He didn’t know what to do. He loved his wife Lisa so much but her behaviour was becoming more and more erratic each passing day. What to do when the one you love more than anything becomes impossible to live with? What had gone wrong? Why had she become so deranged and confused?
Years before, Lisa was a nurse in an emergency room hospital in a large town in the US Midwest. It was her first job right out of nursing school. She quickly became immersed in it, having to deal with all sorts of patients with all sorts of ailments.
It seemed as if she had seen it all in a very short time: shooting and stabbing victims, people mangled in car accidents, domestic abuse wounds, broken bones, cuts and lacerations, accidental poisonings and the ongoing parade of the chronically ill all made their way into her emergency room.
One evening a man came in with an unusual and unrecognised ailment. He wasn’t all that old but his breathing had become very shallow and it just seemed he was fading away. No one had a diagnosis. They kept running tests to find out what was wrong but each came back negative. All the while his condition deteriorated.
As a last-ditch effort to save the man’s life, the young doctor on duty instructed Lisa to administer some medication intravenously. She followed the doctor’s instructions. As she stepped out of the room for a moment, the man went code blue. He never regained consciousness and shortly after quietly succumbed to his mysterious ailment and died.
Lisa took it very hard that she was unable to save the man’s life. She slipped out and found a place to cry privately. She had never lost a patient before.
Later that evening other nurses and technicians started to speculate whether the meds Lisa had given were the best choice based on his condition. Finally it was determined that the doctor had made a poor diagnosis and had really prescribed a lethal dose that in all likelihood had killed the man.
Lisa was horrified. Instead of helping she had actually killed the man through administering what the doctor ordered. As the months and years rolled by, this incident would play in her mind over and over. She believed she had killed a man. She would never ever let that happen again. It wasn’t long after this that Lisa stepped away from the medical profession.
A few years later she married a wonderful young man. At first the marriage seemed delightful. They loved each other. They went to church. They professed Christ as Lord and Saviour of their lives. They were surrounded by great friends and family. They had their whole lives together in front of them. The future looked bright.
However, as time went by, Lisa’s husband began noticing some unusual things about her. She seemed to be overly concerned about her interaction with people. In some ways it seemed that she couldn’t just drop things she was concerned about. She would worry if there was something she might have said or done that could have hurt others.
He noticed that she was constantly washing her hands and applying lotion to them because they had become almost raw from washing.
She would ask him strange, almost irrational questions about their friends and family. She seemed to be obsessed with the concern that somehow, someway her actions were causing harm to others. It was becoming clear that Lisa was dealing with OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
As her husband met with his pastor, he explained what was going on behind the scenes in his house. The pastor tried to console him but he was beside himself. Through his tears he relayed that things were getting out of hand. Lisa was slipping into a world of irrationality.
What was he supposed to do? Nothing seemed to help. If he brought up her obsessions she would just deny things and become angry and bitter. Their marriage was in trouble. He had not bargained for this. He feared that he was losing his wife as she was slowly slipping into a world of uncontrollable paranoia and irrational behaviour.
He explained to his pastor that he and Lisa had met with a psychologist. However, instead of helping, the psychologist had only made things worse by giving a label to Lisa’s condition. The psychologist made all sorts of technical claims as to the root causes for her condition but was really no help at all. Now she seemed even more obsessed with the fact that she was dealing with her obsessions. Now that it had a name, she could justify her behaviour.
The pastor suggested that they meet a couple in the church who were experienced and well-trained biblical counsellors. Her husband approached Lisa with the idea but she was reluctant. Eventually she agreed and they began working through her issues with the counsellors. They were able to trace her erratic behaviour right back to the incident in the hospital where the man had died through Lisa’s efforts to save him.
In her mind it was her fault and she could not get over it. The counsellors pointed out to her the reality that whatever had happened had not been her fault. They explained to her that if God is sovereign over all things including this incident, then there was really nothing different she could have done. The whole matter was clearly in God’s hands and not hers.
The counsellors encouraged Lisa with the biblical truth that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”.
They explained that even though a horrible thing had taken place, God was still in control and had allowed it to take place for His purposes. They explained that not only was God in control of all things, but He is loving and good and is ultimately out to bless and help her.
All Lisa really needed to know was how much God loved her and how much God wanted to help her through putting away these obsessions. It was the knowledge of God’s perfect love for her that would cast off all her fears and anxieties. All she needed to do was to trust Him with her life and future.
The tears poured out as she heard these things. Could she really be set free from all this just through trusting God? They prayed together and asked God to help her.
Soon and with continued help from her pastor and counsellors, Lisa began to turn away from her dysfunctionality. Her bouts of obsession became fewer and further between. All the while her husband remained by her side as he had promised on their wedding day: “In sickness and in health.”
Happy ever after
Today Lisa and her family are doing very well. Every now and then those old thoughts creep back but she has learned to make every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Through trusting God she now sees how richly He has blessed her, and she now knows with certainty that her future is safe and secure with Him.
– Reverend Bradley S. Belcher is the senior pastor with the International Baptist Church of Budapest, www.ibcbudapest.org. Should you have a question or comment regarding this column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.