Breaking Free Of OCD. By Jeff Wells. Houston, TX: Lucid Books, 2016. 162 pp. Paperback, $14.99.
Whether you suffer from OCD—as do 6.6 million in the U.S.—or you’re just more OC than you’d like—or if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or any kind of mental illness or emotional problems—Breaking Free Of OCD will help. The Biblical cures Wells gives—so rooted in Scripture—for this troubling disorder, are actually cures that will serve you well on all the problems above! This is a book you will want to give out again and again to people to whom you minister.
Wells knows personally and painfully the terrible mental anguish (and other problems) this disorder carries. He lets us “in his mind” and vulnerably shares experiences of his obsessive-compulsive struggles. His own specific OCD is with “scrupulosity.” “Over and over I had tormenting fears that I would displease God in some terrible way,” viz. like actually being relieved he didn’t win, in 1978, the closest Boston Marathon in history to that point (His 2:10:15 finish was 2 seconds behind winner Bill Rodgers, and we who witnessed the event on TV just knew if the race could’ve been 20 yards further, there would have be a different winner that day!). “Relieved,” Wells recounts, because he was afraid—in his OCD’ness—that possibly he might’ve made a “Faustian deal with the devil.”
In 1978, I considered Wells my best friend and hero-in-the-faith. I didn’t meet Zane Hodges till the next year, but these two fellows were hands-down the most humble, dedicated believers I had ever met! That’s why I was in shock when Wells shared with me during that time some of his struggles and the obsessive, unwanted thoughts that kept recurring—and which he couldn’t get rid of!
Grace readers will especially appreciate that—much more than just an overly sensitive soul might have—Wells especially struggled with assurance issues:
Other thoughts and fears tormented me, but this was the worst one: from time to time, I would wonder if I was even saved.
In the late 70’s he shared this with me, and I couldn’t believe it because, as mentioned, Wells was the most humble, pure Christian I had ever seen! He goes on,
Maybe I had not really trusted Christ as Savior on that beach in Galveston on July 4th, 1972. Perhaps I just thought I had. Maybe I did not have ‘real faith’ or sufficient faith. What if I had not ‘done it right’? Now, this thought was terrorizing!
He would meditate on verses all good free-grace people use: “I would go over verses in the Bible that promised salvation to all who believe” (p. 10; see also pp. 69-73). The verses he cites are all in John (1:12; 3:16; 5:24), except for Eph 2:8-9. He shows that doubting whether he’d really believed was a symptom of OCD, not a Biblical concern. His OCD led him to fret, “Had I done this right?…Did I have genuine faith?” adding,
In my healthier moments, I knew I was a Christian. I knew that I was trusting Christ as My Savior and that He had saved me… But still, how could I be sure that I had really trusted Christ? What if I hadn’t? What if? What if? This thought would torment me over, and over, and over.
“Normal” people could put it to rest. Wells couldn’t. His disorder wouldn’t let him.
Eventually, after a few weeks, the thoughts would die down, but new obsessive thoughts on other issues would take their place. Wells says that for years, in effect, though suffering very deeply—and in ways that affected his wife and family—he put Band-Aids on his disorder. He never faced it head-on. But then things came to a head.
In the meantime, Wells had gone on to plant one of the largest and most successful churches in the country, Woods Edge Community Church in the Woodlands, TX. But on May 2011, at age 57, his OCD spiraled out of control. “I felt overwhelming fear and hopelessness. At that point, I had no choice. I had to talk about it. I had to get help. I was desperate” (p. 96).
He describes how his OCD had worsened in recent months, and he was under more stress than usual. Though on a vacation, his anguish was intense, and prayer, walks, and Bible verses alone weren’t helping. Every waking moment he felt his brain would explode. “My pain was so great I feared I might commit suicide… I didn’t want to, but the fear crept in that I might. I couldn’t pray and reason myself out of these tormenting thoughts, but I felt like I was drowning in quicksand and I might not survive” (p. 97).
Beside the mental pain, he had a racing anxiety in his chest, a scary new sensation that even made it difficult to breathe—panic attacks.
They immediately contacted a psychiatrist at their church. He prescribed some meds that brought instant relief. I hope you’ll read the rest for yourself, because Wells presents the most balanced—and personal—treatment on the discussion of medicine, therapy, and bringing all of God’s resources to bear in dealing with mental health issues that I’ve ever read.
In the first third of the book, he defines OCD, discusses the various ‘types’ (checkers, washers, hoarders, overly-scrupulous, etc.), examples, causes (giving the latest, best neuro-science on the subject—the chemicals and parts of the brain involved), and faulty thinking about the disorder.
But it’s the next two-thirds that will bless you! “How Can I Overcome OCD?” Chapters include: Depend Upon God; See Yourself As God Sees You; Soak In God’s Word; Immerse Yourself In God’s Love; Rest In The Cross; Do Not Battle Alone; Surrender; Commit To Prayer. Each chapter is filled with excellent and appropriate Scriptures, expounded by one of the godliest hearts I know; and each filled with lively, touching examples.
For those with true OCD disorder, you’ll find chapter 12, “Do Not Battle Alone,” a page-turner and affirmation of the role medicines, therapy, and friends can play.
Yes, there are good psychiatrists out there, like Wells’s friend, Peter Johnson, who says, “If you rely on therapy, you will get what therapy can do. If you rely on talking, you will get what talking can do. If you rely on medicine, you will get what medicine can do. And God might use these things. But when you rely on prayer, you get what God can do” (p. 110).
I highly recommend this book.
Believers Bible Church