Why self-punishment is not the solution to unbearable emotional pain
Five to fifteen minutes a day. Routinely cutting herself. Watching herself bleed. “Reese” is a young woman who shared how she engaged in self-punishment, as if controlling the onset of fleeting physical pain would temporarily soothe all that was hurting her emotionally and psychologically.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT SELF-HARM?
Recently, I’ve come to learn of the growing number of young people who are engaging in self-harm or self-punishment such as cutting or burning themselves.
Several studies that point towards an alarming statistic: about 1 in 5 adolescents have admitted to harming themselves in an effort to ease emotional pain.
Some admit to it anonymously on Reddit, openly discussing why they resort to cutting or hurting themselves, while some feel the need to reach out and ask for help.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT TROUBLES?
I wish I could speak to Reese at that very moment when she is compelled to injure herself. When it comes to troubles in the Bible, we learn:
“But man is born to have trouble, as sure as sparks fly up from a fire. …if I were you, I would turn to God and tell him about my problems.” – Job 5:7-8 ETRV
If Reese would trade self-punishment for prayer, she could experience the deliverance of the Lord God. After all, He is the one who invites us to turn to Him in times of trouble.
Call to me when trouble comes; I will save you, and you will praise me.” – Psalms 50: 15 TEV
Drawing closer to the Lord is so important, especially if we understand how man’s life became fraught with troubles in the first place:
“The people have defiled the earth by breaking God’s laws and by violating the covenant he made to last forever. So God has pronounced a curse on the earth. Its people are paying for what they have done. Fewer and fewer remain alive.”- Isaiah. 24:5-6 GNB.
Why are so many people sad, distressed, grieving, or lonely? And among those, why do millions fall into depression? Man’s life is so full of problems and worries due to his disobedience. Sometimes the pressure is too much, and people like Reese begin to lose hope.
IS SELF-HARM AN ACCEPTABLE OUTLET?
But is self-harm an acceptable outlet? As seen in the above post, overcoming self-harm is something that individuals, as young as twelve, are struggling with. Is it really something that we should inflict on ourselves? There’s one thing that we should understand about our bodies:
“Don’t you know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit is in you. You have received him from God. You do not belong to yourselves. Christ has paid the price for you. So use your bodies in a way that honors God.” – I Corinthians 6:19-20 NIRV
Our body is what we use to serve our Lord God, and no matter how distraught we may be, we need to preserve it, and more importantly, preserve our lives.
And it may help us to remember that, although troubles per se cannot be avoided, due to the curse that God has inflicted upon man’s life, He finds no joy in seeing us suffer.
“The Lord knows when our spirits are crushed in prison; He takes no pleasure in causing us grief or pain.” – Lamentations 3:34 & 33 TEV
The Lord knows when “our spirits are crushed,” so we should place our hope and trust in Him. Even though we may feel isolated and as if no one cares, the Lord God knows exactly how we feel. He does not enjoy seeing us in pain.
TO WHOM DO WE TURN?
So instead of resorting to self-punishment, we should pray to God:
“I am insignificant and despised, but I don’t forget your commandments. Your justice is eternal, and your instructions are perfectly true. As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands. Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live. I pray with all my heart; answer me, LORD! I will obey your decrees. I cry out to you; rescue me, that I may obey your laws. I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words.” – Psalms 119:141-147 NLT
HOW DO WE DEAL WITH OUR GUILT?
Still, sometimes I hear about young people who are overcome with guilt after they hurt themselves (as seen above). They ask, “How do I get these thoughts out of my head?” and “Why would God still love me after this?” Well, we can read from the Bible:
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18 NKJV
When we are down in the dumps, when we are at our worst, we need to cry out to God.
WILL GOD REALLY SAVE US?
What if we have already tried prayer? Sometimes I’ll hear a young person say “I pray, but the thoughts come back — what do I do?” Well, this is what the Bible says:
“We want to remind you, brothers, of the trouble we had in the province of Asia. The burdens laid upon us were so great and so heavy that we gave up all hope of staying alive. We felt that the death sentence had been passed on us. But this happened so that we should rely, not on ourselves, but only on God, who raises the dead. From such terrible dangers of death he saved us, and will save us; and we have placed our hope in him that he will save us again.” – II Corinthians 1:8-10 TEV
God will save His people as many times as we need saving. Before we do anything negative or harmful to our body and life, which we should use primarily to serve Him, we should let go of all the guilt and unbearable emotional pain we’re feeling and hand it over to Him.
However, the deliverance that the Almighty God promises is reserved for those whom He has given to our Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:9 NKJV), whom in turn Christ recognizes as His sheep gathered in one flock (John 10:16 NKJV)— the flock being the Church Of Christ, according to the Apostles (Acts 20:28 Lamsa).
This blog was written by Donald Pinnock, a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ. He has been an ordained minister for over 27 years. He hosts the show The Solution, where he helps individuals find solutions to life’s problems using only the Bible.