OCD and Christianity

“I just don’t understand why God allows OCD to happen,” the young woman said. “He’s supposed to be a God of love! Why do I need to have these terrible thoughts that I don’t want to have? This can’t be God; it has to be the devil. I try as hard as I can to fight, but nothing helps. Why won’t God help me?”

Martin Luther, who in his early years suffered painful OCD, speaks directly to this  question. “God sends a variety of trials,” he explains, ”in order to train His own and mortify them in their own righteousness and presumption. God does this in order to recall us from ourselves back to Himself… He thoroughly afflicts us, He purifies so that we may learn to rely on Him.”

Luther says that God allows OCD in order to cure us of “righteousness and presumption.” That means, essentially, to cure us of too much boldness in what we claim for ourselves. We think we ought to be able to control our circumstances so that bad things never happen to us. We want our will to be done, and God to help us out with that. Yet, this is completely self-centered.  What God wants is for us to rely on Him. How are we going to do that if we are stubbornly relying on ourselves? It is fine to hope and pray for what we think would be good for us, but we cannot regard it as our right that it should happen. We need to leave room for God. Sometimes, we need to let God be in complete control.

In order to bring us to a proper position of humility, God has custom designed this painful trial called OCD. What could possibly be a better way to cure people of self-righteousness and presumption than to give them a terrifying disorder that seems both senseless and completely out of their control? We must let God purify us, refine us, through OCD. We must let God have complete control of the occurrence of obsessional thoughts, as well as the severe anxiety and uncertainly that accompany them. Only through taking this risk can we be cured of self-centeredness. God is the surgeon here, and we are the patient. Our part is to allow God to operate. That means no compulsions: no acts to save ourselves, and no reassuring ourselves that everything is fine. God tests those he loves. “Not my will, but thine:” This is the surgeon’s knife; the fire that produces pure gold.

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14 Response Comments

  • Dave   at

    I keep seeking to repay money in business deals I feel I cheated in . Now I feel I exaggerated business expenses on my tax forms . It’s so bad I’m off work and my wife says we didn’t do anything wrong . What do I do ?

    • admin   at

      The idea here is that once we identify that a matter is probably OCD, we allow God to have complete control of it. That means living in painful uncertainty and fear (not good, from our standpoint, but that’s what it takes!). What do you think? Dr O

      • Victoria   at

        Does this mean we are not to take action on the obsessive thoughts? (I apologize if I am being stupid, there just wasn’t much on this topic in the article).

        • admin   at

          We are most definitely to take action against the enemy! OCD is the enemy, trying to rob us of our faith.

  • Jean   at

    I am so thankful for your ministry, Dr. Osborn. I have recommended your book to others who have struggled with these fears. Thank you again!

    • admin   at

      Thanks for your comments, Jean. Dr O

  • Connie   at

    I think it’s horrible that God allows children into adulthood to suffer with OCD. Along with living with intense fear and anxiety of a dis functional family. Too be ignored, prayers for peace and help ignored. Where was God? How cruel?

    • admin   at

      It’s difficult to accept. As St Theresa of Avila once remarked, “The way God treats his friends, no wonder he has so few!”

  • For the past 25 years, I have suffered with crippling OCD and I am a christian. I have gone to a deliverance minister, I have been on various meds, I have spent 13 days in a mental hospital. Still, this thing OCD has become worse. I do not agree that God puts OCD on people. It is just part of the fall, like any other disease. We have to separate God and life.
    This is just my opinion.

  • Manish   at

    To describe ocd, there is no words. And there is no doubt, it is caused by the primal cause, God.

  • clint sheesley   at

    It is a horrible horrible affliction. But- it does drive me back to him which is exactly what this wanderer needs sometimes.

  • Gregg   at

    I too suffer from this and feel like suicide is the only option at times, because of it. What an awful disease.

  • Bill   at

    Then why would he give it to 1-2% of the population? Why not give it to dictators, criminals and really bad people who are enjoying life?

  • Mitchell   at

    Similar to OCD is my affliction where, in fear of losing good things, something subconscious within me tries to stop my experiencing good feelings… 2 years ago I experienced exactly what it was to walk in the divine nature, I finally had revealed me the truth of the Cross, and such joy and blessedness, and a real sense for the Holy Spirit communicating with me, guiding me, and renewing me was right there with me. Then, one day, especially as I grew fatigued, the thought occurred to me, “wow, this is all so very good! Oh dear–what if all this stopped?” And ever since then, my stupid subconscious has made it stop.

    I prayed to God at the time, “please God, take this away from me, because I know what happens next. If I lose the sense of your Holy Spirit with me, then I fall back into the old self and the patterns of life which should be dead. I cannot live the new life without feeling your spirit.” I prayed this prayer so many times, while feeling increasingly dead inside because I could not connect with the Holy Spirit. And he has ignored me for more than 2 years now.

    Why would God ignore me when I’m not just calling out for the pain to stop, but rather I am calling for the growth He obviously wants in me–to keep going?

    This is not the first time either. I have already suffered 3 previous experiences of this of 2 years each in duration; and I never benefited at all from any of them. I only learnt how to distance myself from God in order to not have good feelings that would freak me out and make me block them. Whereas I had thought to cast my anxiety onto him, apparently I was left to my own devices to make it end, in the form of distancing myself far from God so that I would have nothing to freak out about. I have no idea why God won’t deal with this rebellious and Insidious infection in my old flesh that keeps me from prevailing in the Holy Spirit. How could any prayer to keep walking in God’s spirit, to keep growing towards Christ, and to get away from anything that prevents this be anathema to God’s ears?

    It makes no sense to me. It seems to contradict scriptures where it is written God will enable us to stand, that he will enable us to remain in his love, and that all things work for our good. It is not working for our good when it drives us backwards into the old flesh and far from his Spirit.

    Was I being punished for any sin? No, because all my Sin is on the cross and gone. And I wasn’t harbouring any sin at the time all this nonsense started either.

    I can trace none of this back to anything readily identifiable. I trace it back to nothing. I trace it back to being at the highest point in my Christian walk ever. And it seems I’ve been punished, kicked in the guts, and driven into isolation through this disgusting insult both to me and to Heaven. This weird OCD rubbish. It serves no good purpose, and yet it hangs on me like the old flesh still hangs on me. I only wonder how long Paul was left to deal with that thorn in his flesh? four sets of 2 years each? I severely doubt it.

    I would gladly take Jesus Christ’s place in gethsemane, but for one night and for one bitter cup. At least he had a ministering angel to strengthen him. Where is mine? Where is anybody’s who is undergoing the same sort of Ruthless trial? I would gladly take Paul’s Thorn, that Reckless agent of Satan. I’ve wasted 8 years of my life going nowhere, stagnating, feeling dead, being driven back and away from good and positive growth. How can that be a part of Gods good will?

    And in the interim I had a blood clot in my leg that went to my lungs and nearly killed me, I have seen 21 doctors who refuse or fail to diagnose my neurogenic inflammation and the secondary mast cell disorder that accompanies it… , I have suffered dead pets, I have suffered threats from marauding youth in the streets, I cannot even begin to recount the Job like evils that have beset me and my family since the time I first walked in the divine nature.

    All I can assume is that anyone truly on the path of Jesus Christ will face even horrendous attacks, psychologically and physically and in any other way possible. When too much is going on to possibly b explainable in natural terms, we must then allow for God to be the one presiding over these Supernatural tortures and Trials. All we can do is dig deep and find his spirit, and remember that His Holy Spirit is stronger than anything in this world, and in the world that surrounds this world, and cling to that spirit, and pray in that spirit, and know that somehow, above all odds and against all we recognise in our human state, that God is greater than all these things combined and somehow he will provide Victory for us, lest God he proves he is not.