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Series 2 - Bible Answers for...

Hello, friends, and welcome! Perhaps you've found this lesson by searching for answers on a sad and complex subject known as self-injury, self-harm or self-injurious behavior. This lesson will give you insight into the biblical perspective on self-injury, some answers you've been searching for and valuable encouragement. We hope and pray that this lesson plus follow-up study will give you the clarity, desire, incentive and motivation to stop harming yourself or not start self-injury in the first place.

Self-injury can be defined as intentional injury to one's own body that causes tissue damage or leaves marks for more than a few minutes, usually done to cope with an overwhelming or distressing situation.

With self-injury, most people think only of external injuries, such as cutting, biting, piercing, hitting or burning oneself. However, some people injure themselves internally with such things as chemicals, drug overdoses and eating disorders.

You may already be addicted to harming yourself physically, and we sincerely hope that this lesson, plus recommended resources, will help you conquer the challenge with your addiction. We do recommend that you seek professional counseling, but even more important is your need for God's guidance and help to start and continue the road to recovery. Our attitude toward people with any kind of addiction is sympathetic, not condemning. We desire to help.

Whether or not you are personally dealing with self-injury, you may know someone who is having problems with it. This lesson may help you to help others.

Lesson: Self-Injury—Understanding and Overcoming It

Bible Study - Self-Injury—Understanding and Overcoming ItThis lesson briefly addresses three issues—understanding self-injury, how God can help you, and how to get help and support from others. It will also point the way to good relationships with God and the people you love.

Scott Hoefker, a professional religious counselor in Omaha, Nebraska, shares this personal experience:

"Several years ago I was a member of a local fire department in a town in southern Wisconsin. One evening we responded to a residence where several teens had been partying, and one had been severely injured due to self-injury... I will never forget the emotional gamut that I went through being one of the first to arrive on the scene and view what a young girl had done to herself... I began to ask myself, 'Why would anyone do this to himself or herself?'

"You see, contrary to popular belief, people who harm themselves are generally not trying to commit suicide...but the reason for the injury became clearer as I began to understand why people feel this release is needed."

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The Epidemic Increase in Self-Injury

The numbers are staggering! It is estimated that more than 2 million people in the United States are self-injurers as they try to cope with being or feeling overwhelmed. The actual numbers are undoubtedly much larger because most acts go unreported.

Self-injurious behavior often starts in youth and appears to be more common in females than males. Experts suggest that this could be perhaps because males are more easily able to express emotions such as anger in an outward way or take it out on others. And males may be more likely to harm themselves in ways that are easier to hide or explain away.

Other self-injurious behaviors can be the result of cultural or religious influences:

(Religious asceticism—self-punishment or extreme ritual self-denial—is not biblical and is against God's will. The apostle Paul addressed asceticism in Colossians 2:21-23.)

What is the basic issue with self-injury?

1 Samuel 16:7
"For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Over the years, many well-meaning friends, pastors and others have used the Bible to demonstrate how wrong it is to perform the actual act of cutting or some other form of self-injury, often missing the real core issue of self-injury, which is of a spiritual nature—i.e., what's going on inside a person.

Proverbs 26:2 states a basic truth that every effect or symptom has a cause. Many people make the mistake of focusing too much on the outward actions of self-injury—the symptoms—and not enough on the inner emotions and pain that need to be diagnosed and healed. A wounded heart often leads to a wounded body. Emotional and spiritual healing is needed. To the self-harmer, self-injury is a temporary fix, but the feeling of being fixed by self-injury is illusory at best. It's not a solution or true healing.

Why is there a growing epidemic of self-injurious behavior?

2 Timothy 3:1-2, 7
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves… always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

John 8:32
"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

The biblical definition of truth is God's Word, the Bible (John 17:17). During the last century, the tragic trend has been a growing disbelief and disinterest in the Bible. Living by God's truth sets people free, while ignorance of God's truth enslaves them to the downward pulls of human nature and the false values of today's culture (as described in 2 Timothy 3:2-6).

The constant pressures of society cause mental and emotional turmoil that adds to the already burdensome weight on the shoulders of those who self-injure. Catalysts for self-harm may include bereavement, bullying, pressures at work, financial problems, abuse, relationship problems and pressures to "just fit in." These pile up, and many find it hard to cope.

Many harm themselves because they feel hopelessly bad and filled with guilt. They feel they are simply useless to society, friends, family or anyone else for that matter, including God.

One person put it this way: "Maybe it's control…yeah, you cannot control what is happening around you, but you can control yourself." When life seems out of control, some people turn to self-injury.

Am I unique or strange to have a problem like self-injury?

Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him [Christ] the iniquity of us all.

All people have inner struggles with various kinds of temptations and wrong ideas. Even the apostle Paul explained that human nature is not always good and wrote about his inner tug-of-war in Romans 7:14-25. When you read that section, you probably feel like he's talking about your inner battles! But God has a plan to change our human nature—"through Jesus Christ our Lord" (verse 25). And when God gives you His grace and forgiveness, there is "no condemnation" (Romans 8:1).

Where do I go to get help and healing?

Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Carrying pain inside is difficult to understand. Only God fully understands you and how to help you. He understands the pain, turmoil or shame you carry within. Proverbs 3:5-6 clearly explains that turning control of your life over to God is the fundamental issue.

God is our Creator and our Healer. He heals us as we read His Word, as we pray and as He miraculously intervenes in our lives.

God also works through people. The Bible teaches us to reach out to others for help (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Two people can be much stronger than one alone! Being able to talk about it and express your feelings seems to help the healing process. Take advantage of all the resources and supports available to you—factual information (including the Internet), professional counseling, your minister, godly friends and support groups. Ask others to pray for you (James 5:16). Intercessory prayer for those in need is a vital key to recovery from self-injury.

What great power can conquer the desire to self-injure?

Luke 10:27
So he answered and said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

Everyone needs to love and be loved. The Bible is the great instruction manual on love and relationships—relationships with God and with people. Many children grow up experiencing very little unconditional love, respect and affirmation. As a result, many people feel empty, unlovable and worthless.

Self-harm is often linked to intense feelings of self-hatred. Such inner torment is at the crux of self-injury. To conquer that self-hatred, one desperately needs God's kind of love.

Notice: Jesus said the second great summary commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). Yes, God commands us to have a proper love for ourselves! Many Christians are taught, "Oh, you should never love yourself!" But that is not what God says. God created you, loves you and has great plans for your future.

The conclusion? God wants you to love Him more than anyone. Secondly, He wants you to love all people, including yourself.

Does God love me? How can I know?

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

God loves you so much that He paid the highest possible price for you so you can be in His family forever! He has no desire to condemn anyone. He wants people to repent of their sins so He can forgive them, transform them and grant them eternal life. If you are a self-injurer, perhaps no one has convincingly told you he or she loves you or that God loves you, or perhaps you do not really believe it. But God does indeed love you!

What is a good biblical definition of love?

1 John 3:16
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Love can be defined as the give way rather than the get way. God is the greatest giver! "He gives to all life, breath, and all things" (Acts 17:25). Part of understanding love is giving to others. And that's a key to happiness. As Jesus said, "There is more happiness in giving than in receiving" (Acts 20:35, Good News Translation).

How can I get the strength I need to overcome my self-injury challenge?

John 16:24
Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

First, you must come to the point where you fully acknowledge that you have a progressive addiction or challenge, and therefore you must abstain from it. If you go back to it, your compulsive behavior will start back as strong as ever. The feelings of release with self-injury are only temporary—superficial feelings that will only last until you feel the need to injure yourself again.

Next, turn your life over to God. The Bible reminds us over and over to rely on God by talking with Him (praying) and reading the Bible, asking for His help and strength.

Coming to this point requires a trust level so you can convey your innermost feelings. Just talking to God, when you have never been able to talk to anyone about how you feel,is much easier said than done. God knows this. He will listen!

And remember that no matter how many times you slip up, whenever you are sincerely sorry, ask God's forgiveness and recommit to not injuring, He will always forgive (1 John 1:9).

With God's help, once you are in control of your life, you will experience real peace and joy. May God guide and bless you as you pursue recovery from the challenges you face with self-injury.

For further understanding and advice, what professional resources are available?

We encourage you to contact a licensed Christian counselor in your area for assistance in overcoming this challenge. If you do not know where to find one, contact a pastor or family member who can help you locate one.


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Below is a list of three highly informative Web sites:

Please click on the links and take a look at the three sites. This will give you an overall picture of the wealth of information that is available on self-injury and its many related subtopics. In the future, you may want to revisit these sites whenever you need specific information.

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Questions about this lesson? Feedback about this lesson?

Related Resources:

Breaking Free From Addictions

The Bible's Keys to Mental Health

The Hole in Your Heart

Breaking Free Journal

What Will Tomorrow's Mothers Be Like?

What Is Your Destiny?