Learning How to Rest

Some of the most difficult times for me are the times in which I’m not busy. Sundays and right after the end of a busy term are especially difficult. It doesn’t make sense really. Times of rest should be renewing and refreshing times. I have had times when I think, “It’ll be great when I finish this term and have some more free time on my hands.” But when all the exams are graded and the paperwork is handed in, I’m left thinking, “Now what?” It is at those times when negative thoughts assault me. I begin thinking, “I should go out and start evangelizing. There are lots of unsaved people around me.” That begins a time of introspection and questioning: “Is this from God? Is the Holy Spirit leading me to do this?” It seems like a good thing to do—sharing Jesus with people that don’t know Him—but it’s incredibly burdensome and troubling. If I say to myself, “No, I won’t do this,” then I feel guilty and the accusations of the enemy strike me like flaming arrows.

I share these kinds of thoughts with my wife, mature Christian friends, ministers, elders, and others, and none of them think that these thoughts come from God. This past week I spent two hours praying with a minister about these and related issues. Afterward, I felt like I was able to rest more in not acting on these thoughts. I was reminded that serving, sharing, evangelizing are as a result of one’s loving and secure relationship with God. They are based out of an identity that is rooted in Him and filled with His Spirit. Doing so because I have to is not a proper biblical motivation.

It’s unfortunate that I have to deal with this almost every holiday, day off, or break from school. When will I learn? When can I get over this? I guess these struggles are my lot. Maybe I will deal with them until the day I die. However, I take comfort in knowing that others deal with the same thing.

“For the love of Christ controls us…” 2 Corinthians 5:14 NASB

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:2 NASB


Relationship OCD (ROCD)

What is relationship OCD (ROCD)? Do you have it?

Two case studies

Mark is 28-years-old and constantly questions his relationship with Stacey. On dates, he continually examines himself to see how he is feeling toward Stacey. He gets very anxious when he realizes that his feelings are not as intense as he thinks they should be. “Am I with the wrong person? If she’s THE ONE, would I be feeling like this?

Julie is 35 and has a strong desire to get married and have a family, but she finds herself obsessing over the perceived flaws she finds in the guys she dates. Charles is a great guy but one thing really stands out—his big ears. Every time Julie and Charles are together, Julie can’t stop noticing Charles’ ears. This constant observation causes her to lose interest in Charles. But deep inside, she continues to doubt herself, deeply torn over her desire to marry and the perceived “flaws” in Charles.

The obsessions and compulsions of ROCD

These two individuals likely have a form of relationship OCD. What is “relationship OCD” or ROCD? It is basically obsessive-compulsive disorder that has worked its way into a relationship. Those who deal with it are often preoccupied with their partner’s flaws, or internally doubting their feelings. This preoccupation causes anxiety, and they may reason within themselves, “Maybe I’m with the wrong person. It would be terrible to end up with the wrong person. I’m going to have to break up with him or her.” They seek to reduce or get rid of the anxiety through some sort of compulsion. In ROCD, these compulsions often a constant checking of internal feelings or comparisons with other people. For some people, ending a relationship or avoiding relationships in the first place are also methods of dealing with this anxiety.

ROCD clearly diminishes the quality and enjoyment of relationships. Instead of joy, there is anxiety; instead of fun, there is questioning and doubt. It can affect new relationships as well as old one. Married people are no more immune than singles. In some ways, Christians or others who believe in marrying for life have the added pressure of trying to make sure they are with the right one.

A measurement tool

One thing that is not so clear is, when do normal questions or doubts about a relationship cross over into OCD? Normal, healthy people certainly have doubts, fears, and anxieties about relationships at times. They know how they feel about someone and will at some point take note of his or her good and bad qualities. In addition, many people fear commitment and are labeled as “too picky.” Regarding this question, it’s worth mentioning that it relates to other forms of OCD as well. Does checking to make sure that you locked your door mean you have OCD? How about washing your hands twice? The difference is that clinical OCD and its anxieties are more intense, more distressing, and more constant than those of an otherwise healthy person. In many cases, this diagnosis needs to be made by a licensed professional. In recent years, a couple of measures have been created by psychologists called the Relationship Obsessive Compulsive Inventory (ROCI) and the Partner Related Obsessive Compulsive Symptom Inventory (PROCSI) (Doron, G., Derby, D., Szepsenwol. O., & Talmor. D. (2012)) which can be downloaded here.

Further reading

I’m indebted to the folks at ROCD.net—and in particular Dr. Guy Doron, Dr. Danny Derby, and Dr. Ohad Szepsenwol—for providing a greater understanding of this type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. They’ve written a helpful scholarly article called “ROCD: A Conceptual Framework” which, I might add, requires some patience and fortitude to understand and get through. Their site has a lot of good posts on ROCD and a poll about what you obsess most about your partner. However, this site may be a bit too academic for some.

A couple of other alternatives are the OCD Center of Los Angeles, which has a good article with hundreds of comments. The folks at www.relationshipocd.com keep a blog, provide a recovery course, have a book for sale, and offer life coaching. If you’re wanting to understand OCD in general, check out this post.

Apps for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

As you are probably aware, cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) is a research-backed way to deal with anxiety, OCD, and other negative emotions. Today, I became aware of a few apps which allow you to record your thoughts and do basic CBT on your device. I have a journal app on my phone (DayOne) but it’s not ideal for recording CBT thoughts. There are quite a few apps on mental health out there, so I tried to narrow down the pack and only list the best apps which allow you to do CBT by yourself.

CBT Thought Record Diary (iOS / Android)

Functionally, it serves its purpose in providing a way to record thoughts You can include a title, label the emotion, rank the intensity of the emotion, describe the situation, write the negative thoughts you had about the situation, label the cognitive distortion, challenge the negative thought, write the outcome, and again rank the intensity.

The downside of this app is that it very minimalist. It doesn’t include a password feature (for iOS anyway) so that anyone with access to your device can open and view your thoughts. In addition, it doesn’t sync to an online cloud, so if you lose your device, you have lost your records. I don’t see any way to export or send your thought record in case you wanted a backup. It’s free in the Apple store.

Pacifica (iOS / Android)

The next app, Pacifica, has a large user-base and is much more feature-rich. You can keep an eye on your sleep and exercise habits, be guided through breathing and meditation exercises, interact in groups and communities, journal thoughts, and keep track of your mood. The free version is very limited so you’ll need to pay $5.99 month by month or $35.99 per year (which equals $2.99 per month). There are pretty good reviews of the app here and here. I don’t personally use this one because I don’t need all of the features.

iCouch CBT (iOS / Android)

There aren’t a lot of users using this app, but it’s got a decent rating and is also minimalist. It functions as a thought journal with the standard features of being able to label emotions, rank intensity, evaluate, select distortions, etc. There is also the ability to integrate with iCloud. It costs $2.99 in the Apple store. There are some screenshots here which will give you an idea of how it’s used.

Moodnotes – Thought Journal / Mood Diary (iOS)

This is my current choice for a thought journal. It costs $3.99 in the Apple store and is simple to use. It is made by the same company that makes the popular Moodkit (Thriveport, LLC). You have the ability to password protect the app and it syncs with iCloud. In the CBT process, you answer the question, “What’s happening at the moment?” You then select a feeling and its intensity, describe the thought, identify distortions (called “thinking traps”), rethink the thought, and reassess feelings and intensity (all CBT stuff). It currently has high ratings of 9/10 on AppAdvice.com and 5/5 in the Apple store.

If you have found some other apps which you think I should list here, or would like me to make corrections, please message me.

Some Notes Concerning Scruples

My preferred translation of The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius1 is divided into 370 short “points” or “divisions”2. The book offers some gems in the areas of dealing with scruples, scrupulosity, and decision making. Points 345-351 make up a section devoted to scruples. The section heading is: The Following Notes Help to Perceive and Understand Scruples and Persuasions of Our Enemy


While neither a Jesuit nor possessing a knowledge of Latin3, here is my take at a commentary of the English translation of this section.

  1. The first: They commonly call a scruple what proceeds from our own judgment and freedom: that is to say, when I freely decide that that is sin which is not sin, as when it happens that after some one has accidentally stepped on a cross of straw, he decides with his own judgment that he has sinned. This is properly an erroneous judgment and not a real scruple.

This point deals with what a scruple is not. A scruple is not the same thing as an error of judgment. If you step on a two pieces of straw in the form of a cross and conclude that it is a sin, then this is an error of judgment—not a scruple.

  1. The second: After I have stepped on that cross, or after I have thought or said or done some other thing, there comes to me a thought from without that I have sinned, and on the other hand it appears to me that I have not sinned; still I feel disturbance in this; that is to say, in as much as I doubt and in as much as I do not doubt.That is a real scruple and temptation which the enemy sets.

An actual scruple is something which involves an anxious, doubting question of right and wrong. This is a temptation from the enemy. (I would assume that the case in 346 does not involve such anxiety and doubt. The conclusion drawn is with the confidence that such an action is a sin.)

  1. Third: The first scruple—of the first note—is much to be abhorred, because it is all error; but the second—of the second note—for some space of time is of no little profit to the soul which is giving itself to spiritual exercises; rather in great manner it purifies and cleanses such a soul, separating it much from all appearance of sin: according to that saying of Gregory: “It belongs to good minds to see a fault where there is no fault.”

The thing spoken of as a “scruple” in the first note is not a scruple. It is an error of judgment and as such must be abhorred. It’s a horrible thing when someone calls a thing a sin when there is no sin.

However, the scruple in the second rule may be advantageous for a devout person. It can function to purify and cleanse. If one flees from such small things, he or she is avoiding “even the appearance of sin.” He or she will seek to wipe out even the smallest sins. This is a good thing. St. Gregory is quoted as saying that a devout person sees a fault where there is none. But doesn’t this contradict what Ignatius just said—that seeing sin where there is no sin is an error of judgment which should be abhorred? I take this to mean that a devout person is extremely sensitive to sin.

From a biblical perspective, one has to be careful here. In Romans 14, Paul says that the one with stronger faith has less issues of conscience concerning what he or she eats. The point I draw is that it is good to be sensitive to true sin. However, the enemy will tempt us to feel guilty about perceived sin which is not sin at all.

  1. The fourth: The enemy looks much if a soul is gross or delicate, and if it is delicate, he tries to make it more delicate in the extreme, to disturb and embarrass it more. For instance, if he sees that a soul does not consent to either mortal sin or venial or any appearance of deliberate sin, then the enemy, when he cannot make it fall into a thing that appears sin, aims at making it make out sin where there is not sin, as in a word or very small thought.If the soul is gross, the enemy tries to make it more gross; for instance, if before it made no account of venial sins, he will try to have it make little account of mortal sins, and if before it made some account, he will try to have it now make much less or none.

The enemy is crafty and will study one’s constitution. He will play on our weaknesses. If one already has a sensitive conscience, he will seek to make it excessively so. This is so that the person will think he has sinned when he has not sinned. This will result in guilt. On the other hand, if one’s conscience is not very sensitive, the enemy will try to get him to make light of sin, causing him to not take sin seriously.

In a word, to the sensitive conscience he will make hypersensitive and thus guilty; to the insensitive conscience he will try to bring about insensitivity to sin.

  1. The fifth: The soul which desires to benefit itself in the spiritual life, ought always to proceed the contrary way to what the enemy proceeds; that is to say, if the enemy wants to make the soul gross, let it aim at making itself delicate. Likewise, if the enemy tries to draw it out to extreme fineness, let the soul try to establish itself in the mean, in order to quiet itself in everything.

Making progress means always resisting the enemy. If our conscience is lax and careless, we should try to make it more sensitive. If it is too delicate which leads one to extremes, he or she must endeavor to go be firm in going the moderate way. This leads to peace.

  1. The sixth: When such good soul wants to speak or do something within the Church, within the understanding of our Superiors, and which should be for the glory of God our Lord, and there comes to him a thought or temptation from without that he should neither say nor do that thing—bringing to him apparent reasons of vainglory or of another thing, etc.,—then he ought to raise his understanding to his Creator and Lord, and if he sees that it is His due service, or at the least not contrary to it, he ought to act diametrically against such temptation, according to St. Bernard, answering the same: “Neither for thee did I begin, nor for thee will I stop.”

The enemy may play on one’s scruples and get in the way of someone who thinks he should say or do a certain thing. The scrupulous person may question his motives, saying, “Maybe this is out of vainglory.” If faced with such temptation to doubt to do the thing in mind, he should act directly opposite the temptation.

These things are “not contrary to the spirit of the Church or the mind of superiors.” There’s no reason to question the idea if it’s not against the church or spiritual leadership.


I personally find it encouraging to know that many saints dealt with scruples in the history of the church. St. Ignatius tries to be a help to his community4 with these notes and rules. While we learn about scruples, we also grow in our awareness of ourselves and of the enemy’s tactics.

  1.  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, A New Translation Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph, Ludovico J. Puhl, S.J., Loyola Press, Chicago, IL 
  2. it was originally written in Latin[/note] 
  3. It was written in the sixteenth century and is organized very differently from contemporary books. 
  4. He is the founder of the Society of Jesus (a.k.a. the Jesuits) 

OCD and Transitions

One of benefits of being a teacher is having long summer holidays. However, this also means the dreaded back to school period. And this means stress. The first week of school this fall term was rough for me. It wasn’t the new students, paperwork, planning, classroom management, or anything “normal”; it was the re-emergence of OCD and scrupulosity issues brought on by the stress of the transition.

I have learned to be more vigilent during times of transition. These are times when OCD can be the worst. Where there are times of instability and change—moving, changing jobs, starting/leaving a relationship—OCD seems to intensify. Unfortunately, knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. I consider myself experienced in dealing with OCD, and yet these past couple of weeks have not been easy.

Why do transitions and OCD often go together? I think it’s because stress and anxiety are closely linked. But not all types of stress. You experience physical stress from running a marathon, but this doesn’t necessarily increase your anxiety. The kind of stress closely linked with OCD seems to be phychological stress—things weighing on your mind. When you relocate, get a new job, or start a new relationships, you’ll most likely have new concerns: will I find friends here? Will I get along with my co-workers? Will I be able to handle the workload? And so on.

I remember when a youth minister told me that vacations were the hardest times for him. “Vacations?” I wondered. Aren’t those supposed to be relaxing times? He said that when it was time to come home, he finally felt like he was beginning to enjoy his vacation. I don’t think this minister has OCD, but I can sympathize with his comment. It takes time to transition. Transition involves adjustment. And sometimes the only thing you can do during such times is to hold on. Things will almost certainly get better.

How about you? How have transitions been for you?

[Image credit: “Transitions” by Arjan Almekinders on flickr]

Scrupulosity Help and Support

Resources for those needing help with scrupulosity.

Are you a Christian in need of OCD or scrupulosity help? Here are some resources:

Counseling and coaching resources:

  1. Apostolic Christian Counseling and Family Services
  2. Renewal: Christian Treatment and Recovery
  3. Coaching with Dr. Ian Osborn

What you should know:

You should be aware that there are two proven ways that OCD is treated: medication and ERP1. These have been written about extensively and other sufferers will confirm their effectiveness.

What not to do:

Many of us with OCD search the web to read and seek assurance from articles, books, etc. This can be dangerous. Seeking reassurance can be a compulsion in itself, and compulsions are best resisted.

If you’re new to OCD and/or scrupulosity, it’s wise to reach out and get help from others. One reason is that often the ways that we think we should deal with OCD can be the most harmful. Therapy is often counter-intuitive. Find someone who can inform you, guide you, and/or prescribe medication. Family practitioners are aware of anxiety issues and are able to prescribe medication. They may not be as adept at ERP or CBT[note]cognitive behavioral therapy[/note].

Unhelpful “help”

In getting help, please note that friends, family, and pastors often give poor advice. It’s common to hear oversimplified suggestions such as “just pray about it.” Some may tell you that God will heal you. God can and does heal, but He hasn’t healed all of us (yet). Read my post about the elders praying over me.

Get in contact

If you’re suffering and truly stuck, feel free to contact me. However, know that all I can do is to try to point you in the right direction. I will certainly not be able to cure you or provide professional support. I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist. What I do have is 10-plus years of good and bad experience in dealing with it.

Feel free to leave other tips, suggestions, or links in the comment section below.


  1. exposure and response prevention 

Book Review of Found: God’s Peace by John MacArthur


I just finished a little book about peace and anxiety by John MacArthur called Found: God’s Peace — Experience True Freedom from Anxiety in Every Circumstance. It was originally published in 1993 and re-published in 2015 by David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Contents and Notes

The content is derived from another of MacArthur’s books called Anxious for Nothing. Like most things that MacArthur writes, it’s biblical.

He writes that God doesn’t want us to have anxiety, and that all form of worry are sin. The primary means of avoiding anxiety is through prayer (Phil. 4). We are also to think about the qualities listed in Phil. 4:8.

Peter was a worrier who told us to cast our fears on God (1 Pet. 5:5-7). This involves humility and an understanding of our identity in Him. If we know that He cares for us, we can trust Him. As we humble ourselves before Him, He will lift us up in due time.

God’s peace is not dependent on circumstances; it’s a supernatural gift. One thing we must do is to turn away from sin as sin is often a cause of the anxiety. We must also live a righteous life according to the Word.

In the last section of the book, MacArthur briefly comments on 31 different psalms which are a help to the anxious.


All in all, it’s a quick read and helped me to turn my eyes toward God. There is nothing particularly new, nor does their need to be. I appreciate MacArthur’s biblical approach.

I’m encouraged to have my identity rooted more firmly in Him and not to doubt His goodness or my position in Him.

May we all experience more of God’s peace!