Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"The evidence of things unseen"

The Reformers said that faith consisted of 1) knowledge; 2) assent, and 3) trust. The first two aren't usually the problem for people with OCD. The problem is with trust.

OCD is called "the doubting disease" for a reason. Typically we don't tolerate uncertainty, even the unavoidable uncertainty which springs from the nature of humanity and our own inability to control everything.  There is nothing we know for absolutely certain.  I don't know that the building I live in won't collapse tonight; buildings have collapsed before. Of course, I have no reason to think that it will, or that the chances of it happening are more than microscopic.  But I don't know for absolutely certain that it won't.

But I trust the Building Code. I trust that this building would not have been opened for occupancy if it hadn't been examined and found to be sound, and if proper procedures hadn't been followed by the builders and supervised by the city. So while I don't know that the building won't collapse, I do know that the chances of it happening are remote. The risk is small enough that it's not worth worrying about.

But the stakes are so high when it comes to our salvation and our relationship with God that it's hard to settle for that kind of certainty for those of us whose basal ganglia are askew and who have problems processing serotonin. OCD, after all, always attacks us at the point where we're most vulnerable. It always threatens what we hold most dear. We have trouble seeing that the very fact that we hold our salvation and our relationship with God so dear means that we probably don't have anything to worry about. We have the knowledge. We have the assent. But the trust can be hard to come by if our brains don't cooperate!

Yet faith, as Hebrews 11 tells us, is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." In Morris West's book The Clowns of God, Jesus tells a strange group of flawed and broken believers gathered together on what might be the last night before a nuclear holocaust that there is one thing they can do that He cannot. They can believe. "I can't believe," He tells them, "because I know."

The knowledge, the certainty, we hunger for doesn't simply make faith unnecessary. It makes faith impossible. Faith, by its very nature, requires uncertainty. To believe is to trust God with our relationship with Him, and with our very salvation. To have faith is to commit into God's hands what we cannot control.

But here's the good part: if we could control it, we could also mess it up. There is no certainty in control. The only certainty is to yield control to the One Who can't and won't drop the ball. The only security is in not being in control, but knowing that God is.

That's why it's so important to keep our eyes off of ourselves and how we're doing and keep them on Jesus. As Pastor Fisk pointed out in the video I posted the other day, we can lose our salvation. But Jesus can't lose it. It's much, much safer in His hands than in our own. So why not leave it there?

Finally to keep one's eyes trustingly on Jesus instead of fearing that we might mess up- to leave what we treasure most in His hands rather than hold onto them for dear life- is the safest thing we can do. As Martin Luther once observed, "All the things I've held onto myself, I've lost. All the things I've let God hold onto, I still have."

Here, Dr. Ian Osborn, one of the formost experts on the treatment of religious OCD, discusses the kind of faith that we have trouble with,, the kind that not only keeps what we treasure safe but helps us to overcome our obsessions. In it lies the safety we crave, because God can neither lie nor fail. In it also lies the very peace we so crave, but find so elusive everywhere else.

You can lose your salvation. But Jesus can't- and won't. In trusting Him and keeping our eyes on His promises rather than our own fears lies not only our peace but our only certainty.

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