Intrusive Thoughts

Discussion in 'Spiritual Warfare' started by Shanny01, Feb 22, 2018.

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  1. Shanny01

    Shanny01 Puritan Board Freshman

    Early in my Christian walk, for several months, I was beset with agonizing lack of assurance as to my salvation. Frankly it was quite a depressing time as I tried to look past the various sinful thoughts that came out of my heart (in an OCD type blasphemous fashion) to Christ as the whole author and perfecter of my faith who had accomplished the righteousness I could not. Thankfully God in his providence delivered me out of such a depressing time. Fast forward 3 years to today and my comprehension of the Christian religion has much enlarged on finding and settling deep within the wells of Puritan and Reformed/Baptist theology. My desire to love God and neighbor much increasing in this time. However the past few days in particular have been troubling. Lately, I've not been able to do many things without feeling an acute sense of sinning in thought and motivation (i.e. reading theology and feeling anxiety/worry that I'm prideful and reading only so I may be made much of). I find that my mind sets on these things and its hard to give up these thoughts. Last night was an obsessing thought I had was like an accusation but ran like "you aren't really repentent and faithful and therefore are not saved". This thought train in particular made me incredibly worried and almost sick to my stomach to hear. The reality that I've been trying to remember is that it is Christ's righteousness that is my only hope, and that of Romans 7 in that all of my life will be vexed by sinful inclinations in even the best of my works.

    All to say that advice and prayers would be appreciated.
    Thank you!
  2. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    I understand your plight, Adam.....I get caught up in the same. You are on the right track in remembering what God has said. The truth is this: we are probably guilty of everything for we are accused, but we have a good, perfect, and faithful savior; one who intercedes on our behalf, day and night! Prayers for you.
  3. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi, Adam.
    I go through patches of the same thoughts. Jeremiah 17:9 has been particularly distressing to me at times.

    Some of the puritan books, like DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE by THOMAS WATSON, can make you become really introspective in an unhealthy way, by trying to determine whether you in fact did fulfill all the criteria for true repentance. These are good books, but just as a medical textbook gives you the perfect picture of an illness (which in real life you will rarely encounter), they give you a deep and thoroughly thought-through idea of one of the aspects of the Christian life. Not all the parts are always readily discernible and not in equal clarity.

    Secondly, John Bunyan (as I'm sure you know) went through exactly the same trials that you are going through (ie intrusive thoughts). Check out his GRACE ABOUNDING autobiography (and if you want to listen to it, there's an excellent free audiobook on Librivox). The best (read: most encouraging) part of this book is the end where he lists the seven abominations he still notices in his heart up to that point. I mean, this is THE John Bunyan! Sin in his heart? NEVER! But still he mentions at the top of the list UNBELIEF.

    Thirdly, one puritan book that helped me a lot in terms of sin in thought and motivation (and doubting your salvation in the process), was THE POOR DOUBTING CHRISTIAN DRAWN TO Christ. Available here and slightly modernized here.

    Hope this helps.
  4. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I have had similar struggles. This hymn has been of tremendous comfort as I am exhorted to look on Christ, not my sin:

    Before the throne of God above
    I have a strong, a perfect plea;
    A great High Priest, whose Name is Love,
    Who ever lives and pleads for me.

    My name is graven on His hands,
    My name is written on His heart;
    I know that while with God He stands
    No tongue can bid me thence depart.

    When Satan tempts me to despair,
    And tells me of the guilt within,
    Upward I look, and see Him there
    Who made an end of all my sin.

    Because the sinless Savior died,
    My sinful soul is counted free;
    For God, the Just, is satisfied
    To look on Him and pardon me.

    Behold Him there, the risen Lamb!
    My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
    The great unchangeable I AM,
    The King of glory and of grace.

    One with Himself, I cannot die;
    My soul is purchased by His blood;
    My life is hid with Christ on high,
    With Christ, my Savior and my God
  5. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    You made someone sing halfway around the world...:)
  6. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I live in New Zealand so we are in the same Hemisphere :) Glad the hymn is a blessing as it has been to me.

    I think these two verses stand out (though the whole hymn is an encouragement)
    When Satan tempts me to despair,
    And tells me of the guilt within,
    Upward I look, and see Him there
    Who made an end of all my sin.

    Because the sinless Savior died,
    My sinful soul is counted free;
    For God, the Just, is satisfied
    To look on Him and pardon me.
  7. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    From my perspective, you are still a very young Christian. Personally, at 66 years old, for at least the past few years, by grace I have what I think is full assurance that I do truly belong to my loving Savior and fatherly God who has adopted into his family after paying for all my sins--past, present, and future. But, that said, of course, I still struggle with remaining corruption, the sin that will haunt me, and all of us, throughout all of our lives before our change comes. Full assurance or not, I have to spend much time each day confessing sin and crying out to God my only hope.

    Notice I said that assurance has come to me "the past few years." Consider therefore that I had 40 years of something less than full assurance. That's a pretty long time, and I hope with all my heart that you do not have to wait that long. But I do want to share that one plea that has helped me more than any other to have good hope of my salvation. You mentioned it in your post, but I am suggesting that it becomes more than one thought among many but the very theme of your life from now on. Oh Christ, oh God, thou art my only hope. Not my faith. Not my repentance which itself needs repenting of, but you Oh God are my only hope. Help me, for again I confess that with all that in me is, You are my only hope. In my experience, this plea is both honest on my part and seems to please God.

    I will pray for you in a few moments.

    God bless,


    In case you need a Scripture basis for God being your only hope, consider, among many other verses on hope, John 6:68 - Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
  8. Silas22

    Silas22 Puritan Board Freshman


    I hope you're starting to discover that you are not alone in this. I have battled intrusive thoughts/ocd nearly all my life. Sounds to me like you may be "pure O", or to put it simply-more obsessive than compulsive. I suffer from those same symptoms. Pure O's tend to worry about the worst thing imaginable/intrusive thoughts, which in your case seems to be assurance of salvation.

    My greatest advice to you is this: laugh them off. Refuse to be terrified by the thoughts you are having. The very fact that the thought is terrifying to you proves that you know it's false; intrusive thoughts are paradoxical. You worry about the worst because you are a good person. These thoughts terrify you because they are antithetical to who you are. Hope this helps!
  9. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that if you hate the sinful thoughts they are not your own. They are 'the fiery darts of the wicked one.' This has been a comfort to me. Even more Romans chapters 3,5 and 8. I have been justified by faith once and forever. Romans 8:1 confirms that. The precious blood of Christ cleanses us of all unrighteousness.
  10. Shanny01

    Shanny01 Puritan Board Freshman

    Sorry for taking so long to respond but I appreciate the responses and prayers! Resting on Christ alone, daily seeking the Word and prayer, and confessing sin is the only means through which to find joy and peace. The past couple days have been better and perhaps particularly helpful have been Thomas Watson's words from The Ten Commandments

    "The true Christian cannot keep God's law perfectly. "There is certainly no righteous man on the earth who does good and never sins." Eccl. 7:20. There is in the best actions of a godly man—that which is damnable—if God should weigh him in the balance of justice. Alas! He cannot pray without wandering, nor believe without doubting. "For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it." Romans 7:18. Paul, though a saint of the first magnitude, was better at desiring than at performing.

    The regenerate have a desire to obey God perfectly; but they lack strength; their obedience is weak and sickly. The mark they are to shoot at, is perfection of holiness. But though they take a right aim, and do what they can—they come short of the mark!

    A Christian, while serving God, is like the rower who plies the oar, and rows hard—but is hindered, for a gust of wind carries him back again! So says Paul, "For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do." Romans 7:19. "I am driven back by temptation!"

    God permits this inability in His people—to humble us. Man is a self-exalting creature; and if he has but anything of worth, he is ready to be puffed up! But when he comes to see his deficiencies and failings, and how far short he comes of that holiness and perfection which God requires—it pulls down the plumes of his pride, and lays them in the dust! He weeps over his inability! He blushes over his leprous spots! He says with Job, "I abhor myself in dust and ashes!"

    God allows this inability be upon us—that we may have recourse to Christ—to obtain pardon for our defects, and to sprinkle our best duties with His blood. When a man sees that he owes perfect obedience to the law—but has nothing to pay, it makes him flee to Christ, to answer for him all the demands of the law, and set him free in the court of Divine justice." Thomas Watson
  11. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    I think you would benefit from reading Dr Lloyd Jones’ book Spiritual Depression. One point he makes that is pertinent is , that with the Psalmist you must talk to yourself, and not allow self to talk to you. If you let self dominate the conversation then confusion will reign. See Ps 42 & 43.
  12. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    In the past I used to think that unless I was perfect in my motivation I thought The Lord was unpleased. Once one realizes no person this side of eternity will ever do something with a completely pure motivation that person will realize how much faith comes into play.

    II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
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  13. RBachman

    RBachman Puritan Board Freshman

    Brother, you are in the fray with a whole bunch of us. It may not be theologically sound, its just my opinion, but this problem may in fact be a big sign of your assurance.

    I find that these attacks often happen to me while praying. I started using Luther's little prayer guide as a basis for writing out my daily morning prayer. I now read it out loud every morning. I make changes frequently based on needs (you will be on it tomorrow for instance) and circumstances. But I find that reading it on my kindle keeps the distracting thoughts way down, and when they do happen that glowing screen brings me back quickly.

    I just find that Luther captured so much important stuff in his Lord's Prayer sample that it encourages me every day (except that this morning was a particularly rough prayer time with ugly thoughts like you experience), but God is faithful. I finished with a little extra repentance on my lips and more assurance of forgiveness in my heart. Here is a link, but you can find tons of places with the pdf. I just retyped it and use it, and edit it, as needed.
  14. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  15. Cedarbay

    Cedarbay Puritan Board Freshman

    Patrick, I had only to think how I'd like a copy of Luther's prayer guide, and here it is. I do appreciate your skill and willingness to provide easy access of so many resources.
  16. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Do you think Dr Lloyd-Jones was aware of the Welsh tendency to depression during the Rugby season. After all it must be a trial to the Welsh spirit to see the scorebord on a regular basis - All Blacks Win; Wales lost :) :)

    I could not resist dear brother:)

    Seriously it is a wonderful book that has been a blessing to multitudes of Christians including myself. You can also hear Dr Lloyd-Jones sermons (on which the book is based) online. You will find them a tremendous blessing to your soul.
  17. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    I listened to this sermon by MLJ a few nights ago and it was indeed a blessing to my soul. Despite being a believer for many years I could not come 'boldly to the throne of grace' without feelings that I am not worthy to approach it.
    MLJ addresses this exactly preaching on Hebrews 10:19-22.
    19Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21And having an high priest over the house of God; 22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
    MLJ's exposition changed my prayer life since hearing this sermon. Though I knew that I was justified, the 'evil conscience' wouldn't allow me the true heart in a full assurance. I've read this text many times but never saw that. MLJ's exposition made me realize that my heart is sprinkled from that evil conscience and that has made a world of difference.
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