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Hidden Demons: When Forced Isolation Draws out Self-Harm Tendencies

We all go through seasons when our mind seems to dwell more on a particular topic, situation, or trial we are experiencing. When the dwelling becomes too painful, we look to distract ourselves with things that allow escape, numb our pain, and force us to forget about circumstances we are facing. What do you do when you are stuck? What do you do when you try to escape through a door, but find it locked? How do you cope then?

During isolation, the enemy uses this time to give you more opportunities to dwell on things that could lead to self-harm. Self-harm is a lie from the enemy promising control over your pain. This is a hurt that you decide to inflict to cover the pain that you never wanted in the first place. Hidden demons whisper to you that in order to make the emotional pain inside go away, you have to make it visible through bodily affliction. These hidden demons use isolation as a means to turn whispers into screaming. The enemy longs for you to amplify your mental, emotional, and physical pain and use them to define you. Isolation provides more opportunities to dwell on something, and more opportunities to inflict harm in secret.

It all starts with dwelling. He wants you to dwell on your flaws, chaos, fear, anxiety, or drama—all leading to feeling helpless and out of control. Helplessness breeds the desire for control. The desire for control pushes us to find something, anything, that you can take charge of. The empty promise is that your self-harm and your “control” of the pain will bring relief.

How can you combat the hidden demons? How can you have victory over self-harm during a season with limited distractions and ample time alone? Does God’s Word give hope to those who enter into mental warfare every day?

Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV) tells us: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

If self-harm is produced from dwelling on the lies that lead you to something you can control through bodily harm, then Philippians gives us a framework on how to combat it with truth. Philippians gives us three true promises to overcome self-harm during isolation:

  • Think about these things – Paul gives us a list of categories to think about during seasons when self-harm is attractive. When dwelling on the whispers from hidden demons, do the things you are dwelling on fit into his categories of edifying things to think about? Today, physically write up a list of topics that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Put this list together before you enter the fight to self-harm. Keep it in a place that is easy to access at any point during the day. Dwelling on righteous things constantly combats dwelling on wicked things that lead to self-harm.
  • What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – Look to mature believers for help and model your life after those who are following Christ well. Choose a person or two who you can inform of your struggle before you are in a situation that tempts you to harm yourself. Keep accountability and communication open with them; allow them to bring truth and correction when you are having a hard time dwelling on the things categorized in this passage.
  • Practice these things – To practice something means to get progressively better. The fight against self-harm during any season is one of longevity, not a quick fix. To combat the hidden demons that push you toward self-harm, you need to be constant in reviewing truth that you already know, seeking to learn more about God and his Word, and looking to others to help you during the fight.
  • The peace of God will be with you – When you focus on truth instead of lies you experience peace. Self-harm promises peace when you try to take control into your own hands, but leaves you in an endless cycle of pain, guilt, and shame. God promises you peace by focusing on the truth that he is in control and will take care of you. Peace from God shouts over the whispers of hidden demons. God’s peace comes from scars not found on your body, but his. The only bodily harm that will bring satisfaction in painful situations happened to Jesus on the cross. Jesus bore scars for you so that you can resist putting scars on yourself. The peace of God relieves self-harm because he is ultimately in perfect control.

Throughout your life, you will have opportunities to dwell on countless things. The battle against self-harm may be strong, but the promises God gives to combat it are even stronger. Rest in Christ today and dwell on things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Dwell on the scars that Jesus received—not on the ones that hidden demons whisper will heal—and receive the peace of God.

Foster Toft
Foster Toft

Director of Student Ministry

lonely by Nicole Hammonds from the Noun Project

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