My husband calls for me to go to sleep, but worry delays me. Though I am tired, my anxiety is stronger. Tonight, I must complete my bedtime ritual. I double-check the front door to make sure the lock is secure. Having watched way too many murder-mystery shows, I don't want to wake during the night to any intruders. I pass the living room and head to the kitchen. I touch the burner knobs. My heart stops. I see one that is not perfectly pointed to "off" and align it to the direction that eases my fear of carbon monoxide poisoning. My body turns from the stove, but gazing over the knobs once will not do. Worry draws me back like a child pulling a yoyo to his hand. I must touch the knobs two more times "just to make sure." When I think I am ready to finally go to bed, another worst-case scenario takes over my mind. What if any disease-carrying pests make their way inside? I better tidy up the counter again and make sure the refrigerator door is shut. After I complete the ritual to my satisfaction, I lay my head on my pillow so wound up that I am not able to truly rest.
I struggle with checking obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) sometimes. Checking OCD is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. This specific disorder explains the phenomenon when a person has intrusive thoughts that something bad will happen and therefore performs checking-based rituals to be certain that it will not. I have not been diagnosed with OCD and do not have debilitating symptoms, since there have been nights when I have gone to sleep without undergoing a checking ritual. Nevertheless, whenever I feel an urge, I can empathize with others who battle severe, clinical OCD. Regardless of where we fall on the spectrum, most can probably recall having a feeling to control an environment in order to avoid harm. Medical professionals and mental health counselors can help us navigate these feelings. However, in this blog, I will discuss our heart's reason behind checking rituals and the remedy found in Jesus Christ.
Underneath checking OCD is the desire to use one's ability to mitigate suffering. We think if we can check for safety problems enough times then there will be no threats in life. But, in excessive checking, we ignore the reality of our weakness. Scripture teaches us that the nature of mankind is fallen. Because of our sin, our flesh is frail and vulnerable. In our own capacity, we cannot shape situations to be free of harm. We cannot build up enough protection around ourselves. Threat will always make its way in and cause us to experience some kind of pain. The sting of brokenness will manifest in sickness, tragedy, injury, and death. Homes can still be burned down, property can be stolen, and car wrecks can occur. We must realize that worry and the appearance of control cannot help us survive a fallen world. We need to rely on the Savior.
God is the only One able to bring safety. Psalm 46:1–3 states, "God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil." The psalmist proclaims God's protecting hand in the midst of the threats of the world. The Bible declares this aspect of the Lord's character throughout its pages. For instance, in 2 Thessalonians 3:3, God promises to guard His people against evil because He is faithful.
Scripture also points to how God fulfilled His word to keep His people from harm. The Lord did so through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose from the grave so that we would be protected from our biggest threat: the curse of sin. Our disobedience against God's law brought death and alienation from the Father upon us. But, Jesus, the Son of God, broke the curse when He died on the cross and paid the price for our sins. Eternal separation is no longer a threat. Sin cannot harm our relationship with the Lord. He secures us in His protecting hand. We can stand firm against anxieties knowing Jesus Christ is our strength.
Jesus's saving work gives peace when physical threats surround. Since spiritual evil promotes the kingdom of darkness, there is reason to experience checking OCD. There is reason to encounter anxiety when there is so much suffering. But, Jesus's saving work disarmed spiritual evil and defeated the kingdom of darkness. Bad things happen. But, they do not have any power over us. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know this world will be restored in His second coming. Behind the present threats, there is a promise that will be fulfilled. In His return, Jesus will transform the world into a new creation–free of any danger. He will raise our bodies, which may have been pained by uncontrollable harm, and wrap us in His care. We will enter eternal life and inhabit an environment where God's people will be forever safe.
For those of us in the family of God who struggle with checking OCD, we can remember that Christ offers comfort in Him. If you experience nighttime worries like me, join me as I meditate on Psalm 4:8 which says, "I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Lord, make me live in safety." When concerns over security ring loud in our heads, we can welcome these moments as times to relax again into God's protecting hand. When there is an urge to complete a checking ritual, take a few deep breaths, and let the truth of the gospel still your heart.