Yes, in one way, Satan could be involved, but no, regarding the way you are probably thinking.
The Scripture does reveal actual accounts of Satan’s involvement in afflicting some of God’s servants. We all know the story of Job and how Satan afflicted and oppressed him to try and get him to turn away from God. We read about the apostle Paul’s thorn and how he described it as a messenger from Satan sent to torment him.
What we don’t see in these accounts is God instructing Job or Paul to use a strategy to stop the attacks of Satan. Instead, in both cases, we see God shifting the attention of Job and Paul to who He is regarding His sovereignty, His power, and His sufficiency for what they were going through.
We aren’t privy as to whether or not Satan is involved in our experiences of illness or suffering. But, even if Satan were to be involved, we know that God is greater, that Satan’s power is broken, and that we need to shift our focus to God’s provisions for us rather than Satan’s persecution.
But, the question should be asked, that if Satan has afflicted a Christian with an illness, does that mean the person shouldn’t seek professional medical attention for it? Or, should the person only seek help through the Scriptures and prayer?
I think that most of us would agree that God provides for His afflicted children through the expertise of doctors, medications, and therapies for their afflictions and that it’s wise to seek those things.
So, that’s one way that Satan could be to blame, but what concerns me is the other way people suppose that Satan is to blame when a person suffers from OCD/Scrupulosity.
Over the years, I’ve communicated with many Christians who suffer from OCD/Scrupulosity, and I’m still startled by how often they encounter the following types of statements about their experience:
“Satan has gotten ahold of your mind! You need to rebuke Him in the name of Jesus!”
“Satan is planting these thoughts in your head. He wants to destroy your testimony.”
“You have a demonic spirit plaguing you. You must take steps to cast it out!”
“This is due to the sin of your ancestors. It’s a generational curse that must be broken!”
The problem with these kind of statements is that they assume that the cause of OCD/Scrupulosity is spiritual, and the second problem is that in thinking this, the approach to helping the person isn’t just going to be wrong, it will be counterproductive and make the disorder worse.
OCD/Scrupulosity is not a spiritual issue. It’s just a case of OCD targeting a person’s faith in Christ. OCD obsessional themes are always attached to things that are of utmost importance to the sufferer. Things like close relationships, their health, their moral character, and their faith are common targets. I don’t want to go into the details of the cause, symptoms, and treatments for the disorder, but these things are knowable, and a person with OCD should avail themselves of them just as much as they would for any other illness.
What happens when a person with OCD/Scrupulosity is made to feel that it’s a spiritual issue causing the disorder, is that they will feel the need to fight against the disorder in the wrong way. And all of the ways that they will fight against it fall into the category of compulsions. In OCD, the compulsions always make the disorder worse and keep the person from being able to recover.
Here are some of the most common ways that a person with OCD/Scrupulosity will engage in compulsions:
Rebuking the thoughts.
Focusing on the fear of Satan and how to escape him.
Attempting to “take the thoughts captive.”
Countering the thoughts with scripture verses.
Praying over and over for God to cleanse them from the thoughts.
Praying over and over for salvation.
Avoiding anything which triggers the thoughts in an attempt to escape the anxiety.
Intensely scrutinizing and altering their behavior and activities due to the fear of angering God.
Seeking reassurance from family or a Pastor that their position in Christ is secure.
Asking the same questions over and over about certain portions of scripture.
Researching topics like eternal security, losing salvation, or the unpardonable sin.
Therefore, if you want to help a person with OCD/Scrupulosity, the best thing you can do is to treat the disorder as a valid affliction rather than a spiritual issue. If you do the opposite, you will be inadvertently influencing the person to engage in the compulsive activity of their disorder, which in turn will only serve to prolong and increase their suffering.
OCD/Scrupulosity is a highly nuanced disorder that requires the expertise of physicians who are trained to diagnose and to treat it. The best way to help someone who is suffering is to empathize with them about their suffering and to encourage them to seek professional help.
Good day. How can I get a copy of your books regarding OCD. I am living in South Africa. Regards
You can order it from Barnes and Noble or from Amazon. I’m not real sure of the international coverage for Amazon in your area but here’s the link to the book:
Hi Mitzi, I first heard about you a couple of years back. I just read your OCD book and want to connect with you if you have time. I’ll have my email below. I did write you in Messenger but it never showed you saw it. Thank you. Kathy
Sorry for the late reply. There’s been quite a lot of family illnesses and loss over the past months and I’ve had to take a sabbatical from my online work. We do have a support group in FB for Christians with anxiety disorders. I’ll attempt to copy/past that link in this thread.
Here’s the link to our support group:
This is really complicated but I’ve struggled with this for over 20 years. I was on medication for a good portion of that time, as an adolescent my family and I made frequent visits to counselors and psychiatrists. But the only thing that really calms my mind after all these years is shifting my focus from the compulsive thought to God. Also banking on scripture, not just memorizing words but eating it like Ezekiel did. Knowing it, believing it. It has taken some tortuous times but God is teaching me to be completely dependent on Him through it all. Medication was helpful but it couldn’t get to the root of the problem, my deep need to be secure in Christ. OCD is about control to grasp at security. Jesus is the only truly secure foundation in all the world. We need Him, and He will provide peace. Even if it takes a lifetime, He will teach us to trust Him, we need only to let go.
I’m glad you are doing so much better! For some, though, they will need more help through meds. and ERP. I do know also that the brain can grow weary of themes after awhile and we can move past them in that way too. That happened with some of my Harm OCD themes way back in the day.
But what’s great is that through the process you learned more and more about Christ and His love for you! Many people who struggle with Religious OCD/Scrupe will learn a lot through the process as it’s common to dig and research for answers. But having said that, it’s still very important to understand how OCD operates in case it starts up on another obsessional theme in the future. Understanding how to apply ERP when new obsessions pop up gives us the tools to get on top of the OCD before it gets on top of us. Thank you for sharing!