Question:

I read "I have OCD-Religion and obsess over bad thoughts. Is there anything you can do to help me?" today that, in a way, describes my feelings. Although most of it does not concern me, some do and I am wondering if I too have OCD.

My problem basically concerns over thinking things. This started about 2 - 3 months ago. I always have the need to go into deep thought about small issues. I will list a few topics:

  • Being rich
  • Following the commandments
  • Thoughts about hell
  • Breaking the law

Those are just a few. For example, in relation to the first point, I would think deeply about this. The Bible states that one must not run after riches, but then I would think about what exactly does "rich" entail? Rich can have various definitions defined by different people. I would then obsess over this. How do I know the exact amount of what rich is? From what amount of money does richness start and end? That's the kind of thoughts that I will get.

Relating to the link I posted, there are 11 forms that are being talked about when dealing with ROCD. Of those eleven, two apply to me:

  • That the person, through negligence, has broken religious laws concerning speech, dress, food preparation, modesty, etc.
  • Believing that one's religious practice must be 100% perfect, or else it is worthless or worse

I am obsessed with doing things perfectly. These are things I would do in response to these kinds of emotions:

  • Repeatedly asking religious leaders or authorities the same questions on religious practice to be sure of understanding the answer, or to get reassurance about specific acts or words being sinful

I always have concern about doing things right at all times. Every time I speak, I "study" my words to see if they were actually morally right. Also, I would also find ways to identify that I lied in my speech. For example: Someone might ask me what the weather tomorrow will be. I will then simply look on an app on my phone to look and will tell them the answer. However, the app could have been one or two degrees off. I would then conclude that I lied. What stopped me from searching various sites to find out the weather closest to the correct one? What stopped me from doing research to narrow down the exact temperature? Not doing so has resulted me to lie.

I have never had this before, but these kinds of thoughts has started small since 2 - 3 months ago and grown into these big thoughts that triggered certain emotions.

Not doing things 100% right is causing me to believe that I will not enter God's Kingdom. I feel that I need to attain a certain level of knowledge about the scriptures before I can enter God's Kingdom. My reason for this is that you are always doing something that God is not necessarily pleased with until you learn about it. Therefore I feel that one has to learn most of the bible before one can be accepted into Heaven.

How can I overcome this?


Answer:

Let's start with riches. The Bible does not say that being rich is wrong. Instead, the instruction for those who are rich is: "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (I Timothy 6:17-19). What God does say is that chasing after riches is dangerous. "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (I Timothy 6:10). Seen this way, it doesn't the quantity is irrelevant.

In regard to perfectionism, Solomon warned, "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). See Extremes for a detailed explanation of this passage.

Like the topic of riches, you are taking an attitude toward a subject and then trying to quantify it. Christians are to reject sin. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). However, at the same time Christians understand that perfect law keeping cannot be achieved. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 1:8-2:1). So, instead of looking to live perfectly, what a Christian strives to do is improve throughout his life because he wants to be pleasing to God.

Think about it in terms of an athlete. In any sport an athlete strives to execute his moves perfectly and yet knows that he will make mistakes. Those mistakes just are reminders that there are things he needs to work on in order to improve. If he focuses on the mistakes, beating himself up for his mistakes, he never makes progress. But if he doesn't accept mistakes and strives to fix them, then he becomes a better athlete. "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (I Corinthians 9:24-27). The good athlete has purpose and a goal -- not in perfectionism but in winning.

In the same way, a Christian's goal is pleasing God. Sin isn't acceptable, even though it happens. "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls" (Hebrews 12:1-3). But like the athlete, the Christian can't focus on the sins but on the goal. The aim is to improve and not to be complacent about sin.

All of this means learning. In truth, being a Christian is a lifetime of learning. "Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (I Peter 2:1-3). As you learn, you make adjustments in your life to be better conformed to God's commands.

Finally, let's address your lying example. When someone asks what the temperature will be tomorrow, the implication is that they want to know want some weatherman is predicting. But weather cannot be predicted accurately. If you could tell tomorrow's temperature precisely, then you would be better than every person in this world. Therefore, you set an expectation for yourself that cannot be reached. To say that "Tomorrow is supposed to be 61 degrees" isn't lying. It is reporting what someone has predicted.

It is easy to fall into a trap of reaching for impossible precision that is not even wanted or expected. If someone asks how long a board is, and I say it is about a foot, that is my estimation. If they want to cut a board the same length, then I'll get out a measuring tape but even here there are limits to how precise the measurement will be, but that is expected. The only one who is think in terms of absolute accuracy is yourself, but that is an unreasonable expectation.