For years, I insisted to the doctors and people around me that I was suffering some sort of physical disease. The running thoughts in my head, the headaches, the lump on my neck that turned out to be completely benign, the constant acid reflux that I thought was throat cancer, losing weight (I wasn't eating from all the worrying) and other ailments too embarrassed to talk about all led me to conclude that something was truly wrong with me. Why didn't the doctors see anything? Well, the doctors did see something wrong with me, but I was in denial. After months of tests, seeing numerous doctors, and looking insane to just about everyone I encountered, I finally gave in to the diagnosis: I had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). According to the National Institute on Health, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. (1) In my case, it was the obsessive thoughts of thinking that something physical was wrong with me, and I compulsively sought doctor after doctor to prove that I was right. Well, I was wrong.
To be honest, I only thought that weird people got OCD. People manifest the disorder in a variety of ways. Some compulsively wash their hands until they bleed or have odd rituals like checking their car door dozens of times to make sure the vehicle is locked. Some are debilitated by the constant thoughts that invade their heads. There's no way I could be like those people. Here I was as a young man with a beautiful family, a home, and a successful career. It would be an understatement to say that I was devastated to learn about this diagnosis.
When I've been reading the bible over the past several months, I have often wondered if God doesn't have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder himself. Every time I hear about God delivering his people, I'm in awe. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites consistently being delivered by the mighty hand of God, only to turn around a couple of pages later to see his people turn and leave him once again. In fact, we see this throughout the pages of Scripture, and we do the same thing in our daily lives. Like the Word of God says in Isaiah, "we all like sheep have gone astray." This movement away from God is so consistent for us as Christians that many of the faith traditions throughout the centuries have built personal and corporate confessions into the liturgies of the church. This would tell you that it's been a consistent problem.
But God isn't satisfied when we turn our backs on Him. No, he takes the initiative and goes after us. In fact, he obsesses over us. Let me say that again: He obsesses over YOU! In Psalm 139, we read, "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I'm still with you." (Psalm 139:17-18) God not only loves you, but he obsesses over you. In fact, his thoughts toward you outnumber the sands of the sea. He's also been described as the Hound of Heaven. The one who will not give up searching for us and chasing us down. We see this throughout the pages of Scripture with him delivering his chosen people through the pains of their life. We see that in the incarnation itself. Throughout the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see the lengths that God will go to chase us down. He will not get tired in his obsession to love you and show you mercy. As Brennan Manning once said, "God loves you in such a way that he would rather die than live without you." (2) In fact, he did that very thing. In Romans, we read that "God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) What an amazing God we serve. Instead of allowing us to return to our own vomit, he graciously keeps moving toward us, delivering us from the powers of Sin, Death and the Devil. When we confess our sins, he is gracious towards us and forgives us. He sets us free each week in the hearing of the gospel. And just when you think he can't love us more, he delivers his forgiveness once again in the bread and the wine.
Let us rejoice in our Obsessive-Compulsive God!
"…And behold, I am with you always, to the ends of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
1. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml
2. From the Brennan Manning sermon: God Loves You As You Are, Not As You Should Be.