Staying with God

A long time ago, I got this question from a blog reader: How did you make the decision to ‘stay’ with God when your struggles came from that relationship?

I think I’m ready to write about that now.

White wall texture with a chair

So … for those of you who are newer to the blog, a bit of backstory: I battled with OCD– mostly of a spiritual nature– for about twenty years before I finally underwent treatment. While OCD has told me countless lies, the hardest one was that I was not loved and accepted by God and that I was going to hell. Nearly all of my battles with OCD had their root in this lie. It was– and remains– my worst thing imaginable (which, of course, is what OCD goes after).

I know that some people who have battled with OCD of a scrupulous or spiritual nature have eventually walked away from the faith. My understanding (though I could be wrong) is that the guilt and fear and, oh, lifestyle guidelines are too severe, so they end up having to distance themselves from it all in order to maintain some semblance of sanity and freedom.

As I said, I could be describing that wrong. The truth is that I’ve never understood it. My OCD centered around the idea that God was the most important person in my life and my fear was that I did not have him … or could not … or that he would refuse to have me. When that was my most intense terror, where would the relief have come from by choosing to walk away myself? I would have been willfully walking into that which was my darkest fear.

So, for me, clinging to Christ was my only hope in the midst of such darkness. Had I let go, I’d have been choosing the terror I was desperately trying to avoid.

Praise God that– while I was clinging to him, so afraid of falling– I was safe in his hands. I just didn’t know it. There is a difference between fearing that a chair will not hold you and a chair that will really not hold you. A huge difference. That said, the fear alone may keep you from enjoying the chair. But for those of us with OCD, our fears and our reality might be miles apart, but we’ve lost the ability to see that gaping chasm between them.

That’s where treatment comes in. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy saved my life and gave me new eyes to see the difference between my fears and the truth. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but 5000% worth it. Today I get to enjoy my relationship with Christ in ways my OCD prevented me from in the past.

If you want to learn more about my faith, click here.
If you want to learn more about OCD and ERP, click here.

2 thoughts on “Staying with God

  1. Actually, you are not too far off. When I first started exhibiting symptoms of OCD, scrupulosity took me for a very unwanted loop. I was actually seriously contending with becoming a priest or pastor as I was someone who prayed a lot and was a good listener. I would call it the dark year of the soul for me. I was anxious-panic attacks several times a day, depressed, OCD-ing like crazy, losing ridiculous amounts of weight as I couldn’t eat or sleep. In my case, the chair did not hold me. I prayed for death and was ready to act on it, but wouldn’t as that was a guaranteed one-way ticket to hell. I went so far as to plan a delay mechanism so that I could ask for forgiveness before dying (kinda the opposite of a dead man’s switch) as the mental anguish was approaching a constant 10 (or 100 depending on the scale) on the SUDS scale. Trying to make sense of my thinking at that time is difficult now, but it brought out a lot of questions about suffering. My therapist and my mom saved my life – hands down (Dr Jerry Simon if he is still practicing) (good dude and very insightful). I’m actually tearing up as I write this. That was the worst time of my life. I can only say that I felt hated by God. I had hands laid upon me in group prayer, and went to oil anointing ceremonies. As I went through CBT things turned around. At some point I had to question what I believed about myself and the world around me. As someone who was raised by a Catholic mother and Seventh-Day Adventist father, (most friends were Born again and went to some services then too and prayed the sinners prayer) I couldn’t compartmentalize any longer. Everything I did was a “sin” and was leading me to hell (partly because Roman Catholicism teaches the notion that thoughts can be sinful and SDAs are really into the Wrathful God stuff). I decided at that point that I needed a way to discern between religions. Upon studying and researching I have found the question to be fascinating, but to be a highly subjective thing. That was not an insight I had. Essentially, thanks to OCD, I ruminated myself to what I am today, an agnostic-atheist.

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