Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Matters Of Faith

Please bear with me. This is a long post. There is just so very much I wanted to say about this subject. In particular, I want to address my fellow believers who suffer so much because they feel that their illness somehow means they are a failure in the family of God.

I sin. Sometimes, the fact that I sin has literally driven me crazy. You see, as a Christ follower, I know that my goal is to not sin (behavior that offends God). Of course, I’m human, and so I will sin. At certain points, though, I have been unable to deal with this. I don’t think my sins are anything unusual. Sort of the run of the mill stuff. Not that any sin is run of the mill to God, but I think you know what I mean. However, I have often felt like the most hideous human being to walk the face of the earth. I have been just sure that other Christians would find out about “the evil that lurks in my heart” and that I would be rejected by them and everyone around me. As I’ve begun to recover from OCD, thankfully, my somewhat mild issues with scrupulosity have started to improve as well.

Unlike a lot of scrupulosity sufferers, I’ve never been the type of person to repeat prayers, or religious rituals, over and over again, in an effort to please God or to get my religious behaviors “just right.” (I’ve always said that I have the lazy man’s form of OCD. I will just do mental compulsions about what a horrible person I am. I’m too lazy to actually do a lot of physical compulsions!) I know that lots of OCD sufferers are however, in a terrible cycle of doing just that. However, even though my OCD is improving, there is still a lot of pain about my mental illness and how that relates to my relationship with my Lord.

Last weekend, at the IOCDF Annual Conference, I was blessed to come in contact with a man by the name of Ted Witzig, Jr., Ph.D. Mr. Witzig is not only a psychologist who understands OCD, and scrupulosity in particular, but he is also a practicing minister. In addition to sitting in on his workshop on Friday, I also attended the scrupulosity support group that he moderated on Friday night. I was able to ask him a couple of questions that were literally burning a hole in my heart. I know it is important for me to remember that he is just a man, not God Himself. However, I do believe Mr. Witzig has some wisdom that I can learn from.

In particular, I asked him about Matthew 5:48. I got the impression from what he was saying that Matthew 5:48 is more about growing in maturity and becoming more Christlike, not so much about achieving actual perfection itself. I also suspect that maybe Matthew 5:48 is in the Bible, because this is God's way of showing us what His standard is, and that we can't achieve it without Jesus.

The  other question, and the one that really bothered me, was about this whole issue of demon possession vs. mental illness. I am ashamed to admit, as a fellow Christ follower, that I have heard more than once that some Christians feel that mental illness is more of a spiritual problem, rather than any kind of biological illness. Wow, that hurts. I don’t of course, believe this, but . . . I have OCD and it is not called The Doubting Disease for nothing. Deep down, underneath the surface, I have slightly, maybe, occasionally, wondered if this was true. Maybe my mental illness is just a spiritual failure on my part. Of course, if that were true, it would be difficult to explain my first signs of illness as a 6 month old, and later as a 2 and 3 year old. Not only that, I would be hard pressed to explain how medication and CBT/ERP has helped me, if it was only a spiritual issue.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe there is a spiritual component to my illness, as I believe there is a spiritual component to everything in the world. We live in a fallen world. Because of sin in this world, nothing (including our brains) works the way it was intended to. Not only that, there are times when I sin and don’t do what I should to improve my mental health. I do have some responsibility for my recovery. However, and this is a big however, I did not cause my illness, nor did you. I didn’t ask for it, and I sure don’t want it. I feel fairly certain that I can say the same for you.

More importantly, I do not believe our illnesses have anything to do with demon possession. Frankly, it feels really stupid to write that out, because it’s so beyond ridiculous. Recently, a respected Christian organization essentially stated that mental illness and demon possession were related (at least in the particular Bible verses they were referring to). I was honestly shocked. That brought my little doubts back to mind. When I saw Mr. Witzig last weekend, I asked him if he had heard of Christians equating demon possession with mental illness. His answer: “All the time.” I could hardly believe my ears. I asked him what he thought about this. He stated that in his opinion and in his belief system, he believed that was not true. It felt so good to hear it from someone who not only is a psychologist, but is a minister too. I had to stop myself from sobbing tears of relief in front of the whole group. I really praise God that I came across Mr. Witzig, because it was a blessing to find someone who understands both of the worlds that I live in: Christianity and mental illness.

I am blessed to attend the church that I do. Thankfully, my church is filled with regular people (who sin, just like me), but they are people that truly love God and try to live that out with others around them. They are also educated enough to understand that mental illness is just that, an illness. I have not encountered any stigma or discrimination with my fellow believers. Several members of my church staff (including the Senior Minister) are well aware of my illness, and do not hold it against me, nor have they treated me any differently since finding out.

Sadly, that is not the case for many others I have spoken to. This is one of the main reasons I started this blog. I want to show the world that yes, you can indeed be a true follower of Jesus and still struggle with ugly things like mental illness. I want to help dispel ignorance about mental illness in the greater world, and especially in the church setting. I want this blog to be a safe place for those of you who have felt rejected by fellow believers because of something you have no control over having. Please, don't give up on God, just because some of His followers say hurtful things. God has given us free will and sometimes, we don't use it very well. In addition, if someone has had no previous experience with mental illness, well, it can make it difficult for them to understand.

You are precious. You are loved by God. You are not defective, or less of a believer than anyone else. You and I have our struggles, yes, but so does everyone else. Our struggles just look a little different. I pray God’s blessings on you and I pray that you find a group of believers who will love you just as you are. You are worth it. God says so. He wouldn’t have sent His Son, Jesus, if that weren’t true.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV (Emphasis mine.)

Amen to that.

19 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful post. I am so happy that you had some of your questions answered.

    I have spent so many years feeling like a failure to God and I didn't know until my therapist told me that it was scrupulosity rather than the truth!

    Thank you for writing this post. Scrupulosity is such a struggle for me.

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    1. Oh Elizabeth, I'm so sorry you struggle with scrupulosity. I think it is a particularly cruel form of OCD, as it robs you of the ability to get comfort from The Comforter.

      It was huge for me to get an answer to my questions. I'm very grateful for Dr. Witzig's willingness to attend the conference.

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  2. I read every word you wrote, and am so glad I did! You are not the only one who has ever struggled with ideas of any kind reqarding demon possession, ...because I have! I even imagined such things were part of my problem when I was a child too :( But now, Jesus has taught me and shown me with His love and mercy through many ways ... just like your meeting with the psychologist/minister. I am SO thankful to be rid of fears like that because they are very debilitating (and one that you feel like you have to keep a secret -because then people really will think you are crazy.)
    Thanks for writing about this!

    I am blessed with a wonderful church family too! My Pastor along with all my sisters and brothers in the faith at our local church embrace me with love... and you're right, we all have something from one degree to the other- and I find that in love I too need to embrace my friends who have their own 'quirks' with the same love they show me.

    I LOVE the scripture you shared! My favorite part is in the beginning when it says about 'family' ... and how my roots, my name, derive all the way back from the Creator Himself!!!

    Blessings & Love in Christ :)

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    1. Thank you, Deanna! I'm so happy to hear that this may have been helpful for you. : )

      Oh it's true, you really do want to keep this type of stuff a secret, because it just sounds crazy to say it out loud, doesn't it?

      You make an EXCELLENT point - we have to welcome others with their issues too, and show them the same love and kindness that we hope to receive.

      I love that scripture too. Especially the part that I highlighted - oh the wonders of God's love!! Sometimes I could just burst with joy when I take the time to really think about it.

      Blessings to you too, Deanna.

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  3. Beautiful post Sunny. Put a tear to my eye. You are dear to share this with us.

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    1. Thank you for your kind support, Krystal Lynn. : )

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  4. Thank you for this post, Sunny. As you know, I've struggled with religious scrupulosity a great deal, and I even left church and turned away from anything to do with God for many years. My church now is a "safe place." I recently found out that my minister reads my blog when he asked me about a sermon where he was going to talk about the washing of hands. He didn't want to offend me or anyone else who might have OCD. I thought that was pretty cool.

    This is such a beautiful post and I know it will be helpful to many. Thank you!

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    1. You are very welcome, Tina! Actually, you were one of the people I was thinking about when I wrote this. I am aware of how you've struggled with this, and and it breaks my heart to know you have been tortured by this.

      That is AWESOME about the impact you are having on your church body through your minister. Really - just think about that! That IS pretty cool. It's also great that your minister is sensitive enough to consider other OCDers when giving a sermon. Keep up the great work.

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  5. I don't know what else to say but thank you... I really needed to read this post. :)

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    1. Brooke, you are so, so welcome! I needed to hear this too, so writing it helped me as well.

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  6. When I read this, I wanted to cry. The stupid doubting disease. I can hear reassurance/assurance, and sometimes feel relief, while other times questioning it, just like I'd question any other bit of reassurance. I'm looking for a church where I feel my mental illness is understood and accepted by the minister as something besides a sin problem or spiritual problem. Sometimes I get discouraged and wonder if I'll actually find what I'm looking for.

    For now, I just try to keep my OCD and my Christianity separate in my head; there's the OCD with the doubting and questions and yucky feelings, but none of that can change the facts of my salvation. My relationship with God is something I might not always have a good handle on - I sometimes don't know if my relationship is "hot or cold" because of the OCD questions, but I try to keep the fact of that relationship in a separate mental compartment not under OCD's control.

    Thanks for writing on this. I've heard the demon possession theory, too, and even accepted it in the past (before I knew as much or as many people sharing about their mental illness). Now, I guess I think it's presumptuous for outside people to judge that we are demon possessed without even knowing us! And, while I do think demon possession exists or at least did in the past, the science of mental illness to me is pretty good evidence against mental illness being equated with demon possession.

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    1. Abigail, I'm sorry this made you feel like crying. I know you have really suffered with this. I remember reading some of your posts on this. Good for you for realizing that your OCD can't affect your salvation! Sometimes, in a wave of OCD doubt, we can think even that could be affected by our OCD. I thank God that His saving me through Jesus has nothing to do with anything I would or could do myself, because I know I would be forever doubting it! I am so very sorry that you have not felt acceptance at any churches. Ugh. That bothers me so much, I can't even begin to tell you. But you know, you are accepted by God, and let's face it, He's the only one that matters! But, it sure is always nice to find people you can be real with, though. I'm sure there has to be a body of believers out there, just waiting to welcome you with open arms. I hope you find them soon. Sending you a great, big hug!

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  7. Thank you for this heartfelt, emotional post that has obviously touched many. You are certainly helping and comforting others by sharing...in my mind, that is God's work.

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    1. You are very kind, Janet, thank you. I can think of no better compliment.

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  8. What a beautifully written post. And what a tender mercy our God showed you in allowing you to meet and talk with someone in both the psychology and ministry fields. I have no doubt that that was intended to be an experience that you can look back on and refer to when things get hard.

    And thank you for your blog - I can't say enough how much I enjoy that you look at OCD through the lens of Christianity. Because it does make a difference. It can be harder for those of us who try to balance the two - but then again, there are also some invaluable moments of clarity that come as we see things in the eternal perspective.

    Hubs and I were talking last night about the struggles that homosexuals have, as well. (the blog post that sparked it here: http://www.joshweed.com/2012/06/club-unicorn-in-which-i-come-out-of.html) I feel that it's similar to the mental illness struggle - those that fear God and believe that homosexuality is a sin - and then struggle with those very feelings can probably relate to how us OCD'ers with scrupulosity feel. Like you said - mental illness is just a struggle we have to face. And every one has different struggles.

    But it's uplifting to know that these struggles are for our edification and sanctification.

    Long comment short ;), I love your blog and your perspective. Keep the posts coming. :)

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    1. Shana, you are SO sweet. What kind (and humbling!) words of encouragement. Thank you.

      Ah yes, it was God's blessing that I met Dr. Witzig. I am just blown away, over and over again, at how the Lord works. The best part to me, is that I can now refer people to Dr. Witzig and maybe they can get some help and comfort too. So awesome!

      Yes, it CAN be harder sometimes to be a believer who struggles with OCD. At times, I have been tempted to just forget everything about my faith and live my life in such a way that I think would be easier for my OCD. But, I know that in the long run, my life would not be easier, and I also know that I have no where else to go but God. And I sure am glad for that.

      I have a tendency to think that only those of us with anxiety disorders live struggle filled lives, so it is so important for me to remember that I don't have the corner market on pain.

      Oh, you're so right - these struggles are to purify us - but, man, I forget that all the time!!

      Thank you again for your kind comments. : )

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  9. Thank you so so much Monique!!

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    1. I'm so glad this post touched you. God bless. : )

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