If you’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia, chances are you have heard this quote, and if you’re been in Christian circles for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard it used as an illustration (perhaps overly-used!).
I’ve appreciated this illustration to show the truth that while God does not spare us from suffering, we can trust his intentions for us are good. But I’ve also been encouraged as I think of how this applies specifically in the experience of scrupulosity.
God is Not Safe
In the context of scrupulosity, God is not “safe.” He does not promise us a shame-free, anxiety-free life. He says in him we find perfect peace, but in my experience this is more of an objective fact of my standing (peace with God through Christ’s blood) than an objective feeling of my experience (fraught with doubts and fears). Thus, much of our experience is not one of peace. Perfect peace is not an all-consuming emotion; if that’s the case, then as my counselor once said, “I’ve been in perfect peace for about 16 seconds of my life.”
God does not guarantee certainty of our standing with him in the same way that he doesn’t guarantee healing in this life, nor disclosure of all his ways and purposes. There’s a mystery there that we cannot know. We are not safe from the next bad thing; we are not safe from experiencing more suffering than we can bear alone. We are not safe from chronic pain, disease, mental illness, tragedy, or mistreatment.
God is not “safe” in that he doesn’t promise to give us certainty. He doesn’t even promise all of his children will have assurance. He does not promise that my fears will be completely eradicated, that my strivings will cease once and for all, or that my obsessive-compulsive symptoms will disappear. He doesn’t promise those kinds of safeties. As those who struggle with scrupulosity, we are not safe from uncertainty.
This un-safeness of God is taken to a deeper level in my scrupulosity. I feel cut off at the knees. Even in my OCD, I struggle to find solidarity with the Lord, as my obsessions revolve around God’s very nature. He does not feel completely safe to me. Not just because of what he might do, but because of who he is. I know theoretically who he is, but in my struggle I often act as though he’s unkind, ruthless, and just waiting for me to mess up so he can punish me.
Much of Scripture feels unsafe to me, because it has been the catalyst for some of my biggest seasons of doubt and anxiety. Verses that have brought comfort to countless Christians around me have stirred troubling thoughts within me. If God’s Word feels unsafe to me, I begin to wonder whether God himself is really safe.
Add to that the risk of practicing exposure for OCD and trying to live in uncertainty. It doesn’t promise relief. Taking communion when I doubt if I’m saved could be careless; choosing not to compulsively confess a sin (which I’ve already confessed several times) could be unwise. By devaluing obsessions and resisting compulsions, I have to take the risk of being wrong, and that’s not the safety I want.
Objectively, God is not “safe” in that he will not protect me from scrupulosity and the uncertainty and fear it brings. Subjectively, God feels unsafe as I battle with doubt.
But He’s Good
At the end of the day, if we can’t discern what God will allow us to face next, we can lean on this fact: he is good. He has not left us to ride the rickety rollercoaster of our wild lives alone. He has not gone to the greatest measure to redeem sinners only to let us struggle through this life on our own.
I often equate God’s love with assurance. If God truly loves me, he would not withhold assurance of salvation from me. Even in that thought, there is this suggestion that it is more of a spiteful, coldhearted denial. We know our Father does not give us rocks when we ask for bread. It’s a lie to say that during this life, God will reveal every reason for our suffering, even if it’s after the fact; I know people who had things happen to them decades ago who have still not discerned the why, even if they can see the growth that was the byproduct of such suffering.
I don’t know why God hasn’t taken away my scrupulosity. Sometimes I think I could bear it better if at least I just have assurance of my salvation; then I would feel safer and not like I’m walking a tightrope every day, ready at any moment to fall to my death with no safety net beneath me.
But though he is not safe, he is good. Not only can I trust his overarching plan for my life, but I can trust the God who became man to save my soul, even when I struggle to believe this truth applies to me. I can trust the One who walks with me even though I try so hard to do it alone; the One who sits beside me even as I cry out angrily, “Where are you?” He is good because that is his very heart. He cannot be otherwise. As Dane Ortlund says in his book Gentle and Lowly, “when God deigns to lavish goodness on his people, he does it with a certain naturalness reflective of the depths of who he is. For God to be merciful is for God to be God.”2
God is not capricious. He does not take joy in allowing us to suffer. He is not cruel, derisive, and eager to dole out sorrow upon us. Would he have sent his own Son to suffer, die, and be torn from his presence—all for our sake—if he was?
1 C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
2 Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers.