Alien Righteousness and Difficult Diagnoses

Wayne and Brenda:

Thank you for coming to me after the diagnosis the doctor gave your little boy. My only exposure to the diagnosis your son was given is the Google search I did today. You said that people with this diagnosis have a higher incidence of depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder behavior. Here is a summary of some of the observations you made about your son:
  • He is extremely aware of religious matters.
  • He never lies, even if he is sure to receive punishment.
  • He even feels guilty when not necessary.
  • He has been continually mumbling prayers --telling Jesus that he loves Him.
  • He worries about people who are not Christians.
  • He is deeply bothered by statues, thinking he or others looking on may be guilty of idolatry.
  • He is afraid that he has sinned if he dreams about something evil, such as skeletons or haunted houses.
  • In spite of all the extreme sensitivity, he does not seem to mind his own
    disobedience, whining or losing self-control.
Of course you're not asking me for medical counsel. I would say the same thing if you told me your son had Myelomeningocele like my son Elijah. One of the things we do if we want to evaluate a problem (like OCD) biblically is to give it a biblical name. For instance, the psychological world has looked at lots of people with a traumatic past who manifest certain symptoms and has given them the label “PTSD.” Posttraumatic stress disorder is a real problem, but my trouble with secular labels is that they do not get to the heart of the problem. One of the few benefits I see in modern psychology is that psychologists see lots of problems and write very descriptively about them. While our diagnoses and worldview are poles apart, we have eyes to see the same thing. An evolutionist and a creationist both see the same rock, and so they can make the same observations. They simply come to different conclusions.

It is hard to offer hope for disorders from which the psychological world tells us we can never escape. I cannot find PTSD or OCD in my Bible, but I can find fear. We have a solution for that, don't we? Even if there were hard, fast, scientific proof for a biological predisposition to these conditions, you realize that all of us must take responsibility for our thinking and our words and our behavior. The death of Christ not only provided a rescue from eternal judgment, it provided a rescue from ourselves. A lot of Bible teachers call this progressive sanctification. Jesus saved his people. Jesus is saving his people. Jesus will save his people.

I do not want to minimize what you have observed in your little boy, but let me encourage you to be praising God that he's conscientious! The good thing is that you have a lot of years to catechize him. Here is some "homework" for you since the two of you are his primary counselors:
  1. Encourage the concern for others, but correct the notion that he can save others. Based on what I read in Romans 14 and other places, the sensitive conscience is to be trained, not trampled.
  2. Praise your son for having a concern for the lost, but show him that God is the only one who can do something about rescuing the lost. We are only beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. It is a good thing to develop a passion for lost people that results in evangelism and other ministry. It is also a good thing to embrace the sovereignty of God, to rest in the fact that our responsibility is to follow Christ, not save the world.
  3. Teach him that the righteousness God demands is an "alien" righteousness (something we cannot find in ourselves). There is no joy in a Christian life that is works-based. One paradox in following our Master is the coupling of intense cross-bearing and rest. I do not know if you have worked on a lot of Bible memory with your son, but I would start having him learn verses that teach us of a salvation that is all of God and not of us. You may have met people who go to churches that teach a works-based righteousness. So many of those poor souls believe that the cross of Christ only goes so far, and we have to pick up the slack. They live their lives hoping they have done enough to get to heaven. Unfortunately a lot of evangelicalism is doing something very similar. We do not pray enough. We do not give enough. We do not a witness to the lost enough. We do not go to church enough. (And have we ever found someone who does?) This is not grace. We talk more about the free will of man than the free will of God. Consequently, we behave more like children trying to find the favor of a parent rather than resting securely in the love of that parent and serving with that motivation.
  4. Memorize texts about the majesty and greatness of our God. I am learning more and more than our biggest problems lie between our ears. When our thoughts are centered on worship every other concern seems to fade in importance. When we become self-focused and self-absorbed the entire world shrinks to the size of our problems. Our God becomes small instead of sovereign. Some examples: Psalm 8; Psalm 30; Psalm 46; Romans 8:28-39; 11:33-36
  5. Memorize texts that promote love and trust and throw out fear. Some examples: Psalm 27:1; Philippians 4:8; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 4:18
  6. Read narratives from Scripture that contain stories of good and bad examples of dealing with fear. Some examples: Hagar when she was driven away, Joseph when so many people abused him, Moses when he had to stand before Pharaoh, Moses when he had to stand before God, King Jehoshaphat’s reaction to an invasion of Judah (this is one of my favorites: 2 Chronicles 20:5-13), King Saul’s fear of man and fear of losing his position, David while he was running from King Saul, Paul's letters that were written from prison (Philippians and 2 Timothy are books written when Paul did not know whether he would live or die)…
  7. There is a workbook called The Fear Factor: What Satan Doesn't Want You to Know by Wayne and Josh Mack that would be good for you and your husband to study on your own. It is too much for a little kid, but it is a Bible study worth the work. Tools like this help us so we can help others.

What a privilege to be charged by God with the task of training warriors for the King! No diagnosis can limit the power God effects through his people.


  1. Excellent advice, we so often get trapped into believing what the world wants to tell us can be done to help our loved ones with mental problems.

    Also very encouraging that you posted without my goading :)

    In Him

  2. You should read "Respectable Sins" by Jerry Bridges. A very good read that should make all believers think about some of the sins they are committing daily without giving them a thought.

    In Him

  3. Appreciate your mentioning PTSD- this is a fear-based reaction that can be overcome through a great deal of prayer and meditating on scriptures but this is not the answer that "professionals" offer preferring to dwell on the past instead of moving forward to today.


What do you think?