Last updated on October 14, 2020  by 
Jaimie Eckert

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Is God testing me? Mandy agonized.

As an exceptional violinist and a high-achieving student, Mandy had a bright future ahead of her. She was also a committed and conscientious follower of God and believed that she had been called to use her musical gifts to uplift people and point them to Christ.

As she entered her final year of high school, Mandy received the exciting news that she had been awarded a full scholarship to a prestigious university known for its music program. Here was an opportunity that would allow her to further develop her talents and skills. It couldn’t have been better suited to her life calling!

But then, Mandy began to feel a familiar old weight pressing on her chest. God doesn’t want you to have that scholarship, came the nagging thought. You need to give it up. In panic, she wondered, Is God testing me? Could He be calling me to sacrifice this scholarship?

Anxiety crept into Mandy’s life as she struggled to discern what God was asking her to do. She feared to fail the One she loved and yet battled with the prospect of disappointment if indeed called to forgo her scholarship.

I should be finding joy in the thought of sacrificing for my Lord! she chided herself. But I’m not sure if this is His voice speaking to me.

Little did she realize that she was struggling with scrupulosity.

I have encountered so many clients like Mandy who are wrestling with the idea that God is asking them to sacrifice something valuable in their lives as a means of testing their commitment to Him. Typically, this pattern of thinking revolves around major life decisions, such as a beloved relationship or the purchase of a new home. These people find themselves bombarded with anxious urges to give up their hopes and dreams.

However, when told to ignore such thoughts, they are quick to point to the story of Abraham whom God called to sacrifice his promised son as a test of faith (Genesis 22). God forbid that they would fail a test of the same gravity!

If you have ever felt this way, you’re not alone. I want to relieve your anxiety by showing you what the Bible has to say about tests of faith and helping you determine whether God really is testing you.

(And check out my video about what the Bible really says about anxiety!)

Let’s look at four principles from the Word of God about divine testing.

Principle 1: Is God testing me? Divine testing comes in episodes rather than a one-time-only format.

If you’ve ever played with dominos, you know that bumping one domino can bring a whole train of pieces crashing to the floor. People with scrupulosity view their response to divine tests as having a domino effect.  They fear that if they fail the one big test that God has placed before them, then they’ll be damned forever. Furthermore, their actions may have an impact on the lives and eternal destinies of others. That’s a heavy weight to carry on one’s shoulders!

I have good news for you. Those kinds of tests are not biblical.

In the Bible, instead of occurring during one major circumstance, God’s testing happens in episodes. We can think of His tests as being more like weekly quizzes than cumulative finals.

Let’s consider the Israelites for a moment.

After crossing the Red Sea, God led them to Marah. By this point, the congregation was quite thirsty, but the only available water turned out to be bitter. Here was a test before them. Did they pass?

No! Unfortunately, they didn’t trust God—despite the fact that He had just taken them on dry land through the Red Sea! Instead, Exodus 15:24 records that they “complained.”

A little later along the journey, they found themselves famished in the wilderness. Though they had seen God’s providence many times, they again began to grumble:

Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Exodus 16:3

Wow, some strong words there. They basically wished that God had never delivered them from Egypt. Talk about failing a test of faith!

Sadly, the cycle repeated itself throughout much of the Israelites’ experience. And yet, God did not give up on His people. They may have failed one test, but it wasn’t the end of the world because He brought another test to them. What they failed to learn the first time around they had the opportunity to learn the following time.

is God testing me? Letting things go

Sometimes we know for sure how and where God is asking us to give things up. Other times (particularly when it comes to scrupulosity) the situation can seem so ambiguous that we aren’t sure. In these cases, don’t be afraid that making the wrong choice in an unclear matter will be your complete downfall.

It won’t.

If it truly was a test, God will bring it back around. He’s not sitting up there looking for ways to trick you into a life-or-death test, much less is He looking for ways to give you a test and leave you wondering if it really is a test or not.

Principle 2: Is God testing me? Divine testing is transformative rather than judgmental.

People with scrupulosity tend to view God as a stern judge who is waiting to bang His gavel and cross out their names from the book of life if they fail.

But as we already saw in the example of the Israelites, this scenario couldn’t be further from the truth! When the Israelites failed, He didn’t cast them out as duds; He kept working on them and teaching them. He was testing them because He wanted to change them, not condemn them.

Likewise, God tests us with our best interest in mind. He wants to transform us.

Psalm 66:10 says,

For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined.

Usually, silver is heated in a really hot furnace to boiling point, allowing impurities to come to the surface so that they can be scraped off. In this process, the silver becomes more valuable.

When God tests us, His purpose is to refine us into something even more valuable. This idea is repeated in Proverbs 17:3:

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts.

So, instead of viewing divine tests as the line between salvation and damnation, we need to view divine tests as an educational process.

For example, it’s somewhat common for me to encounter scrupulous individuals who feel like God is asking them to give up a relationship with a beloved boyfriend or girlfriend. When I probe further, I usually find that there is premarital sex involved. The word the Bible uses to describe sexual activity before marriage is “fornication.” Look up that word and read it anywhere that it appears in Scripture and you will find it’s always a no-go for God’s people.

Now, I know some people read my blog to get reassurance for their OCD, but I can’t offer reassurance for everything. Even in our journey to overcome scrupulosity, we need to take Scripture seriously — and it’s clear that God has given certain boundaries. When we disregard these boundaries, it becomes very difficult to grow in our spiritual walk, and we may experience increasing anxiety, guilt, or worry.

The person will scrupulosity who is in a biblically inappropriate relationship will often interpret these negative emotions to mean God is testing him/her and wants the whole relationship nullified.

People with OCD are almost always very black-and-white thinkers who have a difficult time seeing shades of gray. Unfortunately, we often take our own thinking patterns and project them on God. We end up believing that HE is a black-and-white thinker just like us.

Either/or. Yes or no. No room for modifications.

But keep in mind that divine testing is for purification and transformation. Don’t jump the gun and think that God always wants you to “give up” stuff.

is God testing me? giving up relationships for God

Let’s say that you’re in a relationship of this kind and are getting a lot of guilty feelings like you’re bad and God won’t accept you when you’re with your S.O. Instead of trying to resolve the bad feelings by throwing out the baby with the bathwater, how about looking for a transformative way of changing your current reality to better reflect God’s principles?

(Hint: in this case, it might look like continuing to date your beloved but saving the sex for marriage. And if he/she is confused and asks why, it gives you a chance to talk through your convictions and start your marriage on a spiritual foot.)

Don’t Miss This Article If You Have Scrupulosity: Is Sex Sinful?

So no — God’s tests are not for the sake of arbitrarily trying to get us to give stuff up to prove that we love Him. That’s pretty much baloney. Imagine a mom saying to her six year old child, “honey, I’d like you to give up your warm bed and sleep outside on the patio in the freezing rain tonight. Can you do that to prove that you love mommy?”

That would be nuts. We would call that mother abusive.

And yet, whenever I wonder if God is testing me to give up everything that is near and dear to my heart, I have to ask the question if this is God or if this is my OCD.

Principle 3: Is God testing me? Divine testing is desirable.

Does the idea of a divine test seem terrifying to you? People with scrupulosity fear being tested by God because they view it as such a dangerous experience.

But as we’ve already seen, divine testing is not dangerous because God is using it to refine us.

Take a look at what David prayed,

Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.

Psalm 26:2

Wait—what? David asked God to test him?

That’s right. He viewed God’s tests as positive—as God’s way of working in his life and revealing new truths to him.

Think of our illustration about the refining of silver. Would a silversmith refine metal that he won’t use? Of course not! He’s going to refine something that he believes to be valuable and useful.

And each one of us is valuable to God! Divine tests are His way of showing us that He has claimed us as His own and is refining us for a purpose. He tests us because we belong to Him.

When we understand that God is safe and that He is on our side, being tested becomes a positive experience. God is at work in us, and He doesn’t do shoddy work!  

Principle 4: Is God testing me? Not every idea that enters your mind is a divine test.

We need to be clear on something else: Many ideas pass through our minds each day, but not every one of them is a divine test. In fact, I can guarantee that most of them aren’t!

The apostle John warned believers,

Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1

People who claim to speak for God might be false, so we must do some testing for ourselves! Similarly, it is possible for the intrusive thoughts of a person with religious OCD to sound like the voice of God when, in reality, they are not. Ultimately, we need to test these suggestions to see if they hold water according to the Scriptures.

test the spirits to see whether they are from God

For example, when Todd became convicted that he would be damned if he didn’t decline an excellent job offer, was God really speaking to him? Probably not. In all likelihood, he was struggling with scrupulosity.

So, how do we recognize the difference between a divine test and scrupulosity? Continue reading for some helpful tools.   

Discerning Real Tests from God

In order to discover the answer to the question, “Is God testing me?” we first need to understand what real tests are and what real tests are not.

The tests that God calls us to will require us to sacrifice something that He’s asking for in His Word or to change something that He wants to change in our lives.

The real test is not agonizing over whether God’s voice is speaking to us or not.

In short, if a test is from God, you will know it without a shadow of a doubt.

The issue boils down to understanding the difference between cognition and metacognition.

Get into Metacognition Mode

In its simplest terms, cognition means thinking about something. We might ask ourselves, “What am I thinking about?”

Metacognition is thinking about how we’re thinking. It involves analyzing thought patterns. The prefix meta indicates that we are above and beyond the thinking process, looking in on ourselves. When engaging in metacognition, we would ask, “How am I thinking?”

is God testing me? Get into metacognition mode to find out

Let’s bring this concept back to our question, “Is God testing me?” When we find ourselves asking this question, we must step into metacognition mode and pay attention to our thought patterns.

If we realize that we’re thinking in repetitive and anxious patterns, going in circles to figure out whether God is the one speaking to us, then we can say with confidence, “No, God is not testing me.”

God’s directions are always very clear as highlighted in the following passages:

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.

Isaiah 30:21

If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God.

John 7:17

If we have a willingness to do God’s will, then we’re going to know what He’s asking.

People with scrupulosity believe incorrectly that finding God’s will is like a hide-and-go-seek chase. That would imply that God either doesn’t want us to know His will or He wants to make it very hard for us to figure it out!

But He is not that kind of God.

You see, God is not wanting to play games with us. He’s wanting to transform us, so it follows that He’s going to make that transformation very obvious. In fact, we could say that God operates on an “informed consent” model: Yes, He may ask us to make sacrifices, but He does so with our consent and understanding. His will is not going to be muddled up among our own chaotic thinking patterns.

Conclusion

So when we realize that we are confused about whether God is testing us, what do we do?

My advice? Follow the most normal and logical option. In the case of Mandy’s scholarship, the most normal option would be to take the scholarship which would allow her to develop her God-given talents and further her life calling.

For a guy who is in love with his girlfriend but feels “called” to give her up, the most logical option would be to dial back, remove unbiblical elements from the relationship, pray for God’s blessing, and keep moving forward towards establishing a committed, long-term relationship.

You may have found yourself bombarded with thoughts about whether God is testing you. First, step back and ask yourself, “Am I struggling to give something up, or am I struggling to discern whether this is God’s voice?” If you’re rolling in agony to figure out God’s voice, then the thoughts probably stem from your OCD.

And if they stem from your OCD, then you have permission to let go of them. Ignore the anxious feelings that are telling you to sacrifice A, B, or C. God is not testing you because God does not work that way!

Yes, you’ll experience tests—but tests to develop your character, not tests requiring you to discern His voice. You can move forward in full freedom knowing that God’s voice will be clear when He does speak to you.

I’d love to hear about your journey! What have been valid tests from God in your life and what have been OCD-based tests?

Best wishes on the journey,

jaimie-eckert-signature

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  1. I had a thought that said "Get right with God, while you still can". Does this sound like something God would say? It concerns me as the "Shile you still can was pointing at me dying…

    1. People with religious OCD have this kind of thing all the time. Almost like mental death threats. The problem is that we frantically work at getting right with God but then there’s always another death threat. That’s not how God works!

      Jaimie

  2. Hi Jamie,

    I’m sure you get messages like this all the time. I’m looking into your courses and I really want to start them but I honestly do not have enough money right now. If you have time and could, I would love if you could read my situation and help me discern what my situation is. Or if you have any helping thoughts.

    OCD runs in my family and I think I have had it just a little bit my whole life but not enough for me to pay much attention to it. But now I am 19 and I believe what I am going through is religious OCD but sometimes question and fear if I’m just using it as an excuse. Recent events have really sparked anxiety and fear in me and have led me to some really dark places mentally that I can kind of catch now thanks to this blog and my therapist. I feel like I logically have it figured out in my head yet can’t get rid of this gut wrenching feeling I’m doing the wrong thing. I know my brain is addicted to solving this problem but it always leaves me unsatisfied. If you have time I would to here what you think about my situation.

    I have wanted to serve a mission for my church since I was about 16 and knew I would go eventually. I am a dancer and got an amazing opportunity to dance in college. My plan was to go to a year of college then leave on a mission. The whole year I spent going back and forth back and forth and it was gradually becoming such a burden. I finally decided by February 2022 to just get started on the papers necessary to go because “God can’t drive a parked car”. Before I started the process, I started feeling like I wanted to go to another year of college and then leave on a mission. However, I was not satisfied with me just making the decision I wanted to know for sure it was Gods will. So I decided to meet with my bishop to get my papers started and then see how I felt after I started. When we met I was just completely honest with him and told him that I really wanted to go on a mission but also loved dance and didn’t want to give it up just yet and feel like I was given the opportunity for a reason but I was willing to give it all up if that’s what I need to do. He then proceeded to tell me that he felt prompted to tell me to let it go and that it was ok. That my willingness to serve was enough and to come back to it later. That I didn’t need to stress over it. And a huge burden was lifted like it felt like the answer I needed but was not expecting. I stopped thinking about it for like 2 weeks. Then all these doubts and worries started coming. I decided ok I’ll give it a couple more months and then make a decision. I think this is when the cycle started of going through pros and cons and what was “better” and just constantly praying day and night for a clear answer. Well I just went on a with my decision of trying out for the dance team again and getting signed up for fall semester while having the possibility of quitting and going on a mission sooner always in my brain. I can see now my anxiety was just building and building. I started looking for signs and applying my situation to every Instagram post and talk and blog I read about sacrifice, missionary work, salvation, promptings, revelation you name it. I then came home for the summer and started seeing other friends leave on missions and come home and felt completely rushed. I kept praying and begging for an answer saying I was willing to do whatever and asking if I should leave sooner rather than later. Thinking “I would be leaving way later than all my friends if I went to another year of school and what if it’s not what Gods wants? What if I’ll miss the opportunity to meet my husband or miss opportunities to save people?”

    One day at work I was thinking and the thought “go on a mission” came to my mind. I didn’t think much at first but then I started analyzing and wondering if it was the spirit or me. Wondering “what does that mean go right now or later?how did I feel when I thought this? Was it revelation? It felt like it came out of no where but we are often taught that promptings come from randomness?” This went on for days just replaying it in my head trying to figure it out and I came very close to quitting multiple times just sobbing to my parents. but my parents and family and friends reassured me that my plan was good and I was doing nothing wrong by taking more time to prepare. They reminded me the peace I felt with my decision before but it was getting harder and harder to remember how I felt and IF I even felt peace from the spirit or just my own desires.

    Any way a little time went on and I still thought about it every single day. On repeat. But I just kept going because I had already made the dance team and practices were starting in the summer. So I thought “I’ll go up see how I feel and go from there”. By this point starting to think about how hard school and dance and work and living alone was I was perfectly fine with quitting anyway. And I thought it I quit then at least I knew I would be giving something I loved up for God and the pit in my stomach would just go away.

    Well I went up for practices and was in complete agony. I had no appetite. Felt so. confused and drained Constantly replaying all the moments of feelings replaying the past. Questioning if everything was the spirit. And felt bad if I enjoyed dance or my team. I decided that me not loving it was probably a sign that I wasn’t supposed to be there. So I had full intentions of quitting until I met with my bishop again and he reassured me that God doesn’t Guilt us into doing things. And he also doesn’t make our lives miserable if we chose the wrong thing while trying our best. And at the end of the day it was up to me. This made me feel so much better. For a couple days until the feelings and thoughts got EVEN worse. I spent days on end fasting, praying, reading, seeking answers only to feel more guilty. All the while I still was praying for my job interviews and house to work out if I was supposed to stay. I got the two jobs I applied for and the house. But still felt so anxious and weird and thought well that could have just happened because God wants me to give it up for him or is testing me to make it harder to give up. One day I remember thinking in my brain if God tells me to quit I will. That night I was at a concert and I had a vision of angels blessing me which gave me peace in the moment. Then I remembered something I read that said when we feel the spirit is a good times to ask questions. So I thought in my head “should I quit the dance team?” and the thought “you should quit the dance team” came to my brain quick and repeated a couple times I think after. I honestly was so mentally drained I decided to think and analyze it when I got home and pray more about it.

    The next day I was not mentally there trying to figure out if it was a prompting and wondering what I needed to do next. Weighing pros and cons and wondering why I had so many conflicting emotions and experiences. I finally nelt down and pleaded with God telling him I was willing to do whatever he wanted if he could just make it clear and I’ll call my coach to quit right now if that’s what you want” right after I thought “call Erica” and repeated again and again. I then was about to call when I thought to call my brother instead first. He struggles with really bad OCD and introduced me to your blog. After talking to him I felt a little peace again until I started replaying the past again. I started spiraling worse than before thinking that if I didn’t go on a mission right now my pregnant sister in law would lose her baby. Or thinking that I was committing the unpardonable sin for not following promptings. Or thinking that my guilt and anxiety was a sign for me to quit and all my problems would just go away if I did. Or that the holy spirit has left me because I feel so alone. Or that I’m willfully disobeying God. Or that I am messing up the course of my life if I don’t do the right thing. They seem sort of irrational now but still hold some power and weight in my mind and I can’t seem to make sense of the voices in my head. It would make complete sense if they were the spirit and complete sense if they weren’t.

    Well now it’s August and not quit sure how I got here now hah. I have had many panic attacks since but many moments where I “think” the spirit is trying to calm me. I see Gods hand in my life and his love I believe it’s there. But I still have fear that he is disappointed in me or doesn’t approve of my plan to go later. I started therapy and he told me I would not be cleared to go on a mission any time soon because of my anxiety. But sometimes feel like my anxiety would just go away if I were to quit and only worry about a mission. But school starts on Monday and I feel this pressure to make a decision. My parents feel very strongly I should stay here and mentally prepare while also get another year of school and raise money for a mission. I also feel like it’s the most logical because by this point I wouldn’t be able to leave till January or February anyway so why not wait till May. Although after reading your post I felt some peace.

    I guess I just don’t even know what is real and what isn’t anymore. When I’m not worried I feel like “I don’t care enough to figure it out”. And I still feel guilty staying here. I’ve gotten excited about the school year and being able to dance again when I count my blessings but then I replay the past and get flooded with anxiety and fear I did something wrong along the way.

    I keep all the commandments and really do try my best to be kind and loving and follow God. I LOVE him. And would give up everything. Yes giving up dance would be hard. And logically I feel like if I quit I would regret it realizing I could have stayed in school and dance a little longer before going on a mission. I don’t know. I guess I just feel so scared I’m ignoring God and not following his will. Even though realistically I can’t leave till January or February anyway and my therapist said it’s not possible for a while. I just can’t get it through my head! I feel like it’s my fault I have anxiety. And Sometimes i feel like if I could have just quit a long time ago I would have avoided this mess. I also sometimes wonder if I am making this all up. Like I feel like I’ve lied about my feelings and thoughts since the beginning just to get what I want. It’s like I know all these thoughts aren’t true because I have really tried my best. But I have a hard time believing it. I’ve never doubted God is going to save me until this experience and it scares me that I even have thought that he won’t! Everything I do I question if it’s approved by God or wonder what the spirit is and what isn’t and it’s scary. I just feel stuck in my past and scared moving forward.

  3. I dont know where to write this, but imma put it here.

    I have pretty severe death OCD as well as religious ocd.

    They had toned down for a while but about a month back they flared up one day, I ignored them as ive been trained to do. It was the normal stuff, "Your sinning, you should repent" guilt stress etc etc etc.

    But then the next day I had a thought that has set me back MONTHS.

    "Get right with God, Your time is near".

    I. Am. terrified.

    I am still a teen and not ready to die, a month later im still stressed. I dont know if this is God or my OCD or WHAT.

    The language is not the kind that my OCD typically used "Your time is near". Nor do I ever use the phrase "Get right with God" in my daily life.
    Please please please help me!

    I dont want to die yet…

    1. Hi James,
      If you already know you have death obsessions and religious obsessions, this seems to be right up your alley. 🙁 I’m sorry you’re struggling with this. But don’t forget the first step to working through these thoughts: recognizing them for what they are.

      God wants us to be “right” with him every day. He loves us and wants to walk in relationship together. When we sin, He doesn’t threaten or bully, He woos us with gentle invitations to come back to His path of soul-deep happiness. Why would He just swoop in and warn you right before “the end?” That would seem weird. Your concern sounds very OCD to me.

      Jaimie

      1. Hi! I appreciate the response so quickly!

        Are there any signs or things to look out for when differentiating a thought from God versus OCD? Just so I know for future reference.

        1. Yes, a few key words and key phrases I drill my clients to watch out for:

          1. “What if” and “How do I know…?” These are immediate indicators of chronic doubt, which are hallmarks of OCD.
          2. “You have to…” This is a bullying phrase which often precedes compulsive behavior.
          3. If/then statements. These often go along with magical thinking obsessions and vows (such as, “if you turn on the radio, you’re going to die tonight, etc.)

          Those are the big three that come to mind. 😉
          Jaimie

          1. Not to drag this convo on (again, THANK YOU for the responses)
            But my thought above doesn't contain any of these three phrases, can OCD thoughts go about and not contain those? This one is more of a matter of fact/ warning which is why it concerns me. Its a different format.

            Thanks again. 🙂

          2. I’m going to guess that your brain probably uses similar sentiments with different wording. “Yes, BUT my thought isn’t word-for-word like you said…” that would go under the chronic doubt classification. The “Yes, but” statements. 🙂 We tend to infinitely splinter information trying to get it to fit atom-for-atom, then we’ll get some temporary reassurance, and then tomorrow we’ll have to start the whole cycle again.

            Not sure if that’s been your experience, but that’s how it is for lots of us!

            But yes, to give you a straighter answer. I’ve worked with clients who have had terrifying statements of fact. Like the man who woke up in the middle of the night to an “impression” in his head that “you’re going to hell.” He spun his wheels in severe sudden-onset OCD for several months but worked his way out of much of it.

            Jaimie

  4. Hi, experiencing this right now and I'm really having a hard time because there is time that I feel God wants me to stop writing, doing art, and go to school and many more and I don't know if it's really the Lord or just my thoughts. Sometimes I would even break down if I don't do the thing that I think the Lord wants me to do because I know I will be stress and keep thinking about it.

  5. I was praying and asked God that if there was any wisdom for healing my body of anxiety, He would let me know. I had the thought to give up coffee. Now I've struggled before with trying to figure out if God was asking me to do this so I gave up coffee for over a month and finally decided that it had no effect on my anxiety and started drinking it again. I'm pretty sure this is OCD just because of the circular nature of it all, but as soon as I decided that is what it is and that I don't need to worry about giving up coffee, another thought pops into my head that says, "You just don't want to give up coffee. You love coffee more than you love God." I know this seems rediculous. I want to be willing to give God anything, but I don't want to be a slave to OCD masquerading itself as God.

  6. Hello, Jamie.

    I guess what drove me to comment is today in church during the sermon, it got into how we're suppose give up everything and deny ourselves daily to follow Christ. (Luke 9:23) and how when Abram was still Abram and first set out, he had give up Abram give up everything to obey even when he didn't know what was going on.
    This part set me off mentally, because I've been struggling on and off with the urge to give things up for the last couple of years, that right now is very much on. (Honestly there's on particular issues that never fully turned off. I don't really know where to begin, but the thing isn't a sin and the way this urge came about flys in the face of common sense, and yet somehow I keep finding ways to make myself feel like I'm being disobedient.)
    I guess what I'm trying to ask is, when we're Biblically called to give up everything, how are we suppose to know we're not suppose to give something up and/or deal with these urges.

  7. Hello, Jaimie! I want to say thank you for your initiative to provide people who suffer from Scrupulosity OCD with resources such as this case. To tell you, I myself is crippled with OCD Scrupulosity. I diagnosed by my Christian therapist and was even confirmed further by my Psychiatrist. Just like this case you mentioned, I also have the themes of "giving up" something dear to me, which is to pursue medicine, and instead pursue God's calling to attend Bible college and become a pastor. That trouble came about when I read a person's opinion about someone in the internet that he is fit to pursue Theology. The thoughts came to me like, "what if I should pursue this as well?". However, thanks to God's providence, my prayer of having a Christian psychologist who is not an Atheist, a biblically-erroneous Christian, etc. was answered. My therapist was a Christian, just like you, who reminded me of God's grace and mercy, and even if, a strong hypothetical, I fail, God still got me. She confirmed this dilemma as OCD, and a couple of other mentors of faith confirmed that my struggle is indeed OCD. Although, that particular thought is still unrelenting and still haunts me, even though God also answered my prayer to attend a prestigious college in our country which had a good program in Medical Laboratory Science. I'm currently enrolled and happy about it, though at times I'm struck with the thought that i'm deliberately ignoring God's will. But thanks to this post of yours, I was once again reminded that what I have is OCD, and is not from God. Hopefully, by sharing my story, some people can also be relieved of their anxieties.

    Thanks! God bless you!

    Brixie.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Brixie! I agree, even if we make mistakes in our attempts to know and follow God’s will for our lives, He’s got ahold of us! He won’t let us slip!

  8. Hi Jaimi,

    I stumbled across this article and glad I did. I have OCD and am in a severe flare right now. In the past I was in a relationship and thought I had to sacrifice Bc I kept having the thought “Abraham sacrificed Isaac.” Well, that thought has returned with some harm OCD attacking. My 3 precious children. I had a horrible intrusive thought “Abraham sacrificed ied Isaac maybe you should sacrifice your children to prove your love for God.” OCD makes it so scary and makes it feel so real and almost impossible to dismiss.

  9. “But sometimes the voice of religious OCD was more disturbing. Once, while praying for a godly husband, this ever-present voice told me in no indefinite terms that I was destined to marry a certain young man in the Bible college — a particular person I couldn’t imagine loving. I fought back against the intrusive thought, believing it to be the immutable voice of God. I cried bitter, disappointed tears.

    (Years later, he is happily married and I am happily married, but not to each other.)”

    How did you make peace with this situation? That is, when/how did the dreaded conviction of this voice leave you?

    Do you ever wonder that your current marriage is outside of God’s will?

    I’m not trying to unsettle you, I just find myself dealing with a somewhat similar predicament.

  10. such a great article.. it's exactly what I have been dealing with lately.. the intrusive thoughts are so strong.. most of my life I would have just done what the thoughts were telling me and they would get better for a while but they alwyays return… this time I have not and they have been severe and for a while now.. how do you cope with not giving in to the intrusive thoughts…

  11. Thank you so much Jamie, this really does make sense, Great illustration with fishing! I've been thinking about it in a very similar way – to just be open to witness as I meet people knowing that not every conversation must necessarily lead to the gospel, I really shouldn't feel guilty when it doesn't because we are not saved based on how many opportunities to share our faith we did or didn't meet. You see that I know those truths in my heart just sometimes the what ifs are too loud – like today, I was driving past a house of one man I was praying about few weeks ago. And I was thinking – what if God wants me to stop and talk to him right now? And it made no sense because I was driving to a meeting. But I asked myself – what if I was disobeying God not to stop right now. But as I am thinking through what you've written about black and white and the grey between, I think maybe it's not you must do it right now or something bad would happen but that I should pray about it and search for some other ways to share Jesus with that person if that makes sense, Thank you again for your ministry, it is much needed. I hope one day I could help christians in my country to overcome this like you do.
    God bless you!
    Petra

    1. I agree with you. I have had those “what ifs” many times myself–including the urge to stop everything to talk to random people. I must add here that I do think this can sometimes be legitimate. God might really need someone to be random at times! But the problem with religious OCD is that we get these urges every day, multiple times per day, and we follow through–not because we care about the people, but because we need to do it to get rid of our anxiety. And plus, I don’t know about you, but I can say that most of the time when I followed those weird compulsions to go out of my way for some unknown spiritual purpose, nothing happened. Let that happen a few hundred times and you begin to doubt if this is really God’s voice every day, or if this is a mental health disorder masquerading as religion!

      1. Well the problem then is, that I lack that boldness to be that "random." I know it about myself and I pray and work to be more bold in Christ. I tried a few times to follow those urges and nothing happened. I think that to be bold, you must be convinced that you are doing the right thing. However, when you doubt that it really is God calling you to step outside of your personality, you then fail to do the task and at the end you feel so guilty and are almost afraid to ask – O Lord, can you forgive me again?

        1. Right. And this is exactly the point. When we are filled with doubt, trying to figure out whether this is really God’s voice or not, we will not have boldness in witnessing. Which leads us back to the question if God actually communicates to us in doubtful, confusing ways.

  12. Thank you for this post! I've been struggling my whole christian journey with such "testings" to give up something but didn't know that it was OCD (although I know I do have OCD – blasphemous thoughts etc.). Lately, I've been struggling to discern what is God's voice, God's calling and what is not in the area of evangelizm. Several months ago, I was convicted that I don't share the gospel as much as I could. So I started sharing with more people in my life – mainly family, friends… However, this last month was an agony for me because I felt like – when I come across someone (people I knew before or even not) I must tell them gospel or I am disobeying God/ashamed of Christ… But at the same time I wasn't sure if it's really the Lord telling me and before I told them something, the chance was away and I felt extremely guilty. How do I discern if it is the Lord leading me to share the gospel or my anxious thoughts? I really want to follow his Word and share Christ with people around me but although I love to talk about Him with people I know, it makes me feel quite anxious to talk to someone I just met. My common sense tells me that maybe not everyone can share the gospel with everyone (not everyone can be a street preacher etc.) but then I ask – what if God is testing me if I fear people or Him more? Thank you for your answer and sorry for my English, I am not a native spealer.

    1. Hi, Petra!
      Great question. In fact, this idea of evangelism is really common. I do believe very strongly in mission and evangelism (I’m doing my doctoral degree right now in “mission!”) I could preach a whole sermon to you about how important witnessing is to our own spiritual lives–but I am sure you know these ideas already, based on your comment. What we want to do is say “yes” to Biblical witnessing and say “no” to obsessive-compulsive witnessing. Biblical witnessing saves souls for eternity; obsessive-compulsive witnessing, more often than not, makes the gospel look weird and can harden or inoculate people against the truth. Jesus told us to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” (Matthew 10:16) which means that our witnessing shouldn’t be harmful. Bashing people or arguing with them about their beliefs isn’t a good witness, although some people with OCD feel the need to do so because of their own anxiety. Others may feel the need to declare their faith loudly in very awkward situations (I heard of one girl who literally stole the mic at a graduation ceremony to shout some rambling rendition of the gospel, which was received very badly). This is neither wise nor harmless.

      Note also that Jesus said we should not cast our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). Truth is something very precious, and we ought not handle it carelessly. In my personal life, as I go out and about, I like to use the metaphor of fishing. Remember how Jesus said He will make us fishers of men? Fishing is not a predictable or mechanical activity. We often wait for a long time with our bait in the water. When the time is right (not too soon, not too late) we set the hook. For me, I try to have a friendly smile and kind small talk with the people I interact with in the grocery store or mechanic shop. I’m keeping my bait in the water, leaving a door open. Most of the times, it’s just friendly small talk (“how’s your day going,” “how do you like the hot weather this week,” etc.) and I think this is perfectly fine. Often this is all God requires of us–to be kind and friendly people in the little moments of life. But if God has a fish that needs to be drawn closer to Him, my hook is there, and God will lead the fish to it. So, sometimes I will have what I call a “divine appointment” with someone who really needs a good word spoken to them. I know it when they start biting on the hook. They tell me how their day is going, how they dislike the weather, and how they just went through a divorce last week and feel like drinking themselves into oblivion. This is a moment where it really matters to speak about God–and since they happen to be biting MY hook and talking to ME about it, I see this as an open door to share the hope Christ offers us.

      To feel like you need to share truth with everyone in your path makes you not a fisher of men, but a bulldozer of men. And I don’t believe God requires that of us. Don’t cast your pearls before swine; be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove; be a fisher, not a bulldozer. These are my recommendations–hope they make sense!

      God’s blessings,

      Jaimie

      1. Thank you so much Jamie, this really does make sense, Great illustration with fishing! I've been thinking about it in a very similar way – to just be open to witness as I meet people knowing that not every conversation must necessarily lead to the gospel, I really shouldn't feel guilty when it doesn't because we are not saved based on how many opportunities to share our faith we did or didn't meet. You see that I know those truths in my heart just sometimes the what ifs are too loud – like today, I was driving past a house of one man I was praying about few weeks ago. And I was thinking – what if God wants me to stop and talk to him right now? And it made no sense because I was driving to a meeting. But I asked myself – what if I was disobeying God not to stop right now. But as I am thinking through what you've written about black and white and the grey between, I think maybe it's not you must do it right now or something bad would happen but that I should pray about it and search for some other ways to share Jesus with that person if that makes sense, Thank you again for your ministry, it is much needed. I hope one day I could help christians in my country to overcome this like you do.
        God bless you!
        Petra

  13. This post is so incredibly helpful to me. This issue of discerning God’s voice from my OCD has been a persistent part of my OCD experience. Thank you. God really used this post to help me today.

  14. Thank you for this article, I've been struggling alot with knowing God's voice. At most I'm a newb Christian of only 5 months and I havent heard of Scrupulosity before my coming to Christ. My mom has OCD and she makes a huge effort to keep it under control. I've been struggling with a voice coming from my heart, to give up doing art entirely. I've been really hesitant in getting rid of the art supplies I have with is the new thought. My question is does ODC manifest in ways that can sound really loud in your chest or in my heart ?

    1. OCD doesn’t typically manifest as an audible voice, no. But the feelings and emotions it produces can definitely create strong sensations in a person’s chest, head, stomach, limbs, etc. Just keep in mind that God doesn’t communicate to us through tingly fingers and twisted stomachs. 😉 God is not a God of confusion, and He will speak to us through rational means, not through spooky bodily sensations. Typically, when wanting to know God’s will, there are a few ways He speaks to us:
      1. The workings of providence
      2. God’s will as revealed in Scripture
      3. The advice of wise people in our lives
      4. Common sense
      5. Impressions of God upon the heart

      Because of the nature of OCD, I typically advice focusing on the first four and only utilizing the fifth when there is significant agreement in other areas. God communicates to us in many easier paths than just “impressions,” which can be extremely confusing for people with OCD. Pray to God to help you know His will, then use your common sense, talk to wise parents/mentors, study the Word, and look for indications of God’s providence. When you’ve done that, and ONLY when you’ve done that, should you think about any impressions you may be having.

      Hope this helps,

      Jaimie

      1. Hi Jaimie,

        Could you expand on what you mean by "indications of God's providence"?

        I'm interpreting it to mean how you view God to be working in the past, and the way we feel/believe he is leading us, or the "most normal and logical option".

        If we take Kimberly's example below, I would interpret God's providence to be the Kimberly's amazing educational achievements alongside the opportunities that have opened up for her; He is opening doors for Kimberly to serve Him through her vocation in law. It seems strange that God would ask her to leave this all behind, when it seems like He gave her the scholarly aptitude and orchestrated the opportunities in the first place?

        1. Hi Chester,
          Yes–by “indications of God’s providence” I mean the doors opening or closing, opportunities, and natural aptitudes. Even (gasp!) personal desire. Sometimes God’s providence is to give us a special interest in a certain line of work or a certain person or a certain part of the world. (I know this can be difficult for people with scrupulosity because our default expectation is that God wants us to give up everything we like or care about, but personal desire can often be a type of providence.)

  15. Thank you so much for this article! It makes sense that God wouldn't leave us guessing or force us to play hide-and-seek in order to decipher His will. This is a big relief to me!

    I've been struggling with the idea God is testing me and wants me to give up my writing career. I kept hesitating about removing all my books from the market as it wasn't a good move financially which then led me to think I was guilty of avarice. And then I wondered if it was a sin of pride because people like the books and leave nice reviews so maybe God wanted to humble me. Next I started to worry the content was somehow immoral and I was leading my readers into sin so I started to obsessively re-write long passages. I asked a priest who said the books were probably fine however, the fact he used the word 'probably' kept ringing in my ears because I wanted certainty. I asked another priest who said I shouldn't question what my first confessor said but I kept wondering and worrying.

    Now, I realize that, if anything, God was giving me a little push to refine my content and maybe encouraging me to subtly slip a little evangelization into subsequent stories. (My editor will be much more receptive to that than re-writing passages from the published books!)

    It was definitely a grace from God that I stumbled upon your site and I will be book-marking this post for future reference!

    1. You’re right. OCD makes us question and re-question everything. It turns normal, everyday-life events into divine “tests.” Even in cases where God may be calling you to adapt or improve certain areas of your creative writing process to glorify Him, the OCD mind would take that in very black-or-white terms. Suddenly, a spiritually valid call for improvement becomes “Remove all your books from the market! Never write another word again! Otherwise, you’re in danger of…!” Yes, I know the pattern very well. Try to avoid either extreme. We don’t want to ignore what might be the Holy Spirit’s promptings, but we definitely don’t need to have the extremist response that naturally comes to the OCD mind.

      Trust in the Lord, not in your own mental abilities to figure this out. Remember that if you happen to make a misstep in your desire to serve God, He will redirect you. It sounds like you are truly devoted to wanting to follow His will. Scripture promises that God will make sure you know the answers you need (see John 7:17). May He bless you!

      Jaimie

  16. I am having trouble discerning whether this is a test or OCD: when I went backpacking a while ago, I had a vision of how my life would look if I continued to waste time. In the vision, I was surrounded by books, and bitter. When I moved out of my mom's house, I felt like I needed to sacrifice my book collection for a better future. I couldn't see any direct correlation, but I ended up ignoring the test and leaving for the new city with my collection. Now, a few years later, the feeling has returned: to give up my books and my guitar. To sacrifice them for the thing I truly want to do. In a way, it makes sense; I'm sacrificing momentary pleasures (reading and making music) so that I can devote all of my energy to my true passion (film). But on the other hand, this might just be OCD, and I'd hate to lose all my dear possessions over a mental disorder. Would love feedback, thanks.

    1. Hi Brad,
      It’s hard to give feedback without knowing more details. Some books are a “waste of time,” while others are a treasure trove of wisdom. Are these books that tend towards truth, or do they lead you to be so detached from reality that you are of no use to anybody? Are these books that make you a better person, or are they an addiction? Some questions we can ask ourselves to find out something is an addiction:
      1. Do I get irritable when someone or something prevents me from engaging in this behavior (in your case, reading)?
      2. Do I spend time and money on this behavior that I know ought to be directed in other channels?
      3. Do others in my life complain that I am addicted or “consumed” by this behavior?
      4. Does this behavior involve things that the Bible strictly condemns?

  17. Hi Jaimie,
    An excellent article. You can be sure you're helping a lot of people with your writing.
    Thinking about it, while my OCD initially focused on cleaning and harm obsessions, I did have an episode which involved believing God wanted me to do something a little strange. I'll write it here, maybe it can help someone with similar doubts.
    When I was finishing High School, our Chemistry teacher asked us to write about how studying Chemistry was important for our lives. I believe my text was becoming quite good, but near the end of it, I felt I had to write that studying Chemistry did not negate God. It didn't make much sense considering the theme of the text and it had nothing to do with what the teacher (who was Chrstian) asked, but that feeling wouldn't go away. It felt like I would be somehow betraying God if I didn't write anything like that. In the end, I did finish the text saying that Science did not negate God, but it felt out of place in the text.
    After being informed about Pure OCD, I recognized this episode as one of it's manifestations, but it was rare seeing someone with similar themes.
    Again, you can be sure you help a lot of people, Jaimie.
    Thank you for your articles, and God bless you!

    1. Hi, Gabriel,
      Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m sure others in the religious OCD community will be able to relate. It is a great example of what we mean when we talk about needing to placate religious requirements that do not make sense. So glad that you have found out more about what you’re dealing with!

      1. Hello, Jamie. You're indeed a blessing to people fighting scrupulosity like me. I think that in high school, I once dealt with the religious OCD of blasphemy. My religious OCD pattern however has evolved. I have been a straight A student in high school and have been particularly exceptional in arts. I've always had the dream to be a lawyer. However, just before I wrote my O level exams, a thought purporting to be from God "ordered" me to leave high school immediately and go and preach on some unnamed mountain. I was confused and scared as I had dreams of doing well in my O level exams as everyone expected of me and proceed to college to study Law. The thought however offered no room for bargaining or consideration. I was supposed to just leave high school immediately and go and preach on he mountain or stand the risk of wilfully disobeying God. Some people I confided in told me to ignore the thought and go ahead with my studies as I was a smart student and I'll just be wasting my my time on that kind of "irrelevancy". I tried but the thoughts never 
        I tried but the thoughts never seemed to leave my head. I was constantly analysing it to know if it had indeed come from God or not. I was stuck. I've always held God and my education in very high regard and now it was as if I had to choose between them. Fast forward…I finally graduated albeit internal conflict and torment. I got admission into college to study law and a similar " order" has come up. This time it's a thought ordering me to leave college and wait for the next line of action. References to Abraham giving up his only son to God has been one of the biblical stories backing up this purported "order" from God. I'm in my third year in college now and I'm so scared, confused and in constant internal torment. I want to do what God says but I also want to make optimal use of my intellectual "gifts". I just want to be certain that this is what God has commanded me to do. If I'm very certain this us what God wants me to do, I think I'll be ready to let go of my education for now. The reason being that God has always been the propeller of my successes and confidence and I think that if I make light of his order, I'll be left on my own since I wilfully disobeyed him. I just don't know what to do. I'll really appreciate it if you could help me. Thank you.

        1. Hi Kimberly,
          It is true that God sometimes asks us to give up good and meaningful things in life. However, the fact that you already know you have OCD is a good clue that there may be a bit more to the story in your case. Wouldn’t it be a sad thing to give up your education and career, thinking it was God asking for this sacrifice, and then look back years later and realize it wasn’t God at all? So often we sit in a corner and dialogue with our OCD, thinking we are talking with God. I can tell you tragic stories of people who have sacrificed major things in life because of the OCD urges, and the “relief” of having “obeyed” the voice only lasted a few days before something else was demanded. There was no higher purpose, no divine calling. It was just the anxious urges of the obsessive-compulsive brain.

          My recommendation to you would be this. Confess to God that you are totally, absolutely confused about this matter and do not have the ability to know your duty. Surrender yourself to Him and give Him permission to radically intervene in your life if He needs to redirect you. Then, STAY THE COURSE of your education. You can pray a prayer like this: “Dear God, You see that I’m terribly confused about this matter. I don’t know if it’s YOU ordering me to give up my education, or if it’s the OCD. I think it’s probably the OCD, but the feelings are so strong and I can’t get my mind around a solid answer. Lord, please help me. I want to serve You fully. I want to be in Your will. I surrender my entire life to You! The wise people in my life are advising me to stay in school, and common sense tells me to stay in school, and I also see in Scripture how you were able to use highly educated people like Daniel and Paul. I’m going to stay in school, Lord, despite all these weird feelings, but I give you complete permission to intervene and redirect me if you see fit. I’m not going to look for any signs or miracles or spooky communication from You, but if something happens that closes the doors for me to continue, then I’ll know it’s Your will.”

          This would be my best recommendation. Leave it in God’s hands and trust Him rather than your own ability to figure this out. You’ll do just fine.

          Be blessed,

          Jaimie

        2. Hello, Kimberly!

          I don't know if you will be able to read this reply of mine or not, but I just want you to know that I have the SAME manifestations of OCD like what you feel.

          I have feelings that I have disobeyed God and am left on my own because of this disobedience.

          The portion "This time it's a thought ordering me to leave college and wait for the next line of action" is literally the same feelings I have right now — to leave my college degree and wait for God's leading, and soon follow what I think He has commanded me (which sounds very much OCD).

          With this, I want to say thank you for sharing your story because it gave me relief that I'm not the only one struggling with this. It's probably OCD or probably not, but God will always lead us where we should be. His will always prevails and everything works together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

          Thank you. Blessings in Christ!

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