Question:

Hello. I am a member of the church of Christ and have been for a while now. However I have been plagued by many tormenting, fearful, and bad thoughts on a daily basis. I have talked to many doctors, psychiatrists and church counselors who chalk it up to anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, which causes many unwanted and unpleasant thoughts that I can't control or stop. I live in pure misery over this. I am always in constant prayer to God for forgiveness and strength to conquer this, as well saying repeated Scriptures over and over in my head to ease the hurt, fear, and torment that I feel when I have them. The doctors prescribed medication with lots of prayer, but it is not working.

I stay in fear every day over this. Will God forgive me of these thoughts? They are usually centered around (blame), but I never believe the thoughts. I have been in so much despair over this that I have become depressedand paralyzed by fear. I spend most of my days in bed. As long as I continue to go to church, pray continuously, and read the Bible, will God forgive me of these thoughts even though they keep popping up?

My faith has weakened tremendously due to all this. I know the Bible says you must have faith to make it to heaven. Is my faith sufficient enough to make it to heaven if I continue to do God's will and continue to love and believe in God?

I am in just so much pain over this. I really need your help, if you can help me. I am such a troubled soul, not to mention a tormented mind. People say if you are truly saved you know it in your heart. Well is that true? Because I have uncertainness because of all these thoughts and my weakened faith. If you can help me or give me any words of comfort please respond soon. Thank you and God bless you.


Answer:

Since you have seen people in the medical profession and they have not found any obvious cause to thoughts. I'm going to assume that for the most part the problem is in your thought patterns.

It appears that you are expecting to have perfect thoughts at all times. You are beating yourself up whenever the least thought of a sin crosses your mind. As such, you are a classic example of what Solomon warned can happen. "Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself? Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp this, and also not remove your hand from the other; for he who fears God will escape them all" (Ecclesiastes 7:16-18). You have set for yourself an impossible goal and because you can't reach that goal, you are punishing yourself for your imagined failure.

Set aside the emotions for the moment and let's look at facts. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8). Every Christian sins. We might not sin as often as some people in the world, but sin remains present in our life. But where does sin come from? "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). What comes before sin is "desire conceived" or in other words "lust." Prior to lust is temptation, which uses our natural desires against us.

But what is temptation? Temptation is being put in a situation where it looks as if to do what we desire, we will have to break a command of God. But wait! That means in order for Satan to tempt me, he has to get me to think, at least for a moment, about something that isn't lawful. And there is something else I must take note of, if it is coming from Satan then I can't stop him from tempting me. In other words, I can't stop bad thoughts from crossing my mind once in a while because if I could manage to have no bad thoughts then I would never be tempted; and if I was never tempted, I would never sin. But I do sin; therefore, I do get tempted, so I do have bad thoughts going through my mind at times.

You stated that you have bad thoughts, but you reject them. That is exactly what God said to do. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world" (I Peter 5:8-9). It isn't a sin to have a bad thought pass through your head. But if you didn't reject those thoughts, but instead focused on them and considered them, perhaps even wondering if you could get away with it, then you have stopped resisting Satan and giving in to sin. That is what lust is, wanting something really badly even though you know it is wrong.

Being tempted cannot be a sin. Jesus was tempted, yet he did not sin. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). When Satan offered him various things in the wilderness, clearly Jesus had to think about what Satan offered in order to tell him why those things were wrong. But what you have done to yourself is to say that being tempted is a sin. Thus you have set for yourself an impossible standard which cannot be met. And as Solomon warned, you are destroying yourself as a result.

In addition, because you are so focused on punishing yourself for thinking about sin, you keep sin fresh in your mind. You never give yourself a chance to focus on righteousness. "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8). You know you tend to be compulsive, so get yourself out of the rut you are in.

Thank you for your response to my email. The thoughts I have are not tempting thoughts, such as lusts. They always center around blame. For example, if I hear or read of something bad or even see something bad, blame enters my thoughts of it being God's fault. I know that it is not true. It torments me to where I feel like I'm hurting my God in a way, something I would never intentionally do. I do not know why I have these blame thoughts. As I said, I've been to many psychatrists, doctors, and church counselors who chalk it up to anxiety and obsessive compulsive behavior. I am in constant prayer to God everyday for these thoughts that just keep popping up unwanted and in unpleasant ways. The doctors have prescribed medications for this but of no help. Ijust can't help feeling tormented by the blaming. They occur mos every day.

Will I be forgiven for these blaming thoughts as long as I don't believe them? I try not to dwell on them, but it seems to make it happen more often. I go to church, pray continously and pray many many times aday for forgivenesss and strength to conquer these thoughts. The weakness of my faith makes me think I'm a bad person and will be punished for these thoughts. If they were tempting thoughts, such as lusts, I could understand it more. Why is this happening to me and will i be forgiven?

Please respond soon. And will my faith be efficient enough to make it to heaven due to all these thoughts? Nothing seems to help: medication, prayer, and love. I just feel so hopeless. Please respond and pray for me and for strength to fight these tormenting thoughts. Thank you so much.

Lust is typically defined as a strong desire for something that breaks God's law. It doesn't have to involve sexual sins. Any sinful action, including blaming God for the world's woes, can be a passing temptation and if indulged in, a lust.

The reason no one has been able to help is that you refuse to accept the fact that you can be tempted in this manner. It upsets you that the temptation exists and you blame yourself for being tempted. If you truly reject the idea, then put the fault where it lies, which is with Satan, tell yourself that it isn't for you and then go on with your life.

As I mention before, Satan has you so wrapped up in this game that he has you destroying yourself over something he caused. As a result you spend no time in productive thoughts as instructed by God in Philippians 4:8.

You will have to make the choice. No else can solve this problem for you. No one can get into your head and make you start thinking productively. Sure, it will be rough at first because it is so easy to slip back into familiar patterns of thinking. But to win a battle you have to struggle against sin -- not by spending your life in sorrow, but in moving on into righteousness.