OCD & Faith

I was recently asked how my faith survived 20 years of abuse at the hand of OCD.  This fellow sufferer wondered how I reconciled/justified my continued believe in God after so much hurt and such a sense of betrayal.

It’s a great question.

I am a Christian, that is, I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s only son, that he came to earth to rescue men, died on a cross on a Friday, and rose again to life the following Sunday.  

It’s actually the story of the cross and the resurrection that have allowed me to cling to my faith.

The agony of the cross shows me that Jesus understands my suffering; we identify with one another. And the victory of the resurrection prompts me to have hope in my suffering, knowing that only a weekend separated the worst story from becoming the best; I am filled with hope that, just as I identify with him in his suffering, I will also identify with him in his victory.

The truth is that without the gospel of Christ, it would be difficult for me to justify my continued faith.


For more about my faith, go to jackieleasommers.com/faith.
For (lots!) more about OCD and ERP, go to jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

cross and resurrection

11 thoughts on “OCD & Faith

  1. I love this too! I have lived with OCD my whole life and have been through so many ups and downs, but I always keep my hope for a better tomorrow. If I have a bad day, I have faith that I will get through it and hope there are always better days to come. Thanks for your post 🙂

  2. Hm. Interesting. I’d imagine the questioner meant something a bit different by their question. Jesus’ resurrection—by some reasonable definition of the word ‘miracle’—is extremely unlikely to have occurred. It’s rare. A statistical anomaly. A one in a million.

    So, it then follows that the related, negative, anxiety-producing significant doctrines—hell, sin, etc—are similarly unlikely. (If Jesus isn’t God, the hell he talked about is probably not real in the Xtian sense…)

    Many with OCD are held hostage by the anxiety related to risks of cosmologically small probabilities—they fear the one in a million chance they left the iron plugged in and it will burn down the house, or the almost impossible odds of getting an STD from a toilet seat, etc.

    The “abuse” OCD can cause by way of religion seems often related to the idea there is some non-zero chance the sufferer will end up in hell—hell is incalculably bad and the OCDer’s anxiety spikes even if the odds are very slim of the threat being realized (just like unplugged iron fires and toilet seat STDs).

    In my experience, I gave up the small chance Jesus was God using evidence (and hell & OCD followed); you seem to (correct me if I’m wrong) have come to accept the small chance you could end up in hell using some combination of faith and ERP.

    Different strokes. 🙂

    • Oh Brent, you know I’m HAPPY to correct you. 🙂

      No, the person who asked me was asking me how I could still trust in and love my God if I had suffered so much from OCD. That is what they were asking, and that is how I answered them. The person who asked was actually Muslim, and that’s why I had to make the distinctions about Christ– without the gospel of Jesus, I don’t think I *would* have held onto God. God without Jesus would not have been enough to get me through.

      Also, I take offense at the way you dismiss the resurrection, on which my life is based. It’s not an impossibility. In fact, I rather find it foolish that people could dismiss the moment that changed the rest of history, including the way we view time (BC, AD) and humility, among other things. The life of Christ is a documented historical fact, and I’d group the resurrection right into that as well, though I know it takes faith to believe it. On the other hand, I’d not want to believe in a God who could not do the impossible, let alone the extremely rare.

      I invite your thoughts. But I did want to clarify what the asker was asking. And yes, you’re right that with ERP I had to embrace that hell might be a possibility for me.

      You and I are pals, so I won’t take *too* much offense. 🙂 But

      • Ah, a Muslim. My mistake, and I stand happily corrected. 🙂

        I don’t claim the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is an “impossibility”. Not at all. If it occurred, it is—as I think I said—an anomaly. No one I am aware of—Christian or otherwise—denies this. A corpse being re-animated after three days is far less likely than burning down one’s house after to failing to unplug an iron, or getting an STD from a toilet seat.

        Anyway, Jesus’ resurrection is *not* impossible by any stretch, but it is very, very improbable by almost any standard—historical or otherwise. (That’s why you believe it to be a ‘miracle’, no?)

        My point was only that OCD often “feeds” off such statistically highly-unlikely (though not impossible) negative events whereas, in contrast, you derive the “hope” to manage OCD (and “cling to your faith”) through the statistically unlikely (though not impossible) resurrection of Jesus.

      • Oh! You are so brave! I love your wording: “to embrace that hell might be a possibility for me.” I love it! I have dealt with religious OCD ever since I started reading the Bible over ten years ago when I was in college. Through my prior knowledge of the accuracy of Biblical prophecy and its correlation with historical and current events, when I began actually seeking a RELATIONSHIP with the God if the Bible, I knew in my head that he was real and that his Word was in fact true. But when I learned from the Bible how near to me he wanted to be and how intimately he desired to know me, including my faults, I FREAKED OUT. I was terrified of this omnipresent, omniscient Person who saw my every move and knew my every thought and weakness. In reality, I was scared of the PERCEPTION I had of a God of judgment and wrath. I minimized the loving, compassionate, tender, fatherly heart of God that the Bible also presents and looked for every reason why I wouldn’t qualify for salvation through faith. I had never considered myself a sinner before because I worked hard, followed all the rules, and was the daughter I thought every parent would be proud of, so being confronted with my self-righteousness and pride absolutely destroyed my self-image. I was EXPOSED.

        I talked to God in prayer (oftentimes incessant, chattery OCD-style prayer, lol) and asked him to change my heart, to give me a desire to know him. I read the Bible constantly, which sometimes produced peace and sometimes sheer terror in my heart. I began attending campus Christian fellowship meetings and church, and I started to enjoy God’s presence, but I would only allow myself rest in God’s love so much, because WHAT IF…? “What if I’m not really saved?” “What if I am trampling the grace of God?” “What if I’m lukewarm?” “What if there’s a loophole?”… Ah, the infamous blasphemy of the Holy Spirit clause!! “What if I inadvertently blasphemed the Holy Spirit sometime in my past?” And so on. I became obsessed with these fear-producing thoughts and was convinced I was perverse, blasphemous, and hellbound, although deep inside I knew that if I just kept going with God, I could get to a totally different place spiritually and emotionally. The Bible says that we can’t come to God unless the Holy Spirit draws us, so I would comfort myself with the fact that I was still coming, so the Holy Spirit wouldn’t be drawing a condemned, rejected sinner to seek the Lord, right?

        Thankfully, persistence paid off and although I can still get caught up in my head at times, I know God much better now. I know that being stuck in my head isn’t God’s plan for me at all. He loves me, and whenever I come down from doing mental gymnastics, he is there. He never leaves. Object permanence is a beautiful thing!

        So I was wondering about ERP. Is it expensive? How long did you go for? I am curious about it because it sure would be very helpful to have a human to talk to about my issues at times. I have read numerous books like Boundaries by Drs. Townsend and Cloud which have helped tremendously with emotional difficulties, misplaced responsibilities, etc., but it is only recently that I’m making overcoming OCD specifically a priority. I have been free from blasphemous thoughts for many years now, by God’s amazing grace, but I’m realizing that OCD still affects my thought processes. Sometimes I let my emotions come in between God and me– like if I’m angry with someone, I feel like I can’t approach God until I’m clean again and I question whether or not I really loving God and people. By default, I still have a performance orientation instead of a grace orientation, but the difference is that nowadays, I know that this is wrong and that God is for me and not against me. The truth is that I’m not accepted because of me; I’m accepted because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection from the dead.

        I didn’t intend for this to be a long comment, but I wanted to introduce myself, to thank you for creating this blog, and to ask about ERP. I also haven’t talked much about my condition to anyone, so it helpful to open up.

      • Hi Livi!

        Thanks for your comment! I love sharing about ERP, since it was the tool God used to set me free. I underwent ERP for 12 weeks, and I paid my $30 co-pay for each session (I have good health insurance through my work). After my decision to accept Christ, undergoing ERP was the greatest choice I have ever made! I have lots of information about it on my website– just click the OCD tab!

  3. This post means everything to me ❤ the fact that faith can be strengthened in the midst of an OCD storm is just beautiful ❤ your posts have helped me through some of the toughest OCD days too, though! Thankful to God for your blog 🙂

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