Acceptance and Submission in the Storm of Religious OCD

“Please Lord; why do I have to go through this?”

I remember that day so well. I was lying in the middle of my living room floor, staring up at the ceiling and thinking; what if I never feel better? What if this is how I’ll spend the rest of my days? That seemed an unbearable thing. I felt certain that  I wouldn’t be capable of doing that.  Then another thought;  “but what if He is asking me to do just that? Why would He ask me to do that?” I didn’t have answers to those questions.

As I continued to lie there, flat on my back, my arms outstretched and wide open like a bird that had been shot down, I decided there was nothing to be done about it. I had prayed and prayed for God to remove the horrid thoughts which had created such an agony within.  Agony, which was ignited by these enormous doubts as to whether or not I was still His child.  It was at that very moment that I made the decision to stop begging Him to take it all away.  Instead, I began to pray in a wholly different manner than I had before: “Lord, I have no idea why I have to feel like this? I also don’t know if I’ll ever feel better and I certainly don’t know what benefit there is in all of this. The only thing I do know is that you, O Lord, are worthy of my trust; worthy of my submission. If you want me to feel like this, then I’ll feel like this, and even while I feel like this I will still do my best to obey you and to honor your name because you –  are – worthy!”  

Immediately after praying this I felt a measure of calmness that I hadn’t hadn’t experienced in quite some time. It’s not that I had any kind of reassurance or comfort that I would ever feel better. It’s just that I realized that in the midst of all the pain, I could still choose to trust in God’s Sovereign goodness.  I could choose to follow Him with or without feeling the comfort of His presence.  

Several verses came to mind after I  had prayed:  “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?”(1) Then: “Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.” (2)  These verses would provide the footing that I needed to just keep on walking. I knew that If anyone was to be trusted to always do right by me it was God. I knew that no matter how anxious or afraid I was, I could still strive to live for Christ in regard to obedience.  As I got up from the floor I also realized that to do anything else other than to follow Christ would be to walk entirely devoid of direction or purpose.
Later that same day I decided to go for a walk in my neighborhood. As I was walking I took notice of how bleak and grey the sky looked.  It really seemed to match how I felt.  I longed for the comfort and joy of my salvation to return, but it seemed that I might be destined to walk on without it.  As I was gazing into this desolate looking sky I spotted a very large bird soaring against the clouds. He just seemed to be floating up there; wings wide open and yet not even twitching a feather.  Each time he circled to face the wind he’d go up even higher. It was at that very moment that it hit me that this is why the eagle soars. He doesn’t beat his wings against wind. He doesn’t turn away from it or tuck his head under his wings. Instead, he turns toward it; into it and opens up his wings.  He actually submits to it. And when he does this, he mounts up higher and higher. Suddenly I realized that my God, in the most personal and tender of ways was affirming that my submission and obedience to Him in the experience of my storm was most assuredly the right thing to do. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (3)

Later on God would bring an additional confirmation that submission and obedience to God were in and of themselves evidence of a faith that is real.  Why would a person even bother about these things if they didn’t have the faith to know that God IS and that He is pleased with our submission and obedience.

The day that I saw that bird, I was still wholly unaware that I even had OCD, let alone Religious OCD.  It was later on, after I understood that I had this disorder that God would show me that He had helped me to make the right choice.  After learning that I was suffering from Religious OCD, someone suggested that I read a book by John Bunyan: “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.”  Many experts in the field of psychology have determined that Mr. Bunyan suffered from Religious OCD and this little book is his own personal account of all that he went through during that emotionally devastating period of his life.

As I read through Mr. Bunyan’s story, I marveled again and again at how similar our thoughts and feelings were.  It was as if he’d been able to read my thoughts and feel my feelings.  It was such a tremendous comfort to me!  But, the most astonishing and affirming thing I read, came as I neared the end of the book.

Mr. Bunyan: ” ‘Twas my duty to stand to his Word, whether he would ever look upon me or no, or save me at the last: wherefore, thought I, the point being thus, I am for going on, and venturing my eternal state with Christ, whether I have comfort here or no; if God doth not come in, thought I, I will leap off the ladder even blindfold into eternity, sink or swim, come heaven come hell; Lord Jesus, if thou wilt catch me, do, if not, I will venture all for thy name.” (4)

Suddenly I saw Mr. Bunyan soaring just like the eagle as he opened up to this storm in submission, in patient waiting and above all else, in determined obedience.  This, was for me, the most encouraging word I’d read or heard since I’d been so beaten down by my disorder.

Best of all when when the timing was right, God relieved Mr. Bunyan of his suffering and at the end of his life he was so comforted by the abiding presence of His Lord, that he became the comforter to all those who surrounded him on his death-bed.  He knew He was going home to be with his Lord.

The joy and comfort of my own relationship with my Lord has also returned to me, though, for a time I had grave doubts that it ever would.

OCD certainly creates tremendous and excruciating anxiety, most especially when it latches on to the relationship which is the one which gives us our identity and our purpose in this life.   But, OCD can only jab at us.  It cannot take over our will.  We can choose to obey, to submit, to open up and leave it to God to carry us through the storm.

To read more about my experiences with OCD visit my books page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Strivings-Within-Christian-Overcoming-Anxiety-ebook/dp/B00EP4ODPK/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1443273632&sr=8-15&keywords=OCD

(1) Genesis 18:25b. NIV, (2) Psalm 4:5 NIV, (3) Isaiah 40:31 NIV, (4) “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”, John Bunyan, Penguin Books, quote #337.

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5 thoughts on “Acceptance and Submission in the Storm of Religious OCD

  1. Stewart October 1, 2015 / 2:12 am

    So inspirational Mitzi! Your courage and faith in the Lord are amazing! Love all of your posts!!

    Like

    • James Cross May 18, 2016 / 7:21 am

      Hello, I just wanted to thank you for this blog. I am a married man, with three young wonderful kids and a faith filled wife. She has spent a good portion of the past two years up in the night listening to my perpetual doubts, my fearful thoughts, and nearly all things miserable. Unfortunately, I as of two days ago believed partly that these invansive thoughts I have been having for years now was the enemy, that is demonic in nature. I also read Bunyans autobiography grace abounding back in December, the shorter version, and do believe that he suffered what I am suffering. But I would note it is very likely that he was being accused by the accuser which played its self out in OCD. None the less I am encouraged to read this and believe Jesus is helping me see this disorder is something I am struggling with. I would like to say that the primary struggle for me has been with assurance. This lead to a deep and prayful exploration of the scriptures these past couple years, followed by being sickened whilst I read certain texts. To which I cry in the night for mercy, and often times I moan in agony. Wondering am I Jacob or Esau, could I have a tormenting spirit like Saul as a result of consequences, which who could argue otherwise. Trust me I have tried, and found not many gain entrance to Heaven by well formed arguements, just ask Job. I could talk about what Paul really means when he says if you walk ACCORDING to the flesh you will die in Rom8:13. He is not primarly talking behavior, but rather what are you by nature. A wheat or a weed, a goat or a sheep. The same phrase is used early in Genesis to refer to animals being made each ACCORDING to their kinds, means cats have kittens, cows have calves, and chickens have chics, likewise we are either from adam(darkness) or Born of God (children of light.) Walk according to the flesh is saying, if you walk in the way in which is your natural unregenerate state you will die. Same as Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3, you must be born again. Or how in Romans 9 Paul says ‘For I wish I where cutoff for the sake of my kinsmen my brothers who ACCORDING TO THE FLESH are the patriachs.’ I’m alowing you a fly on the wall of my thoughts here. All of this to avoid the fear of John Owens famous saying on Rom 8:13 ‘be killing sin or it be killing you’ to which as mentioned above I think really? Its that fragile, but what about 8:1 no condemnation, or later in chapter 8 nothing can seperate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? No, my life seems to depend not on mr. OWENS thought of this text, because sin be killing me otherwise!! I could talk about how I arrived exhausted at why Jacob is loved and Esau is hated. First to look at who God is, and then to end there would be the best solution. Of course fear is often irrational and starts with self. Hence exhausted arrival! Malachi3:6 is the summation of months of worry and dread. In a fit of frustration at about 5 am I yelled ‘but why is Jacob not consumed and Esau is?’ “FOR I THE LORD DO NOT CHANGE, THEREFORE YOU SONS OF JACOB ARE NOT CONSUMED. ” There it was and I rejoiced, God is unchanging and looking at my fruits or lack of and trying to gain assurance stopped. At least for a few weeks, until I lost the excitment of truth, faith is much better then emotions! But none the less, I explored what has God not chnaged in, what does it mean? I looked at Jacobs awful character and got a encouraging encounter of the truth that he was a sleeze ball and was choosen by Grace. I then read about Gods existance and attributes by stephan carnock. Found you can say God is love, but can not say God is Wrath. Blew me away. Wrath is a momentary response towards mens sinful rebellion, but ultimately Gods love trumps all. Love is who he is! And perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with judgement, ie:wrath. Truly that verse made alive for me, God is love not wrath, so dont be afraid. Well where was I, yes Bunyan taught me how to find small phrases of scripture as a source of strength even when I am still weak. For me I have concluded for a christian that we get a clean conscience not through how good I am, or based on my outward evidences of being saved, I of all people am not running the risk of cheapening Gods Grace. I am guilty, and my conscience is clear….Also as a side note Charles Spurgeon has greatly helped me on those tougher nights, two books that shocked me and were so encouraging, ‘the treasury of David’, and ‘prayer and spiritual warfare.’ Well thanks for this blog it has been good to see right. Grace be with you

      Like

      • ocdmitzi77 May 19, 2016 / 3:26 pm

        Hi James, I’m saddened to hear of your painful struggle with these excruciating obsessions. I really do know how you feel. I don’t know how well informed you are about managing OCD/Pure O, but I wanted to invite you to read my book. It’s actually free to download May 20th – 22nd. God may use it to encourage you and even to direct you to ways to manage and press through the obsessions so they will no longer torment you and that joy of your salvation might return. Praying for you! Thank you for sharing your story in such a transparent way. Here’s the link to my book: Link: https://amzn.com/B00EP4ODPK

        Like

  2. James Cross May 18, 2016 / 6:19 am

    Hello, I just wanted to thank you for this blog. I am a married man, with three young wonderful kids and a faith filled wife. Unfortunately, I as of two days ago believed partly that these invansive thoughts I have been having for years now was the enemy, that is demonic in nature. I also read Bunyans autobiography grace abounding back in December, the shorter version, and do believe that he suffered what I am suffering. But I would note it is very likely that he was being accused by the accuser which played its self out in OCD. None the less I am encouraged to read this and believe Jesus is helping me see this disorder is something I am struggling with. I would like to say that the primary struggle in assurance Ive had has been in not feeling good enough, Bunyan taught me how to find small phrases of scripture as a source of strength even when I am still weak. For me I have concluded for a christian that we get a clean conscience not through being guiltless but only through Jesus. The reason I mention this is because I have found myself wondering ‘am I better then those old days before my supposed being saved, do I sin in the same ways, have I really come anywhere? Perhaps not..’ maybe im not His then. This has been a terrible fight to gain assurance, after years now of being up for nights in tears I have concluded, ‘God did not save me from one or two behaviors that were sinful, no, he saved me for Himself’ and when the accuser comes and says your guilty, you haven’t changed, no one believes your really a Christian, they all think your being fake, look at your life have you changed? I now say, ‘ your right!’ So what if im guilty, why have I tried to prove my innocence over and over again, all night of arguing, when I realized I am guilty. We use the phrase in our Church “I have a clear conscience” to show we have done what is right in a given situation. I of course have agonized over wondering if I do a certain thing right or wrong and feel miserable when I believe I did something wrong. I have realized wait I get a clear conscience how? By doing right? No. Jesus cleanses our conscience from dead works, so whats the big deal if I do something wrong, I of all people am not running the risk of cheapening Gods Grace. I am guilty, and my conscience is clear….next. Also as a side note Charles Spurgeon has greatly helped me on those tougher nights, two books that shocked me and where so encouraging, ‘the treasury of David’, and ‘prayer and spiritual warfare.’ Well thanks again, and Grace be with you.

    Like

  3. James Cross May 18, 2016 / 7:15 am

    Hello, I just wanted to thank you for this blog. I am a married man, with three young wonderful kids and a faith filled wife. She has spent a good portion of the past two years up in the night listening to my perpetual doubts, my fearful thoughts, and nearly all things miserable. Unfortunately, I as of two days ago believed partly that these invansive thoughts I have been having for years now was the enemy, that is demonic in nature. I also read Bunyans autobiography grace abounding back in December, the shorter version, and do believe that he suffered what I am suffering. But I would note it is very likely that he was being accused by the accuser which played its self out in OCD. None the less I am encouraged to read this and believe Jesus is helping me see this disorder is something I am struggling with. I would like to say that the primary struggle for me has been with assurance. This lead to a deep and prayful exploration of the scriptures these past couple years, followed by being sickened whilst I read certain texts. To which I cry in the night for mercy, and often times I moan in agony. Wondering am I Jacob or Esau, could I have a tormenting spirit like Saul as a result of consequences, which who could argue otherwise. Trust me I have tried, and found not many gain entrance to Heaven by well formed arguements, just ask Job. I could talk about what Paul really means when he says if you walk ACCORDING to the flesh you will die in Rom8:13. He is not primarly talking behavior, but rather what are you by nature. A wheat or a weed, a goat or a sheep. The same phrase is used early in Genesis to refer to animals being made each ACCORDING to their kinds, means cats have kittens, cows have calves, and chickens have chics, likewise we are either from adam(darkness) or Born of God (children of light.) Walk according to the flesh is saying, if you walk in the way in which is your natural unregenerate state you will die. Same as Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3, you must be born again. Or how in Romans 9 Paul says ‘For I wish I where cutoff for the sake of my kinsmen my brothers who ACCORDING TO THE FLESH are the patriachs.’ I’m alowing you a fly on the wall of my thoughts here. All of this to avoid the fear of John Owens famous saying on Rom 8:13 ‘be killing sin or it be killing you’ to which as mentioned above I think really? Its that fragile, but what about 8:1 no condemnation, or later in chapter 8 nothing can seperate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? No, my life seems to depend not on mr. OWENS thought of this text, because sin be killing me otherwise!! I could talk about how I arrived exhausted at why Jacob is loved and Esau is hated. First to look at who God is, and then to end there would be the best solution. Of course fear is often irrational and starts with self. Hence exhausted arrival! Malachi3:6 is the summation of months of worry and dread. In a fit of frustration at about 5 am I yelled ‘but why is Jacob not consumed and Esau is?’ “FOR I THE LORD DO NOT CHANGE, THEREFORE YOU SONS OF JACOB ARE NOT CONSUMED. ” There it was and I rejoiced, God is unchanging and looking at my fruits or lack of and trying to gain assurance stopped. At least for a few weeks, until I lost the excitment of truth, faith is much better then emotions! But none the less, I explored what has God not chnaged in, what does it mean? I looked at Jacobs awful character and got a encouraging encounter of the truth that he was a sleeze ball and was choosen by Grace. I then read about Gods existance and attributes by stephan carnock. Found you can say God is love, but can not say God is Wrath. Blew me away. Wrath is a momentary response towards mens sinful rebellion, but ultimately Gods love trumps all. Love is who he is! And perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with judgement, ie:wrath. Truly that verse made alive for me, God is love not wrath, so dont be afraid. Well where was I, yes Bunyan taught me how to find small phrases of scripture as a source of strength even when I am still weak. For me I have concluded for a christian that we get a clean conscience not through how good I am, or based on my outward evidences of being saved, I of all people am not running the risk of cheapening Gods Grace. I am guilty, and my conscience is clear….Also as a side note Charles Spurgeon has greatly helped me on those tougher nights, two books that shocked me and were so encouraging, ‘the treasury of David’, and ‘prayer and spiritual warfare.’ Well thanks for this blog it has been good to see right. Grace be with you

    Like

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