“I know God is love. I know all the verses that talk about His grace and mercy. There’s absolutely no excuse for why I’m acting like this.” Vincent shook his head in disbelief over his own struggles with scrupulosity. “Sometimes I fall into these compulsive cycles or blasphemous thoughts and then I think God hates me. But it’s not true — is it?”
Vincent’s voice ended on a questioning note. What he knew from God’s Word didn’t match what he felt. It was a ping pong match between “God loves me” and “God hates me,” a common pain point for many others with religious OCD.
Vincent would never verbalize the sentiment, “God hates me.” But there it was, eating away at his mental health (and spiritual life) like a canker. It wasn’t a belief, it was a feeling — a subconscious dread of God that undercut all his beautiful doctrines.
For many people who suffer from scrupulosity, our deeply-held views of God may be so awful that we dare not express them for fear of offending Him. But it is only as we place a finger on these hidden fears that we can begin to find healing.
In this article, I want to talk about this unspoken feeling that “God hates me,” and how it plays out in our experience with obsessive compulsive disorder.
Scrupulosity’s “Danger Paradigms”
In my work as a scrupulosity coach, I have found that there are two problematic paradigms that people with religious OCD hold about themselves and God. These two paradigms lie at the root of a great deal of our anxiety. I call them scrupulosity’s “danger paradigms.”
- The “Dangerous God” Paradigm, and
- The “Dangerous Me” Paradigm
These two seem quite different from one another, but actually, they both stem from the idea that God hates me. At the foundation of religious OCD is a misunderstanding of God’s character, which in turn impacts our sense of safety.
Sure, OCD is a mental health disorder that feeds constant “danger signals” to our brains. We can’t chalk this whole thing up to being a faith issue. But at the same time, our biological predispositions to anxiety are feeding off something — and that “something” is our thoughts.
Every single OCD theme out there — religious OCD, contamination OCD, sexual OCD, and all the others — is powerful because it invokes a sharp sense of danger.
So we must ask ourselves — do we view God as dangerous? Do we view ourselves as dangerous? How does our understanding of God’s character influence the way our religious OCD manifests?
I usually illustrate the two danger paradigms as follows: either God is big and dangerous and I am small and powerless, or I am big and dangerous (to myself and to others) and God is absent, weak, and powerless.
Let’s look at both paradigms in a bit more detail.
God Hates Me: The “ Dangerous God” Paradigm
People with the “dangerous God” paradigm view themselves as being small and defenseless in the hands of a big and scary God. They are simply at the whims of an all-powerful Being whom they can’t control or influence. Talk about feeling helpless!
This paradigm is sometimes more common among those who believe in the more radical forms of predestination. Whether they want to be saved or not, the choice is out of their hands.
It’s not hard to imagine how this can cause us to develop a scary view of God.
But the “dangerous God” mindset can go deeper than theology.
Many people who hold the “dangerous God” paradigm have experienced spiritual trauma of some form. This also influences our picture of God. Maybe someone at church judged us harshly, or an authoritative spiritual figure abused us.
When this happens, we sometimes project our experience onto God, leading us to have the same feelings about God that we have for those judgmental or abusive people.
“God is dangerous. If I make a wrong step, He will harm me. In fact, maybe it’s too late and God hates me already. I need to be careful so that nothing bad happens.”
Remember, these are usually not conscious beliefs. They are feelings that influence our behavior — feelings that you may have never stopped to think about before. In fact, you might sit in church every week and sing “Amazing Grace” and be able to give a stirring testimony about the love of God. But yet, your feelings about God are different from what you know to be true.
Common Coping Mechanisms
How do we cope when we feel helpless in the shadow of a powerful and dangerous God?
Ironically, we try to control every detail of our lives to appease this capricious God, resorting to ritualistic behavior such as counting, mantra-like Scripture recitation, or repetitive prayers. (Check out my video, “When Have I Prayed Enough?”)
For example: Avery believed that she had to visualize each person of the Godhead in order to feel authentic when praying. If she failed to get it right, she would force herself to start all over. Sometimes, Avery would pray the same section of her prayer a dozen times before getting it “right.”
Getting her prayer “just right” was the only way she felt safe enough to go to sleep at night.
Despite knowing that God is love, she couldn’t manage to feel safe in His presence.
The Problem with the “Dangerous God” Paradigm
This paradigm presents a very twisted and unbiblical picture of the character of God.
Avery viewed God as unsafe, so she attempted to manipulate God by her rituals in order to feel like she was in a safe place with Him. To her, God was capricious and unpredictable — out to punish her if she failed in any small detail.
Relating to God in this way is incredibly traumatic. In fact, it’s the same way that people in abusive relationships relate to their abusers. They seek to placate the abusive person in hopes of feeling some sense of security.
Treating God in the same way reveals a deep-seated disconnect between our daily experience and what we really believe.
We know God is love. We know He is trustworthy. But deep down — deeper than we may have analyzed up till this point — we are terrified of God and we believe He hates us. And so our compulsions become tools to manipulate. Our obsessions are a way we try to protect ourselves.
So how do we move away from this version of “God hates me”?
The Solution to the “Dangerous God” Paradigm
The first step in moving away from the “dangerous God” paradigm is recognizing what shaped this picture of God in our minds.
For some, it may be an actual traumatic circumstance, like a manipulative relationship or spiritual abuse.
For others, it may be a doctrinal misunderstanding. The OCD mind tends to be so black and white that it often overemphasizes certain biblical concepts.
Want to know the three “biggies” that make up 2/3 of all religious obsessions? In order, the religious obsessions that take the cake are:
- The Unpardonable Sin
Now, does Scripture talk about a final punishment? Yes. Does God hold the events of this world in His hands? Yes. Are there final limits beyond which we may not safely cross? Absolutely.
But these three ideas can be taken to such an extreme that they cease to be accurate portrayals of the true Biblical teaching. And that happens — a lot — with scrupulosity.
The first step to overcoming the “dangerous God” paradigm is to seek balance in our views of God and Biblical concepts. We must recognize that the OCD mind tends towards polarized thinking, and almost always paints things in a much more black-and-white manner than it really is.
Develop the ability to leave room for “maybes” and “I’m not sures.” I know your mind is 100% sure that you’ve committed the unpardonable sin, but try to leave room for other possibilities.
Secondly, overcoming the idea that “God hates me” involves putting trust in who God really is. I’m sure you’ve heard of cognitive behavioral therapy — that process of changing the way you think. Think of this like “spiritual CBT.” Learning to trust God — I mean, really trust God, at a deep and visceral level — means we have to stop blabbing those pat praise lyrics and come face to face with how we honestly feel towards God.
Sometimes it isn’t pretty. Often we’ll dig out some nasty spiritual skeletons from the closet. And that’s ok. We’re moving forward. We are learning what it really means to trust.
Psalm 97:2 speaks of God in this way,
Clouds and darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
Though we may not be able to understand everything about God—that is, when clouds seem to darken our understanding—we can know with certainty that His character is trustworthy. He proclaims Himself as a God who is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6, 7).
God is not a fickle deity who changes how He feels about us depending on His mood on a given day.
On the contrary, He is totally trustworthy!
And He invites us to put our trust in Him:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6
God Hates Me: The “Dangerous Me” Paradigm
At first glance, the “dangerous me” paradigm seems opposite of the “dangerous God” paradigm. People with this second viewpoint see God as weak and absent, while they themselves are dangerously powerful in ways that terrify them. They feel they are in danger of harming others or being damned themselves if they don’t control these latent powers.
The “dangerous me” mindset often plays out in connection with other types of OCD, such as harm OCD, pedophilia OCD, or sexual OCD.
For example, John may get intrusive thoughts about hurting someone he loves every time he sees a knife in the kitchen. Because he doesn’t understand where his thoughts are coming from, he fears that these thoughts will materialize. Soon, he’s overwhelmed. “God can’t stop me from stabbing someone with a knife,” he fears. To him, God is distant and uninterested in protecting him from these thoughts.
Laura isn’t bombarded with fears of harming someone, but intrusive thoughts about sexuality and bestiality keep popping up in her mind. She’s disgusted by these thoughts, but can’t seem to control them and fears that she’ll be condemned by God for them. She believes that God can’t (or won’t) stop her from carrying out the gross actions in her mind. After all, she’s responsible for her own actions — not God. Right? And so her thought process goes.
As both John and Laura find themselves battling these thoughts, they come to the conclusion that “God hates me. If He really cared, I wouldn’t be in this awful situation. If He really cared, He wouldn’t have created me like this.”
Common Coping Mechanisms
Those of us with a “dangerous me” paradigm cope in very similar ways to those with the “dangerous God” paradigm. We also follow compulsive rituals that they believe will prevent us from doing bad things.
John might repeat a mantra or blow air out of his mouth every time an intrusive thought enters his mind. His compulsive response is incredibly sourced in himself, not God. He makes himself responsible for preventing harm and takes little to no comfort from genuine prayer — because in his mind, God is not accessible enough to provide the same level of security that his own compulsions can.
Laura, on the other hand, goes to confession several times per week to get these disgusting intrusive thoughts off her chest. She obsessively makes lists about the sinful thoughts she must confess — just in case she might forget one of them.
She fully believes that God has given each believer the responsibility to confess and seek forgiveness from God, so she views her compulsions as merely her “Christian duty.” However, she fails to recognize that at a deeper level, she is viewing herself as more powerful than God. She must keep lists of her sins because her own list is more reliable than the ability of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin (John 16:8). And, at some level, perhaps she believes it is not the blood of Christ that saves her, but her own properly-completed spiritual behaviors that close the deal.
Both John and Laura make themselves responsible for ensuring their salvation and preventing spiritual disaster. In theological jargon, we would call this very “anthropocentric.” That is, human-centered.
And we got ourselves into this human-centered spiral because at some point in our spiritual journey, our childlike trust in God was derailed. Or perhaps it was never there to begin with. And if God can’t be trusted, we default to trusting in ourselves.
A Third Paradigm?
When I’m working with scrupulosity clients, I will typically show them these two danger paradigms and then ask, “Which one resonates with you the most?”
Some people say #1, or #2, or perhaps they flip-flop between both of them.
Then, I begin to draw another picture: a stick figure that is smiling down on a baby in its arms.
I ask my clients, “If this were your image of God, how would that make you feel?”
It breaks my heart when, time and time again, they say, “I can’t relate to that one.”
Why? Because this picture represents a third paradigm that most accurately represents the character of God!
God Doesn’t Hate Me: The “Fatherly Love of God” Paradigm
We already know — cognitively — that God doesn’t hate us. But it’s a long way from our head to our heart. And when we have scrupulosity, we need to spend more than average time contemplating the love and kindness of God.
This isn’t cheap grace or a dumbing down of the gospel message. This is a recognition that people who are predisposed to obsessive-compulsive thought patterns are naturally fixated on danger. We already pay way too much attention to the damnation passages — so as we contemplate the tender care of our Heavenly Father, we perform a kind of balancing act — spiritual CBT, if you will — to round out the picture.
And, by the way, I’m not the only one who favors focusing on the parent-child relationship we may enjoy with God. One of the favorite themes of Christ while on this earth was the paternal love of God for us. This idea surfaces over and over again in His parables.
In the parable of the lost sheep, He spoke about how “your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14).
In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus emphasized the rejoicing that the Father has when His wandering children return to Him (Luke 15:11-32)!
In an unexpected moment of tenderness, Jesus set a child on His lap and reminded His listeners that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is he who takes the role of a child (Matthew 18:4).
Are you catching the theme?
John, a disciple particularly close to Jesus, summarized it this way:
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!1 John 3:1
He seems to be saying, “See the love of God and the way in which it was revealed through Christ. Let yourself take it all in!” That sounds like a major shift from scrupulosity’s danger paradigms!
Here’s one more reassuring passage:
Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.Isaiah 49:15, 16
The “dangerous God” paradigm and the “dangerous me” paradigm are founded on a wrong view of God and the idea that “God hates me.”
A key in healing from scrupulosity is unraveling these paradigms. God does not hate us. In fact, He loves us more than any earthly father or mother ever could. As we re-orient ourselves to God in this way, He will become a safe place instead of a dangerous one.
This healthy picture of God’s love for us and our position as His children will open a way for us to grow spiritually and learn how to overcome our religious OCD. Then, we can begin to take big steps forward in healing!
Where are you in your experience? Which paradigm resonates with you the most?
Best wishes on the journey,
I took the quiz. I’m a recent convert and have taken religion to an extreme. I did cut back recently but then I’ve been anxious about cutting back, missing the exact time for the Angelus or Divine Mercy Chaplet, getting up at 3AM to pray.
It's understandable to feel like God hates you when struggling with scrupulosity, as anxiety and self-doubt can cloud our perceptions. However, it's important to remember that these negative thoughts are not reflective of reality. By seeking professional help and practicing self-compassion, it's possible to overcome these challenges and shift your perspective towards a more positive and fulfilling life. Remember that you are deserving of love and acceptance, and it's never too late to start living your best life.
I’ve struggled with blasphemy thoughts against God, and the enemy has tried to make me believe that they are mine and that I’ve believed them. I’m scared and want help. I know I struggle with ocd and scrupe
I can understand and relate exactly what you are saying!
I asked God to be aggressive in His treatment of my OCD/scrupe, and His leading me to your site is definitely helping me to the next level. So much confirmation of what I sense God has been telling me along my way. Feeling safe with Him is obviously one of my deepest needs. (For all of us, really). You're right, this is a very deep root–let's pull! Thank you.
God is a very rotten evil filthy scumbag for punishing a good single man like me with singleness, which wasn't even my choice at all in the first place. And with so many very stuck up evil rotten feminists and narcissists women that God the fool created these days really didn't help much at all either. Just trying to start a conversation with a woman for many of us single men that are very seriously looking for love today has really become so very dangerous for us now as well, especially when we will just say good morning or hello to a woman that we would really like to meet,. There will be times for absolutely no reason at all when these moron women will curse us out too on top of it all since i know other single friends that had the very same thing happened to them as well. It is very obvious that God punished many of us men that would just want to have a normal love life just like so many others have. Just too many low life loser feminists and narcissists type of women that are everywhere now that have caused this mess today as well. It is very amazing how much nicer that most women were back in the old days since they were very old fashioned and real ladies, which made love back then so very easy to find at that time. Very obvious why our family members really lucked out back in those days when they found love with one another.
Very interesting thoughts here…I have observed a trend stemming out of the toxic feminist movement which has really affected men in a negative way (which is obviously to be expected). I think the longer this toxic feminist movement goes on, the more we will see men responding in at least two ways: on the one hand, they can feel neutered and have a loss of a sense of manhood and confidence, and they begin to hate women (as in cases of incel men). On the other hand, they will fight back with toxic masculinity, in which women are also hated and treated badly. So in either case, toxic feminism invites more hatred towards women, not less. It is the opposite of what the movement is trying to gain, because the agenda and tactics are outside the biblical depiction of womanhood.
Dear friend, I don’t believe God is punishing you with singleness. I think you are a victim of the times we live in, where women are deeply confused and men often pay the price for it. Don’t give up on yourself or on God. There are still godly and feminine women out there, and if you trust God, He can help you find one of them.
Jaimie, Unfortunately it is the women today that have really changed for the very worse of all that has really caused this problem today which is why so many of us men can't find love at all, and we really have no reason to blame ourselves at all either. Women today are very different from the past, that is for sure. And it was just too very bad that God never created women today just like the old days when it really use to be very easy finding love back then, the way that are family members really had it at that time. Oh boy, were they very lucky when they met their loved ones. I always was hoping to meet the right good woman for me to have a family that i really wanted, but God very much cursed me very badly since he never wanted a good man like me to have that at all. And if it was meant to be, which then i would've had that to begin with. If this was God's intention in the first place, which then he shouldn't have created many of us single men to begin with. Gee wiz, didn't God say that man shouldn't be alone? Well so much for that unfortunately. And now most women today are so very high maintenance, very independent, and really don't want us men anymore, selfish, spoiled, greedy, picky, and the ones that are real gold diggers will only want men with money anyway to begin with. So you can really see how the women today have really changed from the old days since not to mention that so many women nowadays are real narcissists and feminists on top of it all. Back in the old days most women weren't like this at all since it was never about looks and wealth that most women do want today. And as you can see that many of us men aren't really to blame here at all. It is so very hard to believe how women are now compared to the past. What a change. And can you imagine that many of these women will curse us out for no reason at all by just saying good morning or hello to them? really? Why is that? This why why many of us men are just doomed to be single and alone, even though it wasn't even our choice at all.
I think calling or saying Avery is "manpulating God"f by doing this doesnt ring true. If you look at the old testament and a person had read a lot of it it can skew your view it was VERY ritualistic and where she probably instinctively got this idea from is directly related to the old testament .. strike the rock ONE TIME ..struck it twice POW! appeasing a hostile God is what that is manipulating is a negative word its like using I was being as perfect to the person that took me hostage so he would not hurt me .. Manipulation is really the last word I would think to use I w ould use defending yourself before this word.
"Manipulation has many negative connotations, including carrying out devious behaviors designed to exploit and control others. Think of it like mind control — using emotional and psychological tactics to change or alter someone's perception or behavior in an underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive way."
I can most relate to #2 and #3 paradigms. I was raised in a Baptist church and I was saved at the age of 12. I know I trusted Christ's saving grace in the beginning, but I heard a sermon on blaspheming the Holy Spirit and I knew if there was something God would not forgive I would probably do it. I felt the need to block any bad or intrusive thoughts. I had, and still have such a fear of blaspheming that I can't even hear the name of the Holy Spirit without trembling with fear of what may come into my mind. I had a breakdown years ago and I became so angry at God that I was even created. Even though many have explained the verse to me on blaspheming, my mind just does not accept their explanation. I truly wish I had never been born.
I’ve felt that way before, too. I’m sure I don’t have the “magic words” to help you feel better about it, but please remember that it gets easier.
I’m a flip flopper, but mostly landing in #1. Not quite like you describe though, I don’t believe God hates me, but because of his absolute righteousness and justice I fear, of a sad necessity, he will end up saying he never knew me, despite my belief in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus. There is likely some thing I’ve forgotten to repent of, or change about myself since I believed. I remember my sins and behave as though that can’t possibly be forgiven. I don’t forgive myself. I do forgive others, but continue to fear for myself. Which means I disagree with God, which is also dangerous etc. I know God is my father, but sometimes a father has to keep to strict standards. (My own was ok, but a bit remote, and we didn’t speak deeply of anything. Friendly enough as adults). And then back to God being righteous. I suppose I’m not finding relief in forgiveness and Jesus’ imputed righteousness. I don’t come confidently into the Father’s presence like I’m told we can. I’ve put the torn veil up in the temple again?
Thank you for this article. I fall into both of these categories in various ways. I lost my trust in God as a young child.
My mom died when I was 5. My dad abused her to death. Got away with it. Sociopath w Aspergers. I married that twice. I do think God hates me. Two divorces. Alone. PTSD. I see no loving Father here.
Trust God for what ? More abuse. Isolation. Health and financial worries. Pandemic two weeks into house in a lonely place. Perfect storm. Hate it here. Realtor and atty didn’t watch out for me. It’s hopeless. God can’t possibly care. Sorry
Wow. I'm in my 30's and for the first time in my life realized that this was a real thing and that somebody else out there struggles with this too! I literally had no idea. I feel relieved and am going to try to reset my mind on the real character of God and not the ones I've been having. I feel like I'm a mixture of both kinds. Thank you for this article Jaimie! I'm in a season of healing in various areas of life. God has used this to show me a new area. He wants to heal us and make us whole. God bless.
So glad you feel some resonance…it is indeed a “real thing!” May God grant you healing as you move forward in finding true spiritual wholeness.
I definitely have the ‘Dangerous God’ mindset that I believe was caused by erroneous doctrine in combination with my OCD brain. In my experience any attempt at interacting with God has been traumatic, so much so that I have developed a level of resentment towards anything related to God/Christianity (when I’m not in the throes of scrupulosity)
My question is can I simultaneously practice my ERP assignments and work on seeking balance in my view of God and biblical concepts? Thing is I am currently going through an ocd spike that I’m addressing with ERP, and it’s very difficult to work on seeking balance concurrently. My therapist advised in the past that I put off ‘working on my relationship with God’ until I am past my ocd spike and not so consumed with anxiety. The problem with that is once I’m not as anxious, and I’m feeling relatively normal, my ‘resentment towards God’ kicks in, plus all I want to do is avoid another traumatic experience so I’m not motivated to work on my view of God/seek balance.
Do you have any advice for me?
I never expected the Third Paradigm. When I saw the picture I felt a physical pain in my heart and cried in my living room, silently and hoping no one would notice. I am a mixture of both the 1st and 2nd Paradigms. I have an almost constant barrage of intrusive thoughts. I can’t get through my prayers, it’s a battle, but I keep trying. I can’t read my Bible without being bombarded. I don’t want to voice my thoughts because a huge fear is that Satan will know and then I’ll be finished. Every time my brain thinks something awful or disrespectful I think God must really be disappointed in me and I’m bound for hell. I’m wanting to submit to Him in humility but I can’t figure out how. I’m a
broken reject I’m so afraid of going to hell. I read in one article that prayer to God is supposed to bring peace and I just thought wow is it really? It never occurred to me. God must be so tired of me. When will He be fed up and just be done with me. I prayed the sinners prayer countless times until I read that was offensive to the Lord. I’m so lost and confused. I was saved as a young teen and as far as I know I was never baptized in the Holy Spirit and I was told I had to be in order to really have salvation. I fell away as a young adult and came back to the Lord for a brief time and due to marital problems once again fell away from God. Now I’ve decided Jesus is all I want and I have tried to get close to Him, but scrupulosity has taken over my life. How can God love me how could He not hate me. But I feel that’s so blasphemous to say. I hope this all made sense. My thoughts are so chaotic and all over the place. Thanks for listening. Thank you so much for your scrupulosity work. It has blessed me. And God bless you.
Brandy, the third paradigm is the reality that we all live in without knowing it. One of the reasons Jesus came to this earth was because humanity had lost sight of our loving heavenly Father. We saw Him as a faraway deity who needed to be appeased. Jesus came to show us the Father. “He that has seen Me has seen the Father,” he said. And that paternal love is for strugglers just like you and me. Indeed, it is for us even more, because God sees us in our sickness and weakness.
Please remember that faith and biology are two different spheres, and it is no lack of faith to recognize that we have a clinical disorder. God created scientific law…He made our universe to operate according to fixed and measurable perimeters that humans could study. Thus, all true science is an investigation into God’s creation. That which is discovered by medical doctors and psychologists is not always perfect (science is always a work in progress) but it does help us get closer to an understanding of the world God made but is now broken by sin. I believe that it is perfectly compatible with my faith to seek treatment for a mental health disorder like religious OCD. You and I don’t need to go on worrying that we have a faith problem when in actuality our brains are malfunctioning! Please, if you haven’t already, reach out for help! You can get a LOT better from this, and your walk with God will gain so much clarity and sweetness.
All my best and warmest wishes,
Your words and insights are a gift from God. They make the confusion clear and the pain scrupulosity causes fade away for just a little while. Thank you for the response, taking the time to help me. I do want to find someone to help me here locally but I just don’t know where to turn. I have so many questions about scrupulosity but I’m so ashamed and embarrassed to tell this to anyone. I’m going to join the courses you have made available online. I just really want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
The Big Three
My scrupulosity focus began with a fear of hell. When I read about the unpardonable sin, that became an intrusive thought that would cause me anxiety attacks whenever it “intruded.” But my scrupulosity grew exponentially more disabling and tormenting when I came across Calvinism and the Calvinist concept of salvation.
I have very few compulsions or rituals that give temporary relief from my religious obsessions and the accompanying intrusive thoughts and ruminations. Reading the Bible is something I have to force myself do because I can find a threat to my salvation almost anywhere. It doesn’t help to come across. words “elect” or “predestined.” Reading a verse like “faith without deeds is dead.” sent me into an anxiety attack the first time I read it and has now become a recurring intrusive chant in my head. The entire book of James is a trigger because it focuses on how faith manifests itself in a Christian’s life. I am so troubled with scrupulosity and depression that I don’t have much of a life at all – no opportunity to perform any of the deeds that, according to James will make my faith in Jesus “alive” If a person’s’ faith is dead how can they be saved by it ? And so it goes with reading the Bible. I will somehow manage to find a passage that make me a “fake” and disqualified for salvation.
I know God is good and He loves everyone-even those who reject Him and will not be saved. I know somewhere in my mind that my scrupulosity and all that it involves is irrational but I cannot break free.
I struggled with this also. It's been over a month so I'm not sure how you are now. But check out "enduring word" commentaries on the verses or chapters you're confused about.
I also watch, "Mark Dejesus" on YouTube.
Dear Patti, SNAP! I’m the same
I wonder if this will help us:- we recognise these trains of thought, paradigms etc as OCD, right? And we know other happy Christians without this problem, who are happy in Christ. Yes?
So maybe these thoughts of damnation are like a rash, a symptom of the disease. Let’s call it spiritual chickenpox. It’s sure you’ve got that because you recognise these symptoms.
And Jaimie is telling us how this fits together, and that actually we’re ok with God, because this is only a symptom. Just like chickenpox, it’s not fatal and we will recover. We may get shingles later on! But that too is going to pass and not affect our fate.
I’m taking great comfort in the discovery that this OCD thing is so full of discernible characteristics, such that you can say that’s where you are, and NOT on the road to hell somewhere.
It’s the same when you have lots of physical symptoms and finally you find the reason. Even if you’re stuck with those, at least you know what’s wrong. OCD is also pretty “sticky”, from what I can tell, but it isn’t spiritually fatal.
Provided you believe in the death of Jesus to stand in as punishment for your own sins, and you’ve turned to Him and asked forgiveness, you are not condemned. His shed blood is our life. And his resurrection proved ours is possible, as promised. We must hang onto that, our true diagnosis. And the rest is very loud NOISE!
There are verses to comfort and there are verses that seem to condemn, but dare to think, until proven otherwise, (and proving it is the holy Spirit’s job, not our OCD minds, which are not qualified) that we can camp on the verses that comfort. I like the ones that say he’s our shepherd, and he carries us poor lambs, even the 1, leaving the 99 to find us. He will finish what he’s started is another saying that encourages me, which should work with Calvinist’s too! Sorry I’ve not got the refs, but if you Google those phrases you’ll find them
For me, I admit I see God as maybe a bit tricky and picky. I doubt over being a believer/salvation. I fear I don’t trust Jesus took care of it all for me and Him alone, which you mention here. So where doesn’t this leave me, how to move into trusting Him alone and move into better knowing His Fatherly love?
At times, recently I started taking like 5-7 min a day just shutting my eyes, putting my hand over my heart, and slowly repeating “God you love me right where I’m at, You cherish me. I love myself and I have what it takes to overcome, I already have the victory in You, there’s no pressure on me..”. Yet I struggle to connect to these things and move into trust. Yes, I fear being a fake and not fully knowing that until eternity.
I hope she replies, because I getchya.
the “Dangerous God” paradigm made me weep while reading it. I struggled with this view and subsequent reaction (repetitive prayer, anxiety, fixation on hell and rapture, “God must be asking to do extreme and terrifying to make me prove I love Him”) from childhood and throughout college (I grew up in a very religious household and fundamental baptist church). I eventually got burnt out from my scrupulous mind, tired of wondering if it was God or my very, very scrupulous conscience, began questioning, and decided that I didn’t have to be afraid of God (subconsciously I was and am still terrified of Him). Unfortunately, my lack of fear – instead of making me love God – gave me permission to admit that I hated Him. I tried to convince myself He wasn’t real so I could just have some peace and live my life. It was a weird blend of trauma response and sinful behavior that led to my rebellion and flat out rejection of my faith for a brief period. Now I have reason to believe I’m actually damned to Hell for rejecting Christ (referring to myself as non-Christian and agnostic for a brief period) after accepting Him earlier in my life and most days I feel that God’s judgement is upon me since I perceive that I “recrucified Christ” like the writer speaks of in Hebrews. He was working in my life and I just didn’t want to accept it as true anymore because it was too scary, painful, and I knew I didn’t have a good relationship with Him. I bailed on my faith and I hate myself for it now, and it doesn’t help that I think I’ve given God a reason to send me to Hell since I don’t think Jesus’ death covers this particular sin – since while calling myself non-Christian/agnostic I was basically searching for reasons why the Holy Spirit hadn’t worked in my life to prove to myself that it wasn’t real. Sharing this in case anyone can relate or offer insight.
Hi Erica- I can relate to your wondering it at times it was God or your conscience. I have been struggling for years not knowing what the issue was. The last year has brought everything to a head. But I wanted to encourage you in this way- and this is because I have also been a Bible teacher for over 20 years and I can tell you this with all certainty. You are not bound for hell. You have not committed an unforgivable sin. I think scrupulousity lies by telling us we are more powerful than God. Jesus’ death on the cross covers all sin. If Peter can deny Christ three times and be forgiven- so can we. If you stopped and prayed right now- God, you are not the author of confusion- that’s the enemy- you say that if we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord then we will be saved. I choose to trust YOUR word! I choose to reject the thoughts that tell me otherwise. Thank you for saving me!” I mean that’s one prayer but you could say it a thousand ways- the point is God knows your heart. I believe you are saved. I don’t believe we can lose our salvation. My uncle grew up as a pastors kid, was saved, went to college and they twisted his mind against God, he fell away for a time and then came back to the faith. He is saved. It’s like the prodigal son- we all have times that we stray. Thanks God our salvation isn’t dependent on our works- our thoughts- our deeds. We are claimed by God and no one can snatch us from his hands. Be careful to not proof text- that is taking one verse and making it one truth- we have to look at God’s word as a whole to have the full context. I just yesterday told God I hated him- but I thought later that it’s like a kid saying I hate you to a parent. The parent knows the kid loves them- they are just having a moment. I had that awful thought about hating God because I hate this anxiety I’m feeling. So I lashed out. Thankfully I know he will forgive me- I know my salvation is not at risk. So I guess what I’m getting at is- if you ask God to save you from your sins through Christ- he will. You’re secure. Check that box- then trust that salvation is secure and continue to get help for the other issues- also trusting that God is there in it with you. I truly believe it breaks God’s heart when we are suffering. I get mad wondering why he doesn’t just fix everything. But the journey we are on will over time strengthen us and our relationship with God. We will also be able to help others and encourage others like I’m doing now with you even though I’m in a similar boat. So hang in there. You are greatly loved! Check out this verse- memorize it and know it’s how God thinks of you. Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing.
Those aren’t maybes. He will. Love to you, Jaime
Hi there Erica. I’m with you in the struggle to connect with the Father’s love and grace. Nevertheless I wanted to offer some encouragement I possible, just from my own struggles.
First, a key thing is not “if God will forgive”, but rather that He already has. Christ dealt with the sins of the world the scriptures say. Col 2:13,14 says “when you were dead in your sins and uncircumcision of your flesh, has He(Father God) quickened together with Him(Jesus our substitute), having FORGIVEN you all trespasses. Blotting out the list of ordinances(all His laws we have ever broken or will break) that was against us, that stood contrary to us, and He took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.” This all was already done and finished even before we were born, and we were dead in our sin and inability to deliver ourselves from sin’s penalty. Yet Christ took that penalty for us all and already removed the only thing that stood between us and God- all the righteous laws of God that we didn’t keep, our sins.
Jesus said right before He gave up His life while on the cross “it is finished”, which in the Greek meant, dealt with, put or taken away, paid in full. If the sin of the world was taken away, and you are part of the world, then your sin all was already taken away whether you believe that or not, it’s happened. Now please understand, I’m not saying all are automatically heaven bound because of what Jesus did, for what He did is of no good to anyone who doesn’t see the need of what He did and who won’t believe He dealt with it for them. As the Bible says, those who believe are counted or credited with His righteousness.
So it is not necessary for you to ask God or beg for His salvation(forgiveness and deliverance from the penalty), as that’s something He already did and accomplished in and through Jesus the Son. Rather just take His word on it that you are delivered and free because He has said in Heb 9:12 how that Jesus already obtained eternal redemption for us. God knows your heart’s desire and if you even desire to trust Him on this for your only hope of heaven, He will not loose you, leave you, or ever cast you out…He said so. Ask Him, as I do, to teach you to trust Him and better know He loves you right where you are at.
It truly only needs to be a small moment of even a mustard seed “sized” faith that takes His word, realizing that Jesus already finished it and dealt with the sin issue, and that person is eternally sealed by the Spirit, even if/when they may fall into confusion and doubt later on. Eph 1:13,14
As you can see, I too struggle and even commented on this post. It can all get confusing, but I do believe that the more God reveals to our hearts(and we are open to that) His Fatherly love and grace, the less we will get quite so hung up in the ocd stuff or what is called ocd.
Having read what you have written
the God most people speak about is Fire And Brimstone all going one way to hell this kind of teaching lacks balance and compassion.
may I suggest you focus on the story of the prodigal son? and try to see the love of a caring father who kept looking every day for his son/ daughter to return and when he saw them coming his heart was filled with joy and love for them, not anger or recrimination for what they had done this is how I want to be treated to help me overcome my OCD with the rest of the baggage I carry I hope this helps ..
This is very interesting.
I have experienced OCD for many years but only confirmed in Rehab 3 years ago.
I have cursed the Holy Spirit, God &amp; Jesus in my thoughts. I am a Christian and believe in the Trinity. I wake up in the morning with these thoughts and throughout the day. I pray everyday for God to take these thoughts away. If I stay active it takes my mind off of these thoughts temporarily. Some times I have anger with these thoughts. I believe I have committed the unpardonable sin and God will not forgive me. The doctor in Rehab explained these were not my thoughts and God is understanding and will forgive me. I feel no joy or happiness
because of this and feel my time has run out to
be forgiven. I read all of your posts and has
brought some comfort to me. It is also
comforting there are people like me who suffer
from this mental illness. Thank you for your
understanding and faith in people like me.
I have experienced OCD for many years but only confirmed in Rehab 3 years ago.
I have cursed the Holy Spirit, God & Jesus in my thoughts. I am a Christian and believe in the Trinity. I wake up in the morning with these thoughts and throughout the day. I pray everyday for God to take these thoughts away. If I stay active it takes my mind off of these thoughts temporarily. Some times I have anger with these thoughts. I believe I have committed the unpardonable sin and God will not forgive me. The doctor in Rehab explained these were not my thoughts and God is understanding and will forgive me. I feel no joy or happiness
because of this and feel my time has run out to
be forgiven. I read all of your posts and has
brought some comfort to me. It is also
comforting there are people like me who suffer
from this mental illness. Thank you for your
understanding and faith in people like me.
If possible, perhaps look at my comment on this and my own struggles in a response I gave to another commenter named Erica.
Hi Jaimie. I have a question. In your article "God Hates Me…"
You mention there are certain final limits that we can not safely cross. What do you mean by this? My OCD tells me there is something I have done (like backsliding and once saying to a friend that Jesus was not the only way to heaven) that God can not forgive. I am tortured by these past mistakes and am afraid I have gone too far…like you said "final limits that we can not safely cross". I do not want to go to hell and I've asked for forgiveness.
Could you explain what you mean? Thanks so very much.
We need to understand the Bible in a balanced way. One extreme is to think that every little thing we do or think is so catastrophic that we lose our salvation. The other extreme is that God doesn’t care what we do and that everybody will be saved in their sins. Neither view is correct. Definitely, God has limits, but what you’re describing is not in the same category. For encouragement about backsliding, please read Hosea 14:4.
Thanks for responding, Jaimie!
You see, I turned away from God for years and fell into a state of doubt and unbelief – which is when I said what I said to my friend.
I am so very fearful of the Hebrews 6:6 scripture…concerning those who have fallen away. Is this what you are referring to when you say the God has limits? Limits to his grace for people that have left him?
I think any discussion of God’s limits needs to be done delicately. It’s one of those topics that we should be careful with, because we cannot expect to search out the infinite ways of God. What we know from Scripture is that
1. God is not “willing” for anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), which means that His fundamental mindset and heart-set towards us is wanting us to win
2. God has stacked the deck in our favor, even sending His own Son to die for us (John 3:16), which means there is nothing that COULD be done that He has not already done for us to win
3. Despite all this, there are some who will not accept God’s gift (if you are worrying about if this applies to you, that’s a good piece of evidence that it doesn’t apply to you.)
4. For most people, the window of opportunity remains open as long as they have breath in their lungs (2 Cor 6:2); so worrying about if it’s “too late for me” is not a biblical question to ask. Yes, you can repent and return to the Lord; as long as you are alive you may return to the Lord. He says, ““I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4)
Beyond this, it is hard to speak about God’s workings. It is best to leave holy mystery alone–what we know is that God will judge righteously. Beyond that, let us look away from ourselves and look to the mighty sacrifice of Jesus made on our behalf.
I have a really important question about so
Etching you said.
What do you mean by “God has limits?”.
I am confused because God is sovereign over all things, so how would He has any limits?
I mean that God has limits in regards to how He deals with sin. There is a view called “universalism” which basically says that God will save everybody, even if you’ve lived a horrible life and refused to profess faith in Him. This idea suggests that God doesn’t have any limits and that He was just joking when He declared His holy law on Mt. Sinai. But if His law was so flimsy, then why did Jesus have to die? That wouldn’t make any sense anymore. Sin is a terrible thing, which is why Jesus had to go to the cross to atone for our failures. And praise God, we have the atonement and can walk free. But the whole salvation story tells us that God had to take serious measures to deal with the sin problem. So yes, I think the Bible is clear about there being boundaries…as much as I would like to say everyone will be saved, that is unfortunately not going to be the case. Nevertheless, despite our understanding of God’s boundaries (which are expressed in judgment, hell, and so forth) we must understand these topics in the context of God’s love and the immense provision He makes for us to live in freedom and security.
Hi Kelly, what has helped me is reading the book of Hosea which is about God asking Hosea to marry an adultress woman (hard to believe, right?). God asked to marry a woman he knew would commit adultery! He did this to paint a picture of His love for Israel, who committed spiritual adultery. What's so amazing about God's love is that He pursues His children before they even turn back to Him. He wants His children to repent and turn back to Him. "Return to me, and I'll return to you" is another verse God laid on my heart. If you return to Him, He'll return to you and it sounds like you already have. I suffer from this as well and as I'm writing this to you, I know that it's true because God's word is true and yet, I still suffer with fear and anxiety that it's too late, etc. They are just feelings. We need the truth of God's word. It is sharper than a double-edged sword (can't remember whole verse) so it is stronger than our beliefs and feelings. Hope that helps. We all need it!
I don't want to manipulate God or be idolatrous by praying the Sinners Prayer. It's never been a game. I'm truly sincere. I don't want to try to be God. I didn't read that definition until earlier today. I am terrified of missing the rapture and I have prayed the sinners prayer more than I can count. My dad is an ordained Assembly of God minister and Liscenced Clinical Pastoral Counselor. He's also served the Lord for over 50 years. When I timidly asked him about my praying being idolatrous he said it wasn't. He says, I "can go to heaven miserable or go to heaven happy. It's my choice."
I understand your concerns. We want to “make sure” we are saved but at the same time we know our ritualistic and obsessive approach to religion is a little different than most, so we also want to “make sure” we aren’t doing something wrong. It leads us into an eternal loop of checking to “make sure.” I would agree with your dad that we can go to heaven happy or miserable–in the sense that my own emotional state is not an indicator for whether I’m saved or not. Scripture makes it clear that my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and will sometimes condemn me unnecessarily (see Jeremiah 17:9 and 1 John 3:20). I believe there are plenty of people throughout history who struggled terribly with mental health challenges who WILL be in the Kingdom of Heaven, despite a very miserable experience on earth. So in that sense, I would agree with your dad. As for the last part of his statement, I’m not sure how much depth he intended that statement to have. Sometimes it’s our choice, sometimes not. Emotions are not made to order via a vending machine. There is no flip switch for happiness. What we know about emotional health is that it is an extremely complex reality that involves hormones, bodily health, deeply-entrenched brain patterns, long-term memories and traumas, and lifestyle (healthy habits in eating, sleeping, exercising, socializing, etc.) It is always a choice to WORK on these things (for example, if you have experienced trauma, you can work on that by starting to visit a Christian counselor. If you have an unhealthy lifestyle, you can choose to work on this, bit by bit). Working on our emotional health is a choice, but that choice will usually be played out over a long period of personal growth and healing, not by flipping a switch and choosing to be happy…um, today. right now. immediately. It just doesn’t happen like that!
I believe you aren’t playing a game with the Lord. You are sincere and are trying your best. I think by being here and reading helpful resources, you ARE making the choice to work on your emotional and spiritual health. God will honor that. Keep pressing forward and don’t give up!
Hi, one helpful thing that sometimes encourages me even if but for a moment, is not looking at myself and considering a “sinner’s prayer” or my sincerity, for I will always wonder and find fault, and a prayer itself doesn’t save. What can help for encouragement is instead asking “was Jesus sincere and mean it when He said ‘it is finished’ having dealt with the sin or all the world, which would include mine?” If He was sincere and true and did that, then we can start to practice letting go of the worry that our sins have not been all dealt with, and only our sin stands between us and God the Father. So rather than asking or begging God “to save us”(which is similar to asking Him to do something presently to save us), rather we can choose to take His word that in Christ and by what He did, He already saved us from the penalty.
You are doing such great work here, Jaimie. I wish I had your blog when I was younger so I could've understood myself better! I have some weird combination of the two paradigms–I am so scared that God is dangerous and mean that I don't even want to ask Him for help, as I can't bring myself to worship a God who is unkind (in my hopefully wrong perception). And yet I struggle so much with the "dangerous me" idea and constant fears that I really WANT to trust in God; but it is so hard to do so when I don't know who God is at all. I think this will take a big leap of faith on my part; I do feel like I will get better in time, and your blog has been a great help to me in this. Thank you!
I am in the first paradigm I cried reading your findings
I want to experience God’s love but I get stuck in the idea of God seeing all my faults
Hey Jaimie my name is Paola and I’ve been really interested in wanting to get better I’ve been struggling with my scrupulosity for almost a year and I’m just tired of everything and one doubt that I’ve had with completely being sure that this is for me is if my OCD is caused by a demon. I’ve heard a lot about how mental illnesses are caused by demons and I’m thinking do I just have to have faith that God will heal me from this demon and I just want to know this cause then I’m thinking does God want me to go through this course? What if God doesn’t approve of this? But I really want to get better my relationship with God does well some days but not every day I know I am struggling a lot with my mental health I just need an answer and I just want God to tell me directly if I can take action in getting better. Please answer ASAP 😞. God bless you Jaimie
Hi Paola, please do go ahead with getting treatment. Even if this were from demons, Jesus gave His followers power and authority over them, and you have nothing to fear. Jesus defeated Satan at the cross and his time on this earth is limited. Scrupulosity would like to have you paralyzed in fear of demonic power, but you don’t need to be. Please do seek help for your obsessive-compulsive disorder; your body is your God-given gift and you are doing the right thing by taking care of it.
Thank you so much Jaimie for answering it’s just my friend tells me that satan sent the spirit of ocd and are there spirits of depression? Or spirit of anxiety Even biblical? But you know I think I am going to move forward with the treatment thank you so much Jaimie for al that you’ve been God has given you a gift! God bless you 🙂
This articles resonates a lot. It's like I know all the verses about God's love but when I read them my mind either then skips across to other verses speaking of God's judgement or my OCD comes in and says 'ah but those verses about love are for other people not you – there's a loophole and you're part it'. Obviously it's entirely irrational to think God loves the whole world but not me, though I guess that's what anxiety and OCD does. I remember hearing a TV preacher about 15yrs back saying "you can't love someone if you're afraid of them", so this OCD thinking really does affect one's relationship with God. Anyhow, I live in the UK, so in the next month or so when lockdown is over I'm going to see a local Christian psychiatrist for face to face therapy. All these articles have been helpful in showing me that my main issue is OCD, for I see my own story in other people's stories and how they have the same struggles as me
Jaimie, revisiting my own post from earlier, I feel that saying that I resonate more with Paradigm 2 is not accurate. Please disregard that line from my first post. First and foremost, I know that GOD LOVES ME even though I have thoughts that, if desired, would be extremely offensive. Intrusive thoughts and words that come in and attempt to derail you when it comes to your faith are extremely painful. However, I would much rather this follow-up post focus on the positive in terms of what this affliction has done for me. It has resulted in me learning more about my Catholic faith and, consequently, have a much better understanding of it. I lost the love of my life back in 2018 from cancer. A lie entered my mind that I would never see her again because I wasn't good enough for God. I think that that lie may have aided the triggering of this Religious OCD spiral and it caused me to educate myself better in my faith. As you know, Ephesians 2, verse 8, "For by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God." I love that and have latched onto that verse because I am a firm believer in it along with providing the comfort that I may have previously lacked. Enough said!
Hi Jerry, I’m sorry to hear of your loss. But I do know what you mean when you say you’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of God’s love through “affliction.” I’ve been doing a filming marathon for the last few days, filming online classes for the soon-to-be-launched scrupulosity academy. Yesterday I was recording a video where I shared my own personal story of how my view of God has changed and deepened because of OCD. I could barely get through the video without crying. God is so good. Even in our darkest moments, we are being transformed in ways we would never have predicted. I could honestly say, looking back, that I wouldn’t change a thing.
Thank you Jaimie for taking the time to read and respond to my posts. I welcome your professional input that aids all who have gained access to you as a resource in dealing with this mental disorder.
Thank you, Jerry. God’s blessings to you 🙏🏻
Great article Jaimie. This is my second bout with Religious OCD. The first one started in 2003 right after a significant change in my life and lasted several years. The second bout started around November, 2019 and still affecting me daily. This one also came after a major change in my life…..I resonate more with Paradigm 2. I used to operate and believe that I could control and fix everything within reach. Now I know that I can't even control thoughts that enter my own mind. This affliction has caused me to look deeper into my Catholic faith and I feel that I have a better understanding as a result.
Wow this is an amazing piece, so helpful. Thank you so much Jaimie may God bless you more.
I seem to have on and off episodes, sometimes I completely forget it, however when I get too distracted with daily life pressure t slowly comes back to torment me more.
I am still learning to trust the love of Godcompletely (which is so evident), and move away from myself. I know God is not angry He loves me the same. I know one day I will be completely free from religious OCD.
You are such a blessing. In a nutshell, my story goes back to my inviting Christ into my heart back in 1982. My hubby at the time said he was not ready for that. I can tell you that the gates of hell opened up on my life. This I could not understand when coming to Christ is such a blessed event. I became so utterly afraid of God, to make a mistake and lose my salvation if I ever made another sin. My thought pattern was torturous, but now I know it was OCD. I sought phycological help from several doctors, but to no avail. No one ever mentioned OCD, don’t think they knew about such a thing. I was prescribed pills, Xanax. I ended up on medical leave from my job. My pastor at the time tried every thing he could to try and help me. He did tell me though, that women who had abusive fathers often have trouble relating to God as a Heavenly Father. I am wondering if in your practice you have encountered this evidence from other women, or even men. My dad was an alcoholic wife-beater. My mother and I had to leave our home so many times and I was petrified of him. When I was 16 he made an attempt to molest me. Luckily I was able to get away from him and it was the last time I ever saw him. He is now long since passed away. But getting back to accepting Christ, the following 4-years (1986) resulted in divorce, losing my job, my home, and my beloved dog died. Interestingly enough, the OCD seemed to fade away and I was fine up until August, 2018. Boom, it hit me again like a ton of bricks. Thoughts I cannot reveal to anyone. What would seem to be unpardonable. And there is a Scripture that says God cannot go back on His own Word because He cannot be untrue to Himself. For this, I have been suffering again since then. On February 14, 2018, I had heart surgery which did not go well, leaving me with many post-op problems. The doctor said I had PTSD, which was maddening to me, since he was responsible for my surgery outcome. Again, I sought 3-different physiologists/physicitrist, and again to no avail with more medication. Although,
one minister did mention OCD. Not being familiar with this term I started investigating on the internet. After seeing many testimonies, I couldn’t believe others have been down this same horrible road. Thankfully, I found your site, Jamie, and I thank you so much for all you do….
It sounds like it’s been a tough couple of years for you. I certainly hope your post-op problems from your heart surgery will be resolved soon.
Misunderstandings of God’s character are rampant throughout the entire Christian community–not just among those who have been abused or those who have OCD. It’s a problem. We see God through human lenses and think He is revengeful, absent, angry, nit-picky, or holding us at an arm’s length until we get our act together. The incarnation was not only for the purpose of Jesus providing a sacrificial atonement for our sins; He came to live among us so that we could see what God is truly like. In Jesus we see the clearest manifestation of divine love, and I highly recommend reading and meditating on the gospels as you work through your past wounds and current struggles. In Jesus, mercy and justice meet; He defends the weak, rebukes the hypocritical, nurtures the hurting, and guides the confused.
When it comes to trauma and OCD, I do have a few thoughts I can share. First, the best research we have at this time has not established a causal link between trauma and OCD. This means that even if you grew up in a lovely home environment, you might still have OCD. Having trauma in your background can still make things a bit more difficult, because it adds another layer of complexity, but it doesn’t render you “unfixable.” It just means there are a couple pots boiling on the stove and they both need attention! 🙂 The key is in being able to break things down into manageable bites. Progress can seem overwhelming when it comes to mental health, but it need not be. Things like trauma and OCD have a limited scope they play in. Trauma is not my speciality, but as far as scrupulosity, there are really only six lies we buy into that keep us hooked on the OCD merry-go-round. One of these six lies is “misunderstandings of God’s character.” We buy into inappropriate views of who God is (as I described in this blog post). Another one that is pertinent to your question is “spiritual trauma.” Your situation doesn’t sound spiritual per se, but traumatic nevertheless. I’ve worked with hundreds of people with scrupulosity and I find that trauma is only present in a minority of cases, but when it’s there, it does provide another layer that needs to be addressed. Traumatic memories and OCD need to be worked through together, because they can feed into each other. For example, your negative “father figure” concepts can feed into your beliefs about God’s character, which can spur on your religious obsessions and compulsions. But conversely, if you feel that God does not or cannot forgive you, then you may be less inclined to forgive your father and heal on a deep level from your experience with him. So yes, both need to be addressed in tandem in order to make progress.
I would recommend finding a good Christian therapist in your area who can help you with the PTSD aspect. Most therapists are not well-versed in religious OCD, so you’ll probably need to do some amount of self-advocacy and explanation. No one has enough time to be experts in everything. 🙂 But if you can find someone who can help you walk down both roads at the same time, I think this will be very helpful for you. As for the six lies of religious OCD, I’m hoping to put out a course on that soon, so that might be a good resource for you eventually as well.
Have courage! You can definitely get through this. Be blessed always,
Nice work Jamie! Love your writings. I would love to see you develop more thoughts on what you mention about predestination. I am coming from a Calvinist belief system that is rare in today's church, but I believe God is Sovereign in salvation and only the predestined will be saved. And he will and must save the elect only. Therefore I don't see any way to ever really have assurance. I have heard all the typical answers from Calvinists that are supposed to help give assurance but none of them work. Anyway, I would love to see more about predestination from a Calvinist view (not how an Armenian would describe predestination) and how OCD works with it etc. Thanks.
Hi, Sean! Absolutely — both sides of the spectrum can bring a lot of anxiety when they are taken in isolation. Extreme Arminians can get so focused on free will that they end up getting very works-based and thinking they’ve got to save themselves. Extreme Calvinists can over-focus on the election concept to the point that they drive themselves mad with fear. Actually, I’m working on a series of short videos on those “big three” I mentioned (and I will also add “lust” to the list for a total of four scrupulosity biggies). I do have a lot to say on this topic, but it will be hard to do justice in a comment. But your question prompts me to keep working to crank that video out. I just moved, so I don’t have my home studio set back up, but maybe I’ll just do a casual video from my webcam 🙂 Thanks always for your thoughts!
Awesome! Thanks for the reply! I did not expect any more details here, but I was hoping you might address it in a future video or writing. It was the first time I ever saw this "list" of the ones you mentioned and it really resonated with my struggles. Thanks again!
Absolutely! These are the big issues that most of us struggle with at some level. I’ll definitely be addressing them more in-depth soon!
Thank-you for all you do. Your writings and perspectives are very helpful for me as I endure this lifelong battle with OCD. Thank-you for your honesty and vulnerability. I can really relate to the difficult challenges of being chill when uncertainty is before me. The Covid 19 crisis and the scheduling complications that go with it, have taught me to become less of a control freak. God is teaching me to ask him daily for his directives and the outcomes are always more fruitful.
I also want to thank you specifically for your work on scrupulosity and religious OCD. As someone who has battled this, it's nice to have a resource with a solid Christian perspective.
Absolutely — the covid crisis and all the uncertainty that comes along with it is a good training ground for all of us. God can take all the bad things that happen as a result of sin and He can use them as His workmen to craft us in sanctification. It’s all about how we choose to look at things!
This is so so good. Thank you. I was about to spiral into yet another obsessive episode. I really needed this reminder.
Glad it was helpful. Keep doing what you know to be doing! It’ll pass!
Thank you for this great article, Jaimie. It comes right at a time when I am evaluating my view of God and the way I relate to Him. (I think that in itself is a God thing!) Both of those distorted views resonate with me way too much and I needed to be reminded of the thirdundefinedbiblical paradigm. I need to focus more on growth while on the journey than just wanting to "get" there. If I don't hear from you before then, have a Merry Christmas!
I’m glad to hear that you’re working through some of your deeply-held views of God. We are all growing in this, and I often write about the things I’m pondering for myself. Keep looking up — and Merry Christmas to you, as well!
Hello. I do not relate to either of the two. Dangerous God or Dangerous Me.
The stick figure is a soft spit for me because my biological father never told me he loved me. In fact he thought I wasn't even his son!
The truth of the matter was I WAS his son but my brother wasn't, who my father thought was!
So I got the crap end of the stick, excuse the expression.
The verse in the Old Testament about Jacob and Esau echoes in mind…" Jacob I love but Esau I hated".
I know it really doesn't play out, because the truth of the matter is my mother and the other man did what they did and the truth of the matter became confused, misconstrued. It just happened to fall on me.
Is it Karma, if there is such a thing, or was it just cause and effect of life's decisions?
Who knows. Maybe it was God's plan. I don't think so though.
I do not judge my parents. Their just human, like myself, a sinner also.
My religious OCD is buying Bibles and other books about the Bible. Getting confused about what is written in the Bible. Then getting rid of them all, and in time starting all over again, and repeat.
I've wasted so much money. I'm not sure if it's just pure OCD or if it is God not giving up on me?
The latter sounds right because God is Love.
Sorry for the long message. Thank you for reading it.
Thank you for the emails. God bless you.
Hi Christopher, thanks for your message. That sounds like you had a really difficult relational environment where you learned about love (or the lack thereof). Somehow, by God’s grace, you’ve come out the other side being able to say heartily that God is Love. Not having spoken to you in person, I can’t pinpoint exactly what’s going on in your religious OCD, but it can be helpful to ask ourselves a few questions. For example, you speak of compulsive buying of Bible (which, by the way, is a common scrupulosity compulsion — I’ve coached people who have bought what they estimate to be over ten thousand dollars worth of religious books). What drives this? It’s fear. But fear of what? Can you label that fundamental fear that makes you keep buying and hoarding and then starting the cycle all over again? And what does that fear tell you about your view of God? Again, these are just discussion questions, since I haven’t heard your story in full, but what we do find is that VERY often our obsessive-compulsive tendencies are riding on the back of a feeling of dread that relates to God as either dangerous or absent.
God is a very evil filthy rotten low life loser altogether.