OCD and Other Brain Disorders in the Church?

The Lord has placed something on my heart for some time concerning Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other such disorders in the church. Mild cases of it are obviously rampant in the general population.  Quite a number of people who have the disorder suffer with it to a degree where it hinders functionality in daily life. Just a few questions reveals any tendencies toward it, and simple observation can reveal it in those taking great strides to conceal it. Not only is it easily found in the general population, but it is found within the church too.

Understand from the get-go, I have zero professional training in this. Anything I know or think I know is from the Lord and self-education. So, take that for what you think it is worth. The point is, this is something I feel impressed by the Lord to address. However, before doing that, I need to explain what led to my interest in this type of subject in the first place.

Going back to childhood I have had an interest in medical science. My parents had me later in life, and I spent part of my childhood and teen years caring for my father. Then, my mother’s kidneys failed. Learning about the Alzheimer’s my father suffered from and the kidney issues my mother suffered from helped me understand what was going on in their bodies. I had a desire to know how all things worked from my earliest memories, and this includes how our bodies and minds function. Wanting to know how things worked helped me hone observational and analytical skills over the years.

When my mother went on dialysis, my engineering mind desired to understand how the procedure worked. Whenever I wondered about anything from plaques causing brain dysfunction to how dialysis machines filtered toxins from blood, I would read books about it or ask questions of professionals who already knew. I still do that today. For every fiction novel I have ever read, I probably have read a dozen technical or professional books on various subjects. I worked seven years on the midnight shift as a security guard. That left  plenty of free time to read library books about any subject I was inquisitive about.

I like to know how things work as much as I like to fix things that are broken. The need to fix things myself was often due to interest as well as financial reasons. I remember learning how to replace the brakes on my car from books and asking questions of those who had done it before. The reason was because I could not afford a mechanic to do the work for me. I fixed things other people discarded so I could own some things I could not otherwise afford.

I did not have health insurance when I was first diagnosed with diabetes, but that did not stop the doctor from wanting me to come in for regular checkups. I could not afford to go, so the doctor stopped prescribing medication. In my case, the medication was insulin and syringes. I learned that the type of insulin I was taking did not require a prescription. It could be purchased over-the-counter. I could not get syringes in Pennsylvania without a prescription, but I could get them in both West Virginia and Virginia without one. I found a way to survive by educating myself. However, I also saw the severe limitations medical science had in fixing things that were broken. They fixed my mom with a kidney transplant, but they could not fix my dad. They could give me something to keep me alive, but they could not fix me.

When I believed on the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I learned more about who I actually happen to be. I am created to be an eternal being by God, but not eternal in this flesh corrupted by sin. I am alive for a time in this flesh—my body. I have a body, soul and a spirit. The body is my literal physical body. The soul refers to the mind. You can think of it as the seat of our intellect, emotions and etcetera—the control center of the body. Some of that mind is under my direct control, and some of it is autonomic and regulated by natural processes that God has created. The spirit is the eternal part. The actual who of what you and I happen to be.

There is a two way street between the spirit and the flesh, and that street is through our minds. As Christians, we know that this universe has been corrupted by sin. The bible is plain in that death came by sin (Romans 5:12). These bodies we are alive in are obviously corrupted. They are subject to illness and eventually death.

The physical mind (brain) is subject to this same corruption. Anything can go wrong from structural abnormalities to issues with neurotransmitter function. We hear a lot about  serotonin due to medications that manipulate it in the brain. Of particular note is the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibiters (SSRIs), which are marketed heavily to those who suffer from clinical depression even though they are also effective for OCD, anxiety and other disorders. However, there are many more neurotransmitters as well as issues that can occur in the brain that can interfere with its proper functioning. Brain injuries due to trauma from impact forces or chemical poisoning can radically change how our minds function, exacerbating the corruption that already is present due to the original fall in the Garden of Eden.

The bible tells us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The apostle Paul talked about bringing the body into subjection (1 Corinthians 9:27). We are supposed to be in control of our flesh. Many think of not giving into a standard list of temptations that includes sexual lusts, anger and other such things. This is true, but there is more we need to take control of. Something the Lord showed me some time ago through those who teach his word and self-study (do you see a trend here?) is that the mind is the pathway where either your spirit will rule your flesh or your flesh will ruin your spirit! OCD and other disorders can ruin your spirit if permitted to continue unabated.

Ephesians 6:11 says in the King James Version, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The word “wiles” is translated from a Greek word that is a compound word, which means “amid travel.” We understand the obvious definition of “wiles” in this context referring to methods of trickery perpetrated by the devil, and that is correct. However, there is a bit more to that word, and I believe the Lord has shown me an analogy to explain it. To understand what I feel is a deeper meaning, consider not only the wiles or methods of trickery, but the route used to accomplish them.

Imagine your mind as a pristine field of wheat with every stalk upright and growing strong. Imagine you are seeing this field from an elevated position. Now imagine a small animal, maybe a coyote, making its way from one end of the field to the other. In the process of its traveling over (this is part of the definition of “wiles”), it knocks down some of the stalks of wheat.

From your vantage point above the field, you can easily see the narrow pathway made across it by the meandering coyote traveling from point A to point B. The coyote’s footsteps have knocked down stalks of wheat along its path, making a clear pattern. Now, imagine a larger animal, maybe a deer, following that small path made some time ago by the coyote. The deer knocks down more stalks of wheat as it follows the path made by the coyote. Then, maybe a couple of deer try to squeeze through that path, making it  wider. They are followed by a large bear or cow that flattens a wide swath of grain. Now that the path is established, it can get bigger and bigger until a whole herd of buffalo can now easily travel back and forth across the field. Now switch gears for a moment and instead of animals and fields, it is the whispering of that old snake—our enemy,  the devil.

All distractions, obstructions and sin that hinder us in our walk with the Lord begin in our minds (James 1:14-15). They start out as small pathways that our enemy would like nothing better than to establish in our physical minds. These pathways give him access to us on the inside. Think about this for a moment. Would our enemy care at all to access us through these pathways if it would not damage the spiritual beings we happen to be? The mind, the physical brain, is all about knowing, and the original sin in the garden was about knowing. It was the first access granted to the devil to the spiritual eternal beings we are through the flesh we are alive in. The trick in the beginning was to manipulate free will into destruction, and it is the same trick he is using today.

Jesus has made it plain and clear that Satan has been conquered (John 16:33). Jesus has overcome or subdued the world. We can walk in this same victory. The kick in the teeth is caused by our own selves and our own free will to choose. Just because you are saved and filled with the Baptism of the Holy Ghost does not mean you relinquish that free will to choose. This goes back to Paul’s words of continually forcing his body (flesh) into subjection. As a Christian you have the instant justification of being declared not guilty of your sin through your faith in Jesus. His sacrifice, and your faith in it and his resurrection, make you sanctified (set apart) for God. Now, every single day of the rest of your life in the flesh is a process of growth referred to as continual sanctification.

Every individual believer in Christ walks in this to their own unique degree. The thing is, all of us can progress to a much greater degree. It all comes down to what you are going to do with your free will. Jesus has indeed overcome the world, and you should be of good cheer because of it. That was a statement to encourage us to accomplish in and through him what we could not do on our own. There is no need for our brains of flesh to control our spiritual freedom through how our minds function.

You have a literal brain made of flesh. An article published by the Scientific American in January 2011 titled “100 Trillion Connections: New Efforts Probe and Map the Brain’s Detailed Architecture” declares that the human brain has at least 100 billion neurons that make at least 100 trillion connections or pathways if you will. Your physical brain permits the functioning of your mind. Though it is a storehouse of memories and the functional means for you to do everything from breathing to feeling joy in the embrace of a loved one, it is not the whole you. You are body, soul (mind) and spirit. One day we are promised a new uncorrupted and incorruptible body, but for now we have to deal with these ones.

All that brings me to this conclusion. OCD is linked to functional disorders and even inheritable factors of the physical brain. The physical brain is not operating optimally. However, it is highly treatable. If there is no problem in going to the doctor for an influenza vaccine, to have a broken bone set or to get a prescription for antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection, then there should be no problem getting help for a functional  brain disorder. It is taking control of your flesh in much the same manner as the apostle Paul was referring to.

Even when King Hezekiah was granted 15 more years to his life, the prophet Isaiah said to put a “cake of figs” (a medical treatment) on the “boil.” The end of that verse says, “and he recovered” (2 Kings 20:7). This was just before the great miracle of time being reversed on the sun dial that Hezekiah chose as a sign to be sure what Isaiah said would come to pass. God has great things planned for your life no matter who you happen to be. You can do better, be better, get better and feel better. Pathways formed in your mind for myriad reasons over every moment of your life can control you, or you can be transformed by the renewing (renovation) of your mind (what you know, perceive, feel are aware of and will) (Romans 12:2).

Lord willing we can continue with this later. If you have any interest in pursuing this from a Christian standpoint to a greater degree, please comment accordingly.

 

Information about OCD that may help in spotting symptoms in yourself or a loved one. A professional opinion is required to diagnose OCD and any other disorders.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) Website – What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?