For Christians Who Have Difficulty
heard of OCD?
Are you a Christian who has difficulty
controlling unwelcome thoughts?
Did you know that there is a form of a mental ailment called
obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD, in which people struggle
very, very hard not to think unwelcome thoughts, but end up
involuntarily thinking them anyway? In
medical terminology, these unwelcome, intrusive thoughts are
called obsessions. A
compulsion, such as
constantly washing one’s hands, is something done in a vain
attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by an obsessive thought.
Sometimes these unwelcome thoughts may even include curse words
or blasphemous words. People who suffer from OCD are usually
very moral, conscientious people who would never, ever say or
live out these thoughts that they are so fearful of. In fact, in
his book regarding OCD, Brain
Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior,
Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD, observes “No one ever does anything
morally objectionable because of OCD.”
Dr Schwartz explains that there is actually
an area of the brain that shows hyperactivity in those who
suffer from OCD. It
is called the orbitofrontal cortex, and it is located on the
underside of the front of the brain. It is believed that one of
the functions of the orbitofrontal cortex is to help us assess
the risks, punishments and rewards that will result from our
behaviors. PET scans reveal that there is excess activity in
this region of the brain in those who are going through an OCD
episode. Does this mean that the orbitofrontal cortex is damaged
in OCD sufferers? Perhaps not. If the orbitofrontal cortex
is constantly at work evaluating the consequences that could
result from undesired thoughts during an OCD episode, then this
hyperactivity of the orbital cortex may possibly be a result,
and not the cause of OCD.
Did you know that there have been some
famous Christians who suffered from episodes of OCD, such as
John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim’s
Progress? In a lesser known book Bunyan wrote,
Abounding to the Chief of Sinners,
he describes his struggles with OCD (although the condition
was not called by that name then):
For about the space of a month after, a
very great storm came down upon me, which handled me twenty
times worse than all I had met with before; it came stealing
upon me, now by one piece, then by another; first, all my
comfort was taken from me, then darkness seized upon me, after
which whole floods of blasphemies, both against God, Christ,
and the Scriptures, were poured upon my spirit, to my great
confusion and astonishment. These blasphemous thoughts were
such as also stirred up questions in me, against the very
being of God, and of His only beloved Son; as whether there
were, in truth, a God, or Christ, or no? And whether the Holy
Scriptures were not rather a fable, and cunning story, than
the holy and pure Word of God?
Bunyan's agonizing mental struggles, which
were very intense, went on for years, until he finally found
relief and deliverance through the grace of God and a proper
understanding of scripture. The things that he learned as a
result of his OCD experience gave him a wonderful understanding
of the grace of God, and this, in turn, was used by God to
fashion him into a preacher who brought many souls into the
Kingdom of God. Since Bunyan came out of his OCD experience a
person who was greatly used by God, please keep in mind that the
same could also happen to you or your loved one who is suffering
The man known as the “Prince of Preachers,”
Charles Spurgeon, also suffered from at least one bout with OCD.
In His book, All
I have heard another say, "I am tormented
with horrible thoughts. Wherever I go, blasphemies steal in
upon me. Frequently at my work a dreadful suggestion forces
itself upon me, and even on my bed I am startled from my sleep
by whispers of the evil one. I cannot get away from this
horrible temptation." Friend, I know what you mean, for I have
myself been hunted by this wolf. A man might as well hope to
fight a swarm of flies with a sword as to master his own
thoughts when they are set on by the devil. A poor tempted
soul, assailed by satanic suggestions, is like a traveler I
have read of, about whose head and ears and whole body there
came a swarm of angry bees. He could not keep them off nor
escape from them. They stung him everywhere and threatened to
be the death of him. I do not wonder you feel that you are
without strength to stop these hideous and abominable thoughts
which Satan pours into your soul; but yet I would remind you
of the Scripture before us - "When we were yet without
strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."
Both of these men found spiritual relief and
deliverance from OCD through a correct understanding of the
Bible. If you are also a Christian OCD sufferer, read on to
learn how you can find relief, too! Even if you are not
afflicted with this condition, all of us struggle with unwelcome
thoughts from time to time. During such occasions, these tried
and true scriptural principles can work for you, too! I can
attest that they worked miraculously for me!
How OCD Works
Here is how an episode of OCD usually goes:
The Christian OCD sufferer, because of his
enlightened conscience and moral convictions, is fearful of
thinking an unwelcome thought.
He or she tries hard not to think the
unwelcome thought, but the harder he tries, the more the
thought is on his mind. You can’t consciously avoid something,
unless you are mindful of it!
He or she ends up involuntarily thinking the
unwelcome thought, since it is always on his or her mind. It
may be hard for those who do not have OCD to imagine how this
could be a problem for anyone. Let me give you an example that
may help. Imagine that someone told you, “If you think about
the Statue of Liberty, you will go to hell.” If you believed
him, you would be in trouble; because there is no way that you
could keep from thinking about the Statue of Liberty! As
Spurgeon and Bunyan mentioned, there may also be a spiritual
attack happening at the same time, in that Satan or his
subordinate temptors may be suggesting thoughts to the
He or she feels very guilty and anxious for
having thought it. The Temptor may suggest scriptures
which seem to condemn (all the while misquoting, misapplying,
and twisting the intent of these scriptures, just as he did
when he tempted Jesus, but this is not recognized at first by
the OCD sufferer). As a result, the afflicted person is
greatly troubled by tormenting questions such as:
“What an awful thing to think! Will God ever forgive me for it?”
“Does this mean that I am not really a Christian (or one of
the elect)? A true Christian would not think such things,
“Have I committed the unpardonable sin?”
”Am I going to go to hell?”
“Have I fallen away from God (or lost my salvation)?”
(Since these questions
cause considerable anxiety for an OCD sufferer, we will answer
each one of them below.)
The Christian OCD sufferer may resort to some sort of harmless compulsive behavior to help
alleviate the anxiety caused by an obsessive thought.
(An example might be whispering prayers of repentance
under one’s breath.)
The Christian firmly resolves not to ever
think it again.
Because of the tremendous guilt and fear of
condemnation by God associated with the thought, the OCD
sufferer cannot get his or her mind off of it, and the whole
cycle starts again. During an episode, it is like he or she is
on a never-ending feedback loop or treadmill that he or she
can’t jump off of! All of this time, the OCD sufferer’s
orbital cortex is showing heightened activity. It literally
Something related to the OCD battle
sometimes occurs in the minds of all Christians.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter
seven, “…I would not have known what covetousness is, if the
Law had not repeatedly said, ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ Sin took
advantage of this, and by means of the Commandment stirred up
within me every kind of coveting; for apart from Law sin would
Covetousness is wanting something that is
not rightfully yours. Because one of the Ten Commandments was,
“Thou shalt not covet,” Paul wanted to avoid coveting. But it
is evident that at one time in his life, Paul struggled with
all kinds of coveteous thoughts! How ironic that a moral law,
which is a very good thing, stirred up sinful thoughts in
Paul, which was a very bad thing!
What the apostle Paul is describing here
sounds just like an OCD episode, doesn’t it? It is typical of
the struggle with wrong thoughts and desires that all men and
women have. Because of the similarity of an OCD episode with
what Paul is here describing, I am convinced that OCD is a
manifestation of our lower self, also called our sinful nature
or flesh. But
there is one important difference between OCD episodes and
other struggles with sin:
OCD episodes are always a battle that takes place in
the mind only, because OCD sufferers would never purposely
carry act out the terrible thoughts that occur during an OCD
Now, as promised, let's answer each of
those nagging questions mentioned above.
an awful thing to think! Will God ever forgive me
Has Mercy On Us Because We Have Two Natures
When a person is struggling against sin, two
very different aspects of his inward self are at war. What are
Dr Schwartz wrote that in his studies of
patients with OCD, he came to recognize that there is an aspect
of their will or mind that seems to be independent of their
malfunctioning brains. The Bible calls this your spirit.
This is your inner man, your sober mind, the true you. It is
variously called your higher nature, your spiritual nature, your
conscience, your will, or your true self. It is the part of you
that wants to do what is right. It is the part of you that tells
your brain what to think. The problem with OCD is that the
brain, corrupted as it is by the fall, does not always obey the
spirit is the real you. It is the part of you that does not
want to be thinking obsessive thoughts.
Then, there is your sinful
nature. It is the part of you that is inclined to do what
is wrong. It is variously called your old man, your sinful
nature, your corrupt nature, or simply your flesh. We all
inherited our sinful natures from our fallen parents, Adam and
Eve because we were a part of them, or "in" them, when they
rebelled against God in the garden of Eden. If you suffer from
OCD, your sinful nature is the part of you that impulsively
blurts out a forbidden thought against the will of your spirit.
The union of one’s spirit and body
(including our brain), makes us a living soul. One’s soul is the
totality of his person, comprised of body, physical thoughts and
spirit. A soul is known by its character. A soul who has surrendered to his lower nature and
allowed it to rule him has an undisciplined character. He is a carnal, fleshly, or immature
man. If he is a Christian, he is a babe
in Christ. Paul told the Corinthians that this was their
condition, because there was so much fighting among them:
I Co 3:1 And I,
brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as
unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2 I have fed you
with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to
bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3 For ye are yet
carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and
divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
On the other hand, a man who has gained
control over his lower nature has a disciplined character. He is
a spiritual or mature
If you are fighting hard against your lower
nature but have not yet gained control, be encouraged. This is a
sign that you are not content to remain a babe, but want to
become mature. One of the most important prerequisites for
winning any battle is an intense desire to win it.
If you are a Christian, it is not just your
spirit and your flesh that are at war inside you. God’s Holy
Spirit is also inside you, to help you overcome sin, so He is
also at war with your fleshly nature. The Spirit of God dwells
in you, communing with, leading and guiding your spirit. With
the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, your conscience is now even
more enlightened than before you became a Christian, so the war
with your flesh may be more intense than before.
The apostle Paul writes about this battle between the
Spirit of God and the lower nature in Galatians 5:17:
“For the cravings
of the lower nature are opposed to those of the Spirit, and the
cravings of the Spirit are opposed to those of the lower nature;
because these are antagonistic to each other, so that you cannot
do everything to which you are inclined.”
Have you ever seen someone run up to help a
rider with an out-of-control horse? Our flesh is like a very
powerful, spunky horse that cannot be controlled without some
extra help from someone. We
need the aid of the Holy Spirit to control it. Without His help,
we are doomed to remain carnal Christians!
Now let’s return to Roman’s chapter seven,
where Paul described his experience with covetousness. As he
continued his line of thought, he described the miserable
condition of a carnal Christian who has not yet learned how to
control his flesh through the help of the Holy Spirit:
“For what I do is
not the good thing that I desire to do; but the evil thing that
I desire not to do, is what I constantly do. “
Following this, Paul came to a striking
"But if I do that
which I desire not to do, it can no longer be said that it is I
who do it, but the sin which has its home within me does it."
A thought is an inward action, not an
outward one. But the truth Paul is expressing still applies,
because when you think, you are doing something inwardly.
you think what you do not desire to think, it
is not you doing it, but the sin which has its home within
And let's also not
forget that Satan and his demons, as temptors, are also able to
suggest blasphemous thoughts to people's minds. Regarding this, CH
These thoughts, if you hate them, are none of yours, but are
injections of the Devil, for which he is responsible, and not
you. If you strive against them, they are no more yours than
are the cursings and falsehoods of rioters in the street. It
is by means of these thoughts that the Devil would drive you
to despair, or at least keep you from trusting Jesus. The poor
diseased woman could not come to Jesus for the press, and you
are in much the same condition, because of the rush and throng
of these dreadful thoughts. Still, she put forth her finger,
and touched the fringe of the Lord's garment, and she was
healed. Do you the same.
Jesus died for those who are guilty of "all manner of sin and
blasphemy," and therefore I am sure He will not refuse those
who are unwillingly the captives of evil thoughts. Cast
yourself upon Him, thoughts and all, and see if He be not
mighty to save. He can still those horrible whisperings of the
fiend, or He can enable you to see them in their true light,
so that you may not be worried by them. In His own way He can
and will save you, and at length give you perfect peace. Only
trust Him for this and everything else. (Also from the
by CH Spurgeon).
will not condemn you for tempting thoughts that Satan or his
subordinates suggest into your mind.
Paul recognized that it was not his spirit,
the true inner man, that was doing sinful things, because he did
not want to be doing them. Rather, it was a sinful nature that
his spirit had not yet learned how to completely control.
This is a very important truth that
Christians who suffer from OCD need to recognize.
When his patients find themselves involuntarily
thinking undesirable thoughts, Dr. Schwartz encourages them to
recognize this as merely a symptom of their OCD. He instructs
them to think, “It’s not me, it’s my OCD.” It is not their true,
inner person who is thinking such thoughts. The involuntary
thoughts are merely a symptom of a portion of their brain that
As a Christian who battles with OCD, you can
say something similar to yourself when unwelcome, intrusive
thoughts occur: “That’s not me, it’s just my flesh.” Or, "That's
not me. It is just a temptation."
Recognizing this truth helps sufferers of
OCD to jump off the treadmill and stop the endless feedback
loop. Unwelcome thoughts must be seen as what they truly are, as
misdeeds of a fleshly brain that is not quite behaving like we
want it to, or as temptations suggested to your mind by an
outside source. When we recognize that these thoughts are not
expressions of our true inner selves, then we can understand why
God is willing to have mercy on us.
We can now recognize, as Paul did in Romans
11:32, “For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he
might have mercy upon all.” (ERV)
We have but to confess our sins, including
sinful thoughts, and God will forgive them:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to
forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
With the Apostle Paul, we can conclude, as
he did, “So then there is no condemnation at all for those who
are in union with Christ Jesus. For the life-giving power of the
Spirit through union with Christ Jesus has set us free from the
power of sin and death.”
Did you catch that? "THERE IS NO
CONDEMNATION AT FOR ALL THOSE WHO ARE IN UNION WITH CHRIST
JESUS." Because it is not the real you, your spirit, thinking
those unwelcome thoughts, God will not condemn you for them,
because you are in union with Christ Jesus.
So, in answer to the question, “What an
awful thing to think! Will God ever forgive me for it?”
Yes! God will forgive you, if you but repent
and confess! He will forgive you for three reasons:
It was not the true you, your spirit,
that initiated that unwelcome thought. It was your flesh.
Romans 7:20 But if I do that which I
desire not to do, it can no longer be said that it is I who
do it, but the sin which has its home within me does it.
OCD thoughts come from your own brain. That is what makes
them seem so scary. But let me stress again the following
The real you, your spirit, is not the
same thing as your brain. Your spirit is the center of your
will. It tells your brain what to think. But with OCD, your
brain does not always think what your spirit wants it to. It
impulsively thinks undesirable thoughts, and yes, sometimes
momentarily even wants to think them. This is much more
likely to happen if your brain is tired, over-stimulated,
frustrated, or frightened. When you think an OCD thought,
your flesh momentarily gains control and does not obey your
So how can you tell if a thought came from your own spirit,
or from your sinful nature? If you are not happy about it
when you think such thoughts, regret them, and want to quit
thinking them, then it was your flesh that thought them, not
the real you.
That is why when the apostles were trying to stay awake and
pray, but fell asleep anyway, Jesus observed, “The spirit is
willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus was not pleased that
the disciples fell asleep. But He did understand it, and
That is why God will forgive you for such thoughts. He knows
that your spirit is willing, even though your mind does not
always obey your spirit.
Jesus died for that sin:
1:29 The next
day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the
Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!
He promised to forgive us if we confess
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to
forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all
Knowing that God will not condemn you, you
no longer need fear punishment. You can jump of the treadmill!
Now you can turn your mind away from those sinful thoughts to
other things, to good things.
is mean that I am not really a Christian (or one of the
elect)? A true Christian would not think such things,
Christians are not perfect yet. Even
the apostle Paul wrote, in Philippians 3:12, “ I do not say that
I have already won the race or have already reached perfection.
But I am pressing on, striving to lay hold of the prize for
which also Christ has laid hold of me.”
None of us will be made perfect until we are
in heaven with Christ (Hebrews 12:23). However, we can and
should grow towards perfection or maturity.
So yes, it is possible for a true Christian
to think unwelcome thoughts. As we have already seen in Romans
chapter seven, Paul himself sometimes struggled with unwelcome
thoughts. All Christians do.
Of course, non-Christians struggle with
unwelcome thoughts, too. But
there is one crucial thing that distinguishes the elect from the
unsaved. It is faith, or
trust in Christ.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me
Have you placed your trust in Jesus to save
you? Have you trusted Him to be your Lord and Master? Have you
committed yourself to serve Him? If so, then according to the
verse above, you NOW HAVE
everlasting life. You possess it right now!
Just think of it. Eternal life is life that
never ends. If you were to ever lose it, it would not have been
eternal, would it? Jesus defined eternal life along these very
lines when He said,
"I most solemnly say to you, whoever listens to me and
believes Him who has sent me possesses eternal life, and will
never come under condemnation, but has
already passed out of death into life.
If you possess eternal life, then you “WILL
NOT COME UNDER CONDEMNATION” – you “have already
passed out of death into life”!
sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them the
Life of the Ages, and they shall never, never perish,
nor shall any one wrest them from my hand. 29
What my Father has given me is more precious than all
besides; and no one is able to wrest anything from my Father’s
hand. them to me is stronger than all, and no one can snatch
them out of my Father’s hand.
Do you listen to the words of Jesus? Do you
follow Him? Then He knows you to be one of His own. He gives you
eternal life – “the life of the ages.” You will "never, never
perish" ! No one
can take you out of His hand! Not Satan, not a false teacher,
not even you! If you could ever perish, then you would not have
true eternal life. But according to Jesus, you already possess
eternal life! Yes, you have already been given true,
never-ending eternal life, if you have placed your faith in Him.
“Have I committed the unpardonable sin?”
Please read the article, What
Is The Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
to understand what the unpardonable sin is.
suffice it to say that If you had, you would not be worried
much about it, because those who do this cannot be renewed
to repentance, as we will now see.
I fallen away from God (or lost my salvation)?”
Are you sorry for the things you have done, and are you
willing to, and trying to change? Then you have not fallen
away from God or lost your salvation. Those who have fallen
way from God cannot be renewed to repentance. Rest assured, if
you are repentant, then you have not fallen away!
For it is impossible for those who were once
enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were
made partakers of the Holy Ghost ,5
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers
of the world to come, 6
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to
themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open
Not only that, but those who fall away never trusted in Jesus
to begin with, because as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews
goes on to say, “falling away” (abandoning Christ) does not
“accompany salvation.” Rather,
it is the final end of those who stubbornly bear “thorns and
briers” (evil deeds) despite many opportunities from a
loving and merciful God to repent.
6:7 For the
earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and
bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed,
receiveth blessing from God: 8
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end
is to be burned. 9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better
things of you, and things
that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
Are you repentant? Do you still love Jesus?
Do you still want to serve God? Then you have not fallen away.
Set your mind at ease, dear Christian
friend. Those unwelcome thoughts are just symptoms of your lower
nature, your flesh. God knows that your higher nature, your
spirit, does not want to think such thoughts. He understands and
will forgive you. So
confess these sins to Jesus and resolve, with His help, not to
do them anymore. He will forgive you and cleanse you from all
unrighteousness. Stop worrying about them, and these unwelcome
thoughts will go away. They cannot separate you from God’s love.
Nothing can do that:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall
tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the
day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him that loved us. 38
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor
angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor
things to come, 39 Nor
height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to
separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our
Remember that “ God Himself has said, ‘I
will never, never let go your hand: I will never, never forsake
you.’ " (
God will never let go of you; He will never,
NEVER forsake you, even when you are in the midst of a struggle
When that false fear
of condemnation goes away, you will find that the unwelcome
thoughts will go away, because then you will be able to turn your
mind to other things, to good and peaceful thoughts. This is
important. Relax. There is nothing to be afraid of now! Think of
how much God loves you: so much that He sent his only begotten Son
to die for you.! If He gave His precious, only begotten Son for
you, won't he also give you all that you need to be at peace, and
much, much more? Think of the forgiveness, the wonderful,
free-flowing forgiveness that you have in Jesus! Think of the
Counselor, who is there to comfort you, to guide you, and to
strengthen you. Rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd Jesus, and
be at peace! He will allow no harm to come you. Rest, and you will
find that God will renew and refresh your weary mind.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things
are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are
pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of
good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
think on these things.
Rest, my dear Christian friend, in these
promises of forgiveness, of everlasting life, and of unending
love. Give all of
your anxieties over to Him, and find the peace that passes
Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer
and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made
known to God. 7 And
the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep
your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Hear the words of
14:27 Peace I
leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world
gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid.
you are a Christian who suffers from OCD and need some
additional encouragement, please feel free to
but please, not until
you have read this article and it's
companion thoroughly, and spent time thoughtfully
contemplating the meaning of it and the scriptures contained
Marshall "Rusty" Entrekin is
a theology graduate of Louisiana College. He was set free
and has remained free from the power of severe OCD over 25
years ago when, in answer to the prayers of concerned family
and friends, God graciously and mercifully granted him
understanding of the scriptures contained in this article.
He wrote this in hope that through understanding the same
scriptures, others will be set free, too. He and his wife
Julie have seven children, with four still at home, and four
grandchildren. Currently, he resides in Kennesaw, GA. He
writes apologetic and theological articles to help people
come to know Christ and grow closer to the Lord.
If you are a Christian who suffers
from OCD and need some additional encouragement, please feel
free to email
but please, not until
you have read this article and it's
and spent time thoughtfully contemplating the meaning of it
and the scriptures contained within it.
If this article has blessed
you, and you would like to free him up to write more, feel
free to make a donation below. (But please do not do so if
OCD has affected your income and you cannot afford it. And
please especially do not feel obliged to make a donation
before writing to Rusty!)
Rusty previously decided not
to apply for 501c3 ministry status, so that he can write
about political matters without worrying about government
interference. Because of this, your gifts will not be tax
deductible. However, you will receive a far greater reward
for your donation: treasure in heaven!