Are you afraid you might be guilty of accidentally cursing God? In my work with scrupulosity, I’d say at least one-third of my clients deal with a crippling fear of blasphemy. See if you can identify with any of these case studies:
- Joyce is paralyzed by unwanted thoughts in which she is cursing God with vile cuss words. She is constantly “fixing” these thoughts with mental replacements to help her feel better.
- Tony avoids listening to praise and worship music, because his brain switches out the praise words with curse words. He constantly thinks “no, no, no” to avoid having the wrong thoughts.
- Alicia genuinely wants to follow the Lord, but struggles with a certain sin. Every time she’s tempted, she gets a feeling of resentment and thoughts of cursing God.
- Roy has been resisting these curse words for so long that he sometimes has nightmares in which he blurts out blasphemy. He wakes up in a panic, wondering if he actually cursed God.
Cursing God: A Biblical Overview
If you can identify with any of these case studies, you’re not alone. Many people with religious obsessive-compulsive disorder–also known as scrupulosity–struggle with fears of accidentally or purposely cursing God. Let’s talk a bit about what the Bible says on this topic.
The Death Penalty for Blasphemy
Perhaps one of the scariest passages about cursing God comes to us from Leviticus 24. Here we read a story of a half-Israelite, half-Egyptian youth who had accompanied God’s people during the exodus. He is unnamed; only his mother is identified: Shelomith, an Israelite woman of the tribe of Dan.
This unnamed young man was apparently not the most docile kid. We might call him a ruffian, a hoodlum. He went into the camp and began quarreling with an Israelite.
Now, as part of the “mixed multitude,” Mr. Pick-a-Fight didn’t have full privileges as a Hebrew citizen–not yet. After the third generation, an Egyptian convert could be included in full spiritual fellowship (see Deuteronomy 23:1-8). But for now, his place was on the outskirts of the camp. We don’t know exactly what the fight was about. Rabbinic literature suggests that he was actually trying to pitch his tent within the camp, where he didn’t belong, and that he cursed God when a Hebrew told him it wasn’t his place.
But this is Rabbinic literature, which has some historical value but is not seen as authoritative in Christian thought. So, to go back to the Bible, it would be speculation to say what the fight was about.
What we do know is that Mr. Pick-a-Fight “blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed.” He was then put into custody while Moses asked God what they should do with him.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.Leviticus 24:13-16
If you haven’t already read this passage, now you know why I started out by saying it’s a little scary!
What people with scrupulous anxiety fear: that having an unwanted, ego-dystonic intrusive thought against God warrants the death penalty–or some other terrible punishment from God!
What we can notice in the text:
- Notice that this guy verbally, publicly cursed God. We know this because the text specifies that “all who heard him” laid their hands on his head before he was stoned. This is hardly referring to the intrusive thoughts that are so common to religious OCD. This was verbal and public.
- Notice that this consequence was meted out during a time when Israel was a theocracy. Moses was apparently unsure what to do in this case, so verse 12 tells us he was put “in custody” until the Lord would instruct them what to do. Why is this interesting? Because A) we no longer live under a theocracy, and B) we no longer live under Old Testament civil laws that governed Israel.
Here we can see that directly, intentionally blaspheming God with cursing was considered a severe offense. However, we need to remember that we cannot directly compare obsessive-compulsive intrusive thoughts against God (which are considered ego-dystonic and unwanted) with the impulsive, angry words of this boy from the mixed multitude. Plus, we do not live under the civil laws of ancient Israel!
The practical, uncomplicated takeaway from an Old Testament passage like this: cursing God is not good. Don’t use expletives that evoke God’s name when you stub your toe. Don’t say things like “I swear to God–!” And even better yet, get a profanity filter on your TV so that you don’t have to listen to others saying things like this. (I’m often surprised how many Christians don’t know about this option!)
But don’t let your mind trick you and overcomplicate this passage. It doesn’t mean you are condemned for having intrusive thoughts or temptations to curse. This is not what it means at all.
Sacrifice for Cursing God
Another passage that speaks about cursing God is in the book of Job.
You’ll remember that Job had ten children, and the Bible says,
And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.Job 1:4-5
Here we see Job engaging in a loving, parental, “just in case” sacrifice.
He didn’t know of any specific sin that his children had committed; nor do we have any Biblical evidence that a parent’s sacrifice can sanctify the adult child. In fact, Ezekiel 18 makes it clear that parents can’t take care of their child’s sins, nor vice versa.
This passage probably serves to illustrate that Job goes above and beyond “normal” spiritual behavior, which heightens the narrative’s focus on Satan accusing a just man.
What I find interesting about this passage is how the word “cursed” is being used.
In Leviticus 24, we saw that the death penalty was instituted for someone who had publicly, verbally cursed God. But here, we see Job sacrificing just in case his children cursed God in their hearts.
I am sure someone with OCD is panicking as they read this, wondering if those ego-dystonic, unwanted thoughts cursing God would be considered “cursing God in their hearts.”
I’m not so quick to jump to that conclusion.
The Hebrew word here for “cursed” doesn’t literally mean to curse. If your Bible has footnotes, you’ll probably see a little explanation that this word means “blessed, but in a negative sense.” The Hebrew word is baraka, which literally means “to bless.” This ancient semitic word is still in usage today. For example, when I lived in the Middle East and learned to speak Levantine Arabic to a modestly fluent-ish level, we used the verb barak and the noun barakat to speak about blessings. (Hebrew and Arabic share lots and lots of vocabulary, which is why you’ll often see some word studies comparing the Hebrew word with usage in Aramaic, Arabic, or Syriac.)
Whenever I say “God bless you” in Arabic, I use this verb. How strange, then, that Job 1:5 translates it as “curse.”
To be quite literal, baraka does not mean to curse. It is translated as “bless” in a host of other verses. Why does it get translated as “curse” in Job 1? Simply because the context denotes something paradoxical–that Job’s children might commit sin and their hearts are not completely right with God. Whether this behavior that is translated as “cursing God in their hearts” is meant as mockery or simply the presumption of sinning whilst paying superficial homage to God, we do not know.
But again, this can hardly be considered the ego-dystonic intrusive thoughts of OCD.
The fact that Job feels compelled to make “just in case” sacrifices for a hypothetical, imagined scenario shows that his children are either A) unaware of the fact that they’re cursing God, or B) they don’t care.
Neither of these attributes would fit the person with religious OCD.
Impossible to Curse God
It would be very difficult to curse God.
He has already been cursed so thoroughly that the Bible says He “became a curse” for us. He has already borne all the mockery, scorn, cussing, and vileness that humanity as a collective can throw at Him. The Scriptures tell us,
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.Galatians 3:13-14
Many of us view curses in a superstitious way, as if the bad and unwanted thoughts passing through our minds had a magical sort of power.
We’re like the pagans with their face paint and loincloths, pricking pins into voodoo dolls and expecting that the words we say (or think) actually have power to affect another person–or even God Himself. At the very least, we think the curses we hear in our minds really tick God off.
But let’s stop and remember that on a literal, objective, ontological level, your words are no more than a house of sticks in God’s sight. Remember Balaam? He was utterly powerless to curse the people of God. How much less can you actually, literally curse God Himself?
I could tell you stories of missionaries in foreign lands whom the locals tried to curse. When the spells and curses of the witch doctor failed to work, entire villages would be converted to Christ. They saw that curses had no power against this new God.
We, too, would do well to remember that profanities or hate speech against God doesn’t actually budge Him. Certainly, if you meant it, it would hurt His heart. (But I know, and deep down you know, that you don’t mean these obsessive-compulsive thoughts.) So in a very literal sense, your unwanted profane thoughts against God are nothing, they do nothing, they cause nothing, not even a single ripple in the ocean of perfection that surrounds God’s throne.
How wonderful, how sublime it is, that Jesus Christ–far above this cursed world with a cursed race living under a cursed law, would become flesh and take the curse upon Him. Willingly! How it brings tears to our eyes to consider that He stretched out His arms of mercy and gathered to Himself all the bitter thorns, all the harsh epithets, all the abuses and crimes, and every single curse word ever thought or uttered by every human being in history.
In fact, imagine for just a moment that you did mean the curses against God that your OCD brings to your mind. Imagine you meant every single one of them–that you hurled them in anger against God and meant them all from the bottom of your soul.
I would say, “so what.”
That is not the end of your story, because He bore all these curses. In fact, He who once sat enthroned in celestial majesty, untouchable by any profanity, the One around whom the angels covered their faces and cried out “Holy, Holy, Holy!” became a despicable curse for us.
He did this willingly, for you and for me.
Why, then, do we fear when our unwieldy minds run out of their course? Jesus has already proven that there is no depth too low that He will not reach us there. If you were so low, lower than low, buried at the pitch-black darkest place at the bottom of earth’s lowest spot in the Mariana Trench–oppressed by nearly seven miles of water above you–in a place where little more than crustaceans can survive, Jesus would have become a crustacean to reach you.
And really, that’s what He did.
For the divine Son of God to become human is even more unthinkable than for us to imagine becoming a lowly crustacean. But He came.
He carried the curse of the law. He became a curse for us.
And He died, freeing us from judgment and fear.
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.Hebrews 2:14-15
If you have purposely cursed God–either in your mind or verbally–you may ask forgiveness and receive it immediately.
Do not think that God holds you afar off until you “prove” your worthiness. If you have profaned God’s name intentionally or in a moment of anger, repent. Tell Him you are sorry. Ask Him to wipe you clean and set your feet on solid ground.
If you have sinned, God will forgive.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
Or, if you are like thousands of others who suffer from religious OCD, and your obsessions center on fears of profaning or cursing God–and yes, perhaps you’ve even broken down from anxiety and verbalized the feared utterance–there is no need to repent.
God knows your heart, and this is not sin.
He understands the difference between intentional sin and a mental health disorder.
You may simply pray and say, “Lord, I know you understand my heart. You know I don’t want this and I don’t mean it. Please help me trust in Your gentle heart and your all-knowing mind.”
This is particularly important for OCD, where we can get caught in an overwhelming round of trying to “fix” our thoughts. We may try to neutralize bad thoughts by making sure we have the “right” thought, or we may feel the need to compulsively chant prayers of forgiveness nearly every waking moment. We may try to “fight” the thoughts, as if we are holding back a giant, ready-to-collapse dam that will flood through and destroy our spiritual lives.
All this is a self-focused, self-reliant picture. Let us remember:
- In a moment of sin, the act of faith is to come, believing that God will forgive.
- In a moment of intrusive thought, the act of faith is to ignore the thoughts, trusting that God knows the difference and will fix what needs fixin’.
Dear friend, I know your obsessive-compulsive fears about cursing God are terribly strong and vivid. I hope this article has given you a few reasons why you may safely rest your case in God’s hands. Be encouraged!
Until next time,
I am finding your site very helpful as i also suffer from S-OCD. On the blog about cursing
God you quoted that even if someone was to intentionally curse God with a profanity, due to being
broken by anxiety, there is no need to repent. I can't get my head around this, surely we should say sorry to God and ask for His forgiveness. As i said your site is so helpful to me but whether it's my
OCD affecting me, reading that quote makes me feel the rest of your work invalid, and i sincerely
don't want that to be the case. Could you kindly reply and elaborate a bit more on the quote.
With Kindest Regards, Mark.
Thanks for your comment. I actually went back to reread what I wrote because sometimes I have typos in my writing! I agree with you, that if someone intentionally curses God, truly from their mind/heart/soul, they need to repent. No doubt about that. I believe what I wrote in the conclusion of this article is that if you curse God intentionally, you need to go to Him with repentance and ask Him to wash you clean. But in cases where intense anxiety forces words out of your mouth that you don’t mean and don’t want, my point is that this should be categorized as a mental health symptom rather than a spiritual sin. It would be comparable to repenting for having high blood pressure. Making sense of this hinges on a proper understanding of “intrusive thoughts” and how they actually work. Most people with OCD begin their journey believing that intrusive thoughts are sourced in our own volitional self, but they are not. Sin, however, is always a chosen act.
Does that make sense? Maybe I could word that part of the article more clearly, because you do bring up a good point. We want to distinguish between intentional sin and mental health symptoms!
Hope this helps,
Thankyou so much for the quick reply, and this helps me to understand the point you were making.
Please don't think i was trying criticize you in any way, i suppose one of the symptons of OCD
is sometimes everything has to make perfect sense.
I'm so glad i stumbled across your site literally only a few days ago, perhaps it was the Lord's
guidance, and i think God has certainly blessed you in your work, Praise God for that!
Thankyou so much.
No worries. People with scrupulosity are generally so conscientious and “scrupulous,” I don’t think it’s easy for them to criticize people. So I don’t take it that way! So glad you found our little site and I hope it will be a blessing!
I thought I was alone. I thought I was a despicable person. I try to make it right each time it happens. thank you for showing me that Im not alone in this situating. thank you for the ability to refer to books and chapters. all I can say is thank you!!!!!!! I spent 2 mins. thinking "bad" thoughts and 2 hrs repenting. I feel absolutely terrible thinking these things but I can't stop. I'm so glad I stumbled on this.
Hi , I been looking at this website often! I kinda feel like I’m all alone even though finding stuff like this helps! Some of my throughts are sickening and disgusting beyond curse words .. I used to covet people with a lot of money so my mind often will lie and say “ I choose money over salvation “ and then I will get all upset because that’s not true. I feel like me being a former covet of people with money is the reason why I get triggered. Then I’ll get thoughts about doubting because I simply just don’t feel nothing. I’m just over the tornment. I had this since I was 12 and I’m 23 now I had 2 stages of it. This is my round 2 currently people ask how did it go away the first time and honestly I just stopped caring .. I went into that I believe in god and just left it at that well now I’m going through the thought process of “ do I really believe “ and I think god is sending me signs of faith. You can believe in god but having faith is different from what I pertray it as. Thank you Jaimie for your article .. I hope we all get through this .. with our lord Jesus Christ.
I struggled with scrupulosity and among some of the things that helped, the following helped quite a bit with concerns about cursing the spirit.
Cursing is done with God's, not Satan's power (In Mark 11.12 – Jesus curses a fig tree AND Mark 3.22-26 – Jesus explains he cannot be powered by Satan in any way)
Understand then that God is on your side, and that no matter what you say against the Holy Spirit it will never be routed to it, since in order for this to happen God would need to curse himself, and, quite frankly, that is NOT going to happen.
Something else that you may want to consider is that the word "curse" like the word "praise" is empty. It's a verb, with actual harm within it. Wishing specific harm on someone is different.
Blessings and peace to you,
Super interesting thoughts, Dirk! I never thought of it that way, but I’m definitely going to be chewing on that perspective now! 😀
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. You are all children of God, called by name and loved so much by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. God loves you so much and He will never let you go. And nothing the enemy does can ever separate you from the love of God. Nothing can snatch you out of the Father's hand. It is his promise. Martin Luther suffered from religious OCD and he was one of of the greatest reformers of our time. He found resolution in the Word of God. By knowing Truth of the Bible. You are not alone. I have suffered terribly with this particular complaint and found complete resolution by knowing the Truth contained in scripture. Please read your Bibles, particularly the New Testament.
Please know Jesus took upon Himself on the cross everything the enemy can possibly throw at us so that we don't have to fear anything. These thoughts and impulses are mere trickery. They are from out of the air and they are not your thoughts. You overcome these thoughts by not engaging with them. Ignore them, laugh at them if you like, just let them go. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. We are called to resist the devil and he will flee. We are not called to fight. That means do not fight these thoughts, just ignore them and they will lose their grip on you.
For example – if I say do NOT think of think of a pink elephant with yellow spots, your mind will try to fight the thought of a pink elephant with yellow spots. Fairly shortly you will have a firm vision in your mind of a pink elephant with yellow spots. And shortly the mere word "elephant" has you off down a path visualising an elephant with yellow spots. That is how the enemy works – he just has to tilt your head in that direction and your mind will take you down the path whilst the enemy sits back and laughs.
The Old Testament "law" so do not think, do not do such and such. It has passed away and you are not under something that says do not do, do not think, do not say such and such. You are under grace which says walk in the Spirit as a child of God. You have the power of the Holy Spirit and it says walk as a child of Christ with the mind of Christ. Remember do not fight these thoughts, ignore them, do not engage with them, do not fight them and they will lose their grip on you. Resist the devil and he will flee means do not fight, just stand, ignore them. God bless you.
You're very kind. And logical. Thank you for your insightful comment.
This literally broke me down to shaking tears in my spirit when I got to the part about Jesus baring all for us and that our thoughts are stacked up and barely even touches God yet it may hurt his heart.
My thoughts have improved but from time to time I’ll find myself either cursing God/Jesus or people in my mind. This has been an ongoing thing ever since I was first saved over 20 yrs ago and still becomes a struggle. Now days I find my thoughts going as far to even daring God to do something or having cruel intentions towards his Kingdom or Jesus even when I’m trying to take in scripture, it’s such a horrible feeling. I even find myself getting anxious about heaven or Jesus return when I imagine it with should overjoy me beyond anything yet I get anxious and don’t know why.
Thank you for sharing this Jaimie! It was very helpful to read and break down the Bible to help understand that our OCD thoughts are not a sin and that God knows. I really liked the last part where you said “ In a moment of intrusive thought, the act of faith is to ignore the thoughts, trusting that God knows the difference and will fix what needs fixin’”. This is exactly what I needed to hear because I struggle with thinking I need to constantly repent even though I know the only way to break the OCD cycle is to let go of the thought. Thank you again for sharing this! It was what I needed to see today ☺️
In 1994 I had Cursed God because a stupid voice told me to.. I panicked right after and repented as soon as a could. Ever since that nightmare of a day my mind has been cursing God ever since. I've been looking thru scripture to find something to assure me that I can be forgiven of that awful sin. I don't suffer like some of the people here.. My life isnt disrupted by it.. It's just a constant fear over me everyday with my mind cursing God. The only thing being disrupted is my Joy and Happiness. I forget how to be happy after so long dealing with this.. I would cry in the shower.
What I really need are forgiveness scriptures.. Like Romans 8 "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who[a] do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."
We all suffer in ways that are unique to each of us, and it sounds like you’ve had a very hard time. Your story reminds me of Michael Kierkegaard, the father of the famous Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Michael had a very hard childhood working as a shepherd boy and one day he cursed God because his life was so cold and dirty and difficult. He repented of this, of course, but for the rest of his life he lived under a cloud of doom. He sensed that God would never forgive him. When he committed sin (got the maid pregnant) he interpreted this to mean that God had forsaken him. His son, Søren, grew up under this constant cloud of melancholy and fear, and scholars have suggested that it did impact his philosophical/theological writings (I believe both father and son suffered from some form of scrupulosity, but of course this is hard to prove with only manuscripts).
But your memory of cursing God back in 1994 made me think of this story. At some point we must realize that God does not operate like this. If He said He will forgive, He will forgive, not hang our failures over our heads for 30 years. That would be cruel; it is not the God we read about in the Bible at all.
Please take heart and clasp Bible truths firmly by the hand. Listen to the Word rather than your fears.
Thank you. This problem has plaguede since I was a child. After reading this article I feel a little better in knowing that God understands my disorder is causing these intrusive thoughts.
Yes, Mary, God certainly understands. And He loves you!
I have had intrusive unwanted thoughts for many years which eventually led me to Rehab and medications that have helped alot. I am now seeing an OCD therapist. She has been helpful also. I have had intrusive blasphemous about the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. I don't want these thoughts and many times there is anger in the thoughts. I can't seem to cope with the guilt. Is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit forgivable? Would you please take time to email me and help me understand what Jesus in Matthew meant about the unforgivable sin.
Thank you for your posts and encouragement.
Hi Donna! Unfortunately I’m very limited in how much private correspondence I’m able to maintain, as I receive dozens of emails every day. But I do have several articles on my blog regarding blasphemy and the unpardonable sin which may be helpful to you.
I, too, have had bad thoughts concerning the Holy Spirit. I suffer big time with intrusive thoughts about anything holy. I have Bipolar 2 with OCD. I am on meds to help control some of this but I am still having lots of bad repeating thoughts. My soul hurts because I can't seem to escape my mind's bad thoughts. I love God , Jesus, and The Holy Spirit with all of my heart. I mentally suffer because of all of this Scrupulosity. I pray that God forgives me for this mental condition
I have suffered with this disease ever since I was 13 years old. I am now 66 years old. I still feel God loves me and I know I hate these thoughts. Oh well, I could write a book on this subject. Your email gives me some hope that I am not the only one that suffers about this subject. God bless you and the staff of Scrupulosity
I am now 66
I know what you are going through. I am 50, and I have dealt with this exact same issue – maybe even worse – since I was 12 yrs old. I could also write a book on the subject. It took a couple decades for me to understanding what Christ meant in Matt 12, Mark 3, and Luke 12. He was NOT speaking of what you are dealing with. He was speaking of something much worse. You are not here because you are able to convince God of your love for Him. You are here because He is working in your heart! Be ecouraged!!!
I have Intrusive blasphemous about the Holy Spirit as well I get scared I will never be forgiven or like make it to heaven
What help me the most when I thought I had blasphem the Holy Spirit I couldn't eat, sleep or function because of the fear and guilt. I read a book by Benny Hinn called Good morning Holy Spirit, and he said if you are afraid that you have committed the unforgivable sin then you haven't because people who have done that don't care.
Jamie, you do a wonderful job in your writings. I love that you take your time to build your case, back it with scripture, then offer hope. You & Mark DeJesus(from Youtube) are a blessing. I pray for your strength in the Lord. Thanks for serving God in this compacity.