Battling Guilt, Doubt, Fear & Anxiety
Victory Over Condemnation:
A Christian Testimony
About this page: The Testimony
The following testimony is more significant than a casual reading suggests. Having received Sarahís permission, I will share her testimony (based on three emails she sent me over a period of five months) and then Iíll reveal what makes it so powerful.
Founder of Net-burst.net and ghostwriter of this webpage
I suffered a terrible childhood of foster care, abuse, depression, suicidal behavior, and the loss of a loved one. The third time that I was put in foster care, I was separated from my sisters and they were put in a Christian home. They invited me to church and I began going.
I prayed the sinnerís prayer over and over, seemingly to no avail. Once I went to the pastor and prayed from my heart and felt peace flood into me and a weight being lifted. I was so thrilled that I told everyone. I started reading the Bible and this time it made sense. I got into Bible study and loved it. I loved church. I even got my family to go. I stopped cussing. I stopped my sexual behavior. I felt alive.
Before long, however, I began occasionally hearing a nagging voice say I wasnít saved. After a few months I stopped having time to read the Bible and started slipping. I began cursing again, and even cheated on the boyfriend I had at the time. I still called myself a Christian. Eventually, I fell into some awful deliberate sexual sin. I started meeting people with other beliefs and began questioning if Jesus is the only way. I was living for the world in rebellion against God.
One day I was watching TV and suddenly felt as if I were doing something wrong. It turned into anxiety and then a full-on attack, worrying about hell. It lasted for days until I began to regret sinning and leaving God. I cried and asked for forgiveness. I then slipped once more. Then I actually put a stop to it and repented.
I felt great for a couple days, until the torment started again. Iíd hear voices saying I was hopeless and God hated me and that I was too late. The voices said that my having questioned whether Jesus was the only way meant I had denied him and that I was unforgivable. I panicked. I looked up every article I could find about what I was going through and it only made things worse.
I thought, ďI want to return to Jesus. So to please God again I must pray more, go to church more, sin less and be perfect.Ē I thought I could buy Godís love by being good. I hadnít realized that, in my panic, I was letting my incessant guilt feelings trick me into virtually giving up on the one who saved me three years ago. Instead, I was hoping to win Godís favor not through his grace but through my works Ė not because of what Christ achieved on my behalf on the cross, but because of what I hoped to achieve.
Then I kept praying dozens of times, ďGod, I know I am a guilty sinner and deserve hell. Jesus, you lived a perfect life, were nailed to a cross, your blood was shed and washed my sins away, you were buried, and rose on the third day. My faith is in you, and you alone. I wish to serve you and bear fruit of the Spirit.Ē
I thought, ďMaybe the day I was saved, I didnít pray something right. Maybe I was putting my faith in the pastor, maybe I didnít say, ĎI put my faith in you,í maybe I never had the Spirit to begin with.Ē But then I looked in my Bible and found dozens of verses I had highlighted when I was saved that were about putting faith in Jesus. I concluded that I must have understood it back then.
I realized that when I had gone astray, Iíd think about praying or going to church or reading my Bible, but I ignored the thoughts. Now I feared that I had been ignoring God and that he was furious with me, as if Iíd overrun his patience.
Then I found out about the unforgivable sin and I thought I was doomed. I asked everyone to pray for me and talked to so many Christians about it, trying to find comfort. But despite all their efforts, nothing really helped. In fact, it made me feel worse.
I think I was trying too hard to keep my belief in God. It seems as if part of me knows he is real, and part of me doesnít. It feels as if there is a barrier in my mind and heart preventing me from truly knowing.
I feared that I was relying on feelings and that this meant my salvation was a lie. Iíd pray to Jesus, telling him that my faith is in him and only him, but I worried that I was forcing myself to say that. I kept trying to praise God for all I was going through because I want to serve him and let this cloud of disbelief go away.
Then I found your webpage about Scrupulosity and OCD and Anxiety. It made sense to me. I have always suffered with depression, and no matter what assurance I get, I always still doubt my salvation. I donít want to go to hell. I want to live for Jesus, and not out of fear but out of love.
I keep filling with fear that all this praise and praying and Bible studies are useless. I know they wonít save me and that only Jesus can, and yet I still keep feeling like Iím living in dead works. I try to read the Bible but it scares me. I think every verse is condemning me. I often think, ďIf Iím going to hell, you might as well kill me now, God, so I donít live a miserable worthless life.Ē And then I feel awful for thinking that. I have uncontrollable thoughts of curse words or even cursing Jesus and unwanted sexual thoughts. It disgusts me. I try not to think these thoughts but trying to stop only makes them worse.
I donít tell anyone because I fear they would think I am nuts. Your site is the only one that is actually helping me. I thought I was the only one going through this until I found the testimonies. It is so good to know I am not alone in this.
I now sometimes think God doesnít want me but that makes me feel worse because in that way Iím calling God a liar. I doubt my salvation every day and struggle with belief. I canít feel emotions. I recently started taking anti-depressants again because of the depression Iíve always had, but I am in so much fear.
I want to live for Jesus and I pray, but I fear that all that Iím doing is useless and that I should give up. But I refuse to give up, even when I hear voices say I should. I feel like Iíve been under spiritual attack and going through spiritual OCD.
I am so confused. I can barely eat, I donít enjoy the hobbies I used to, I fear hell every day, I canít concentrate in class, and I feel unsaved. I almost hate life. I want this pain to end.
I know itís not about me; itís about Jesus. But I feel so empty of emotion and God. Iím desperately trying not to trust my emotions, but my belief is at one percent. The more I fight and say, ďIím not giving up,Ē the worse it gets. Without Jesus, I have nothing. I try prayers for salvation or for reassurance but it makes it worse.
Later she wrote:
I thank God he led me to your site. Until then, I never could understand Godís love for me. Having been abused as a child, I associated rejection with God. I thought God couldnít love someone like me. I thought Jesus only came to save people with ďsmall sins.Ē I had thought God had given up on me or I had committed the unpardonable sin. I suffered uncontrollable blasphemous thoughts, temptations, nagging condemnation, anxiety attacks, I couldnít eat, I would wake up in sweat with a fear of hell, and thought I had no hope.
Many people and websites tried to help me but to no avail. Then I read many of your webpages about Godís love and was astonished at the Scriptural proof of how God saw me.
It was hard, but I truly surrendered to Jesus and believed that he could forgive me of all sins, no matter what my feelings or thoughts told me. He gave me the strength to end my ungodly relationship with a boy and now he has been guiding me further into a love relationship with God. The uncontrollable thoughts and anxiety attacks have eased, but they still come. Iím no longer looking for a miraculous deliverance or some sign that I am saved. Itís hard, because, as someone with religious OCD, I keep craving assurance but the reality is that I have all the assurance I need in the Bible.
I used to be jealous of Christians with an easy life. I thought God was playing favorites but I now see he isnít. I may suffer doubts and compulsive cravings but I now know that Jesus does love me. I used to be upset because so many Christians would talk about feeling God and being flooded with emotions. I thought something was wrong with me because I didnít have such feelings. But then God kept speaking to me through Proverbs 3:5-6 ďTrust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.Ē
I had been looking to feelings and not God. Now, as hard as it is, I look to Jesus and his promise that he saves all who come to him for forgiveness of sins and put their faith in him and what heís done. Iím no exception.
Now, I am starting to hear the gentle small voice of his Spirit. He is changing my heart. Iím falling more in love with God because his Spirit is working within me.
I may have to deal with this OCD my whole life but that doesnít make me any less loved by God. I was wanting to know ways to fall even deeper in love with God. What is his character? How can I ask him for our relationship to go even deeper? I know itís a process and I get impatient sometimes because I want it all at once.
I may not get many feelings from God like others and I may have spiritual OCD but God never lies, even when my mind does. He has led me to a wonderful group of Christian friends, I still struggle with a fear of rejection but itís something God is slowly guiding me out of.
Still later, she wrote:
It can be very, very difficult to cope with my severe anxiety and scrupulosity but God has used your webpages to touch my heart countless times.
Iíve recently gone through a break-up and I am going through a trial. And the enemy has been striking me again with fears Ė this time with new ones that are absolutely ridiculous, including fear of the end times, fear of death, and even fear of heaven. Fearing heaven is particularly weird, but for someone with my sensitivities it does not surprise me.
In a way, God has been using this to strengthen my faith and trust in him. Iíve always had great difficulty trusting him during hard times but itís becoming easier for me to trust that he knows what he is doing and is in control.
I always worry that my fears indicate Iím not saved but I have to remind myself constantly that I have put my faith in Jesus and have repented. I honestly think this is just some sly trick of the devil to make me doubt, because when I really think about it, the basic reason I come up with for doubting my salvation is that I donít feel saved. But feelings lie and deceive. Feelings are not a spiritual barometer.
I donít know why I have these fears and feelings. Other people I meet donít understand the pain of constantly doubting, and then feeling worthless for doubting when you donít even want to doubt.
I refuse to seek assurance from feelings. Itís hard, but I refuse. Feelings come and go. They lie.
Recently, Iíve received countless assurances, yet I always want more. Itís as if I always forget. Last week, my mind was having a severe anxiety attack. I was shaking and so frozen with fear that I couldnít move. It was like a million condemning voices were shouting in my head. Then I heard a voice above all the noise tell me, ďDo not be afraid.Ē Then all the voices went away and there was peace. I could tell of countless times God has comforted me like that Ė things that would make people envy. And yet I still forget and want more assurances. Itís part of my OCD Ė always craving an answer that will only further fuel my cravings instead of relieve them.
Sometimes I get jealous of people with testimonies like, ďI got saved and felt the peace of God and have never doubted since.Ē Iíll think something is wrong with me because when I was saved I got really badly attacked spiritually. I was hit by severe fear and OCD attacks. But then I found your website and started to believe Godís Word over my fears. And the devil fled. Now heís attacking me again and, of course, the OCD has flared up again.
My biggest fear is to come before Jesus, the One I have been falling in love with, and hear him say, ďDepart from me, for I never knew you.Ē But he says all who come to him and truly want to be saved, he will not cast out. I have put my faith in him. I have been saved. Whether I feel it or not, he says I have been forgiven.
I have realized if it werenít for this OCD I wouldnít be as advanced spiritually as I am today. What the enemy intends to use for evil, God uses for good.
The last time you had heard from me was over a year ago when I was in a really severe battle with my anxiety and OCD. I just wanted to tell you that through Jesus I have victory over it (1 Corinthians 15:57). That doesnít mean my OCD is gone, but that he uses it to grow me closer to him and to trust his sufficient grace and experience his victory.
I wanted to thank you for all the time and prayer youíve poured into your articles about scrupulosity/OCD because thatís the website I always go back to; not because of any facts on it but because of God himself speaking through you and his Word in it. Heís used what youíve written about scrupulosity to help me to trust him and not my feelings. One thing Iím learning is to hold on to Godís truth instead of my uncertainties or doubt. He gives us the victory through Jesus Ė his finished work and the promises in his Word. His grace is sufficient.
The Power of this Testimony
If you envy Sarah for receiving ďcountless assurances,Ē youíve missed the critical point: they did her no good. Like a mirage driving insane someone dying of thirst in the Sahara, the great illusion is that more signs from God would lessen oneís doubts. It seems unbelievable that signs and divine assurances would not help, but they are like pouring water in a bucket with gaping holes. Youíll think youíre an exception and that the impact of divine confirmations will not do a vanishing act for you, even though they ended up doing nothing for Sarah. But there are no exceptions. To envy those who receive signs is like envying a gambler who boasts of his big wins and never mentions his even bigger losses.
Sarah doesnít see it, but her testimony impresses heaven far more than the testimonies she envies. Just as it is only weaklings who have never endured hard exercise, so it is only weak, immature Christians who have never battled doubt, fear and despair. For Sarah to envy those whose glowing testimonies reveal they have had it easy, is like an Olympic champion envying losers who never know the daily grind of tough training sessions, nor the agony of exerting themselves to the brink of human endurance.
Losers always have it easy. Those who condemn themselves to being weaklings have all the fun. They know nothing of aching muscles Ė nor the glory of achievement. The God who made the physical realm is the same one who made the spiritual realm. ďNo pain, no gain,Ē applies even to the crucified, now glorified, Son of God who agonized in the garden and was publicly ridiculed on the cross as a loser.
For any physical training session to end up making you even slightly stronger, the exertion should be so intense that you feel weaker and weaker as the session continues until you are so weak that a child could do better and finally it becomes impossible for you to keep going. It is only after recuperating from many such sessions that there will be the slightest indication that it is achieving anything worthwhile.
Likewise, for a spiritual trial to be effective, it must take so much out of you that you feel pathetically weak. This makes it rare for people in the midst of a trial to realize that, contrary to how it feels, it is actually making them stronger than ever.
God is your personal trainer. He knows you can become a spiritual champion only through training sessions that make you seem devastatingly weak. It is only after the successful completion of many sessions that you will be able to detect the slightest sign that you are actually getting stronger.
You might have noted in her testimony that Sarah is slowly entering the stage of having gone through so many trials that she can look back and begin to see hints that what she has been suffering is actually achieving something spiritually beneficial. Until reaching this point, we can only force ourselves to look beyond the discouragement of feeling weaker than a baby Christian, and cling to the Bibleís promise that our loving Lord causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28) Ė even things that give every appearance of eroding our walk with God.
For God to terminate your trial as soon as you ask him to, would be to rob you of enormous blessing and, instead of bringing good out of what you have so far suffered, aborting the trial would render your suffering a useless waste. God is too wise and loves you far too much to end your trial before you can benefit from it.
Another impressive aspect of Sarahís testimony is that she is refusing to be influenced by feelings. That is enormously difficult when one is plagued by anxiety and yet it is critical for oneís walk with God. This determination to believe Jesus and refuse to believe oneís feelings is what every Christian needs but it is only developed by tough experiences like Sarah is having. If she continues this way, it will make her a spiritual giant, while those who have had it easy will continue to languish in mediocrity, feeling strong but blissfully unaware of what spiritual weaklings they really are.
You Need More
To be haunted by guilt feelings, spiritual worries and repulsive thoughts is like trying to drive safely through traffic in the midst of continual distractions. This website has the vast number of webpages you need in order to stay focused. Read them daily.
My Battle to Stop Intrusive Thoughts
Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2016, 2017 Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give.
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version © Copyright, 1978 by New York International Bible Society
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