God’s Sovereignty, OCD, the Cross, and His Purposes

Just wanted to sort out some thoughts and spark conversation on my blog today.

A little while ago, I asked the question on my blog Did God give me OCD? and came to conclusion that yes, he did, to draw me to himself and so that I could use it to glorify him and help others.  A blog reader challenged me on that conclusion, and I thought her questions were valid.  She wrote:

Let me challenge this: Is God good or bad? Does God do bad things? I do not believe that God gives people sickness, disorders, etc. It is contrary to God’s character to do those things. I DO believe that God will use bad circumstances/disease/etc in order to bring Him glory and all the things you said. BUT the whole reason that Jesus died for us is to enter into relationship with the Father. There had to be a sacrifice to tear the veil and stand in the gap between the God of the Old Testament and the New Covenant. When we look at the OT, we have to look at it through the lens of the Cross…would the Cross change how a situation would look? Judgement in the New Testament is always correctional because final judgement doesn’t happen on this earth anymore (it did in the OT). When we look at sickness, we see that Jesus performed miracles to show God’s love. He never caused anyone sickness. I do not believe that God gave you OCD, but I 100% agree that God is good and uses your OCD to drive you to Him, so that you could glorify Him with it, and to help others who are suffering.

This comment has got me thinking deeply about this.  Right now, it’s still a pretty jarbled (that’s a mix of jumbled and garbled) blend of the doctrine of suffering (suffering in itself is not virtuous, but it does seem purposeful [Romans 8:28-29]), God’s sovereignty (is God in control of everything?  Even disease/disorder?  Sin and evil aren’t of his making, but if he gave humans the choice to opt for them, doesn’t that mean he is still master over it all?), and hindsight (now that OCD is not master of me, it’s easier to see the larger picture of OCD as a tool God used in my life).

I think that my position (for now) still stands with the belief that God did give me OCD for his glory and purposes.

cross4To answer the commenter’s questions, I respond with my own questions: from one perspective, the CROSS was a “bad thing.”  In the moment, who would have guessed it would come to be known as GOOD Friday?  And we know it was planned. Redemption through the cross was the plan for forever.  “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10).  Think of this from a human perspective.  If we watched a father allow his son to be tortured, we would probably say that dad was doing a “bad thing.”

But, of course, we don’t see the cross from that angle anymore.  We know what happened on Sunday morning after Christ’s death.  And we now know that the cross is the most beautiful thing, the event that allows us freedom and life.  We look on the “bad thing” as a glorious thing.

So, could it be that way with OCD?  (I don’t think I’m ready to call it a “glorious thing” yet!)  But if suffering is predetermined (“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” [1 Peter 4:19]), who predetermined it?  It’s hard for me to separate God from control over all things (I’m still sorting through some of this, including the fall of man).

What do you think?  Let’s dialogue.

29 thoughts on “God’s Sovereignty, OCD, the Cross, and His Purposes

  1. This opens up a huge can of worms for me. It opens the door for discussion also about “why bad things happen to good people”, included in that is what people do to other people. Some people are grateful for past abuse or trauma because it drew them closer to God. Now, of course God has the power to stop any situation and people still have free will, but consider this: God could cause you to never cross paths with the person who may cause you harm someday. If he can give you a disease to teach you something and draw you closer to Him, would He cause you to cross paths with someone whom He knows will hurt you? And, if the God of the universe loves me, would He stand idly by and watch me get hurt?

    • First of all he does loves us but we will reap what we sow. But even in his word it says it will rein on the just and the unjust.

      • Yes, just a he gave Joseph his situation ((too?)loving father, angry brothers, etc.), Job his situation, and Christ the cross. What a wonderful thing, to know there’s a purpose behind our sorrows! 🙂

    • I know you probably aren’t intending that statement as I am reading it, but have to be honest that I really have a problem with that cliché. Technically it is correct, in that no one besides Jesus was 100% good. However, it’s really important to clarify that people don’t receive things like OCD or abuse because they have done something to deserve them. People, who all are corrupted by sin, receive consequences for their bad behavior. They also sometimes receive abuse and illness that they haven’t earned by bad behavior – it’s not their fault nor something that they deserve simply by being human. This distinction is SO important for people who carry false guilt from abusive actions done to them or from OCD. Shame is toxic. Let’s be careful not to place it where it doesn’t belong.

      • Two more thoughts:
        – God is just not only in punishing/taking the punishment for sin, but in vindicating and defending those who are unjustly abused, accused, and/or oppressed. It’s a strong theme throughout Scripture – something I’ve especially been noticing in the OT lately.
        – Personhood is not bad or shameful.

      • I could have clarified that the things we deal with in life are not *necessarily* always our fault, but often come from the sin of others, yes. But ultimately, it is helpful to understand that sin (in general) is the cause for all of our troubles. There would be no OCD w/o sin; which again is not to say our daily sin is always directly causing our pain/suffering/troubles.

  2. Well said Jackie!
    I love this huge story, don’t you? Yes, I think God gave you OCD…
    Did God make Joseph a slave and prisoner then second in command in Egypt? Well, God obviously knew what would happen when he gave him those crazy dreams in Genesis 37. He sure did take care of him when he was sold to slavery and later put in jail. Joseph prospered in his work. And look at Joseph’s testimony when talking with his brothers years after they sold him:
    Genesis 45:5-8
    “5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
    God knew there would be famine (he sent Pharaoh a dream). Man does not send himself prophetic dreams. God sent Joseph ahead to keep this remnant alive.
    Who knows who your story will affect?

  3. Here is a question for thought:
    If God, in His infinite, matchless knowledge, knew something would make us more into the image of Jesus Christ (the ultimate, greatest good), but withheld it from us, would He still be good?

  4. I have OCD and it does bring me to Closer to god and humbles me to my knees. I have thanked The Lord for the gift, and also been mad at the fact he doesn’t make it just go away. God knows what he is doing. He truly has your best interest in mind on an eternal level this suffering from OCD is temporary. What we call bad The Lord may use for good in the long run, just give it over. Good luck

  5. I agree with you that the Cross was part of God’s plan, but I don’t believe it was His original intent. Before the Fall, humanity lived connected to God. It was only after the Fall that there became a need for redemption. God willingly gave His Son up to die for the sins of humankind, but I don’t think He ever wanted it to happen. If we remember that God never desired humanity to walk away from Him, it makes it easier to reconcile God’s controversial plan of redemption. A suffering servant was required to save humanity, but I don’t think God ever wanted to be put in the position where He had to save humanity in the first place. Out of love He gave us free will, and that freedom allowed for the possibility that we might walk away.

    On another note, I too have OCD, but I don’t believe God caused it. He has used it to grow me spiritually, socially, emotionally, and physically, and it has brought tremendous good to my life. However, I cannot believe that the God I know would willingly cause His child to suffer so terribly in order to teach a lesson, or even to draw the child closer to Himself. God may know that suffering will occur, but that doesn’t necessarily mean He caused it. (Suffering can, of course, be due to sin, but even righteous people like Job suffered. God didn’t cause Job’s suffering; he did, however, allow it to happen.)

    I’m currently taking an Old Testament theology class and the book we’re reading talks a lot about God’s sovereignty, inconsistencies in God’s character, etc. It’s given me a new perspective on a lot of the Old Testament texts. If you’re interested, it’s by Walter Brueggemann and it’s called “Theology of the Old Testament.” I’ll warn you, it’s really dense and extremely long, although it can be read in parts. (Focus specifically on the section called “Israel’s Countertestimony.”) I guess that’s just how college theology textbooks are!

    By the way, I love your blog! I also have many questions with regard to God, suffering, and theology in general. I appreciate your willingness to tackle tough topics.

      • A lot of my theology hinges on this. I’m glad you brought it up. I’ll do a little research into it and let you know more of where I’m coming from. (But, to be honest, my view of Christianity quite rests on this fact of God’s foreknowledge and of the eternal plan of the cross. If God is in charge and good, and yet the world is now fallen, how can you reconcile all those things unless God values redemption over perfection?)

        Oh, those of us with OCD and our minds whirring like machines. 🙂 I’m glad you’re going to do a little research too! We’ll reconvene soon, Carly! 🙂

      • You know, your post got me thinking, and I am going to talk to some of my professors and my mentor (who also happens to be a pastor) about whether the Cross was the plan all along. Right now, I’ll stick by my original thought and I’ll get back to you when (and if) I reach a conclusion! 😛 Goodnight!

    • “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2:23

      “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” I Cor. 15:3b

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  7. Acts 17:24- a doosy- God it seems, is pretty specific in arranging the circumstances of people’s lives. He certainly knew that my mom’s family would have anxiety and OCD that would be passed along to me. He also knew that it would help me help others in many ways- I’ve done a lot or research and book reading on the subject of what God fore-ordained including the Cross. We can’t understand the kind of access to time that God has- C.S. Lewis said every moment is now for God- which although alarmingly simple is probably most accurate. I believe that it’s almost impossible for God to say I knew and therefore I reacted- I think every moment going backwards and forwards is now for Him- so that we are experiencing linear time- action, consequence, etc… for Him it all happens at once- so things in history appear to us as actions and responses to Him they are all one moment. Anyway- it’s germane to OCD because I think God allows it for His purposes-

    • Good post, Steve. I read it– but fast– I’ll need to read it in more detail again soon. I just keep thinking of the cross. I think the cross shows that God can ordain something that seems bad at the time but doesn’t seem that way in the greater narrative arc.

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  9. This might sound odd but intrusive, unwanted, negative thoughts about God, made me RUN toward God after a bad panic attack I had after I found out my mom had terminal cancer. I accepted Jesus into my heart right before all this happened and was in complete peace.. I started listening to Christian music and all was well but then I had the panic attack and horrible intrusive thoughts. I went through such a hard time, lost a lot of weight. Barely functioning in fear.. Somehow, after many months, I came out of it on my own understanding what it is and how to tackle it. My mom was able to see my family and I join a church, be baptized, and i thank God for allowing OCD, my relationship with Him is much more than it was before this happened. I still have odd thoughts but I try to not let them get to me and the anxiety seems to subside on it’s own. I fear if I have “one more” bad thought, God will disown me or harden my heart and I have to remember that He is bigger than all of this. I pray that I belong to him and that he will always have a hold of me. Thank you for your post on this.

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