther takes up the trial that that afflicts OCDers.

The pious and the saints are tormented throughout life by multifarious anxieties concerning death and other matters. Satan haunts them day by day with fears and the uncertainty of life.

It’s good for us OCDers to know we are in the company of the “pious and the saints.” Not so good, however, to know that the enemy torments us. It makes sense to me—obsessions barge into consciousness attacking our faith. They seem to come from outside of us. That’s why obsessions are classified by psychiatrists as “egodystonic”—they don’t match a person’s sense of self.

Luther explains the reason why God allows us to suffer such fears.

We, too, experience such thoughts of fear and of God’s wrath. But let us not despair as though this were an evil omen. It is God’s will that we at least realize our sorry condition and begin to understand that our afflictions are intended for our betterment. We should take note not merely of the devil’s fury, but also of God’s design. These miseries are laid on us that we might be humbled and not be condemned.

We make the assumption that that we can depend on ourselves to combat our deepest fears. We do compulsions over and over again with the vain expectation that we can battle the enemy. That assumption must be destroyed. We need to learn to rely on God. We do this by taking the risk of resisting compulsions. Obsessional fears are part of God’s plan for our salvation. They are part of the ‘good news’ in that sense. We must be humbled in order to escape condemnation for our prideful self-sufficiency.

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