Biblical Guidance for Those Who Are Suffering from Emotional Abuse

Although those who have suffered emotional abuse have been made to think they are guilty and worthless, God says something far different. Through His Word, He reminds individuals that they were lovingly made in His image.

Contributing Writer
Updated May 29, 2024
Biblical Guidance for Those Who Are Suffering from Emotional Abuse

The popular saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me” is not true. Words can hurt and leave long-lasting wounds.

This is because what others say to us and call us affects how we view ourselves. When individuals continually endure emotional abuse, they suffer consequences that can continue for many years after the abuse ends.

According to Psychology Today, emotional abuse can occur in many different contexts, including “a parental relationship, a romantic relationship, or a professional relationship.”

People can suffer many side effects from being in an emotionally abusive relationship, including short-term and long-term symptoms. For example, the same article lists long-term problems as “anxiety, insomnia, and social withdrawal.”

On a deeper spiritual level, individuals who suffer from abuse often doubt their worth and value. Someone has used manipulation, insults, gaslighting, and controlling behaviors to instill fear in these individuals.

Victims have been treated badly and have had words used against them as weapons for so long that they start to believe that they are worthless. The way they view themselves has been marred and distorted by those who abused them.

Thankfully, Scripture offers life-changing guidance that can restore the dignity of victims of emotional abuse.

God can use the very weapon that the abuser used, words, to bring new life, peace, and hope where there was only shame, fear, and failure. In the Bible, we find words that heal instead of harm.

Understand that the Abuse Is Not Your Fault

In emotionally abusive relationships, it is common for the sufferer to feel as if they deserve the abuse. He or she feels like a failure and deserving of demeaning comments.

The individual may also feel alone and forced to stay in the abusive relationship because their abuser has isolated them from others. Although sufferers of emotional abuse may believe it is their fault, they are not responsible.

Scripture teaches that sin entered the world when the first human couple, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God (Romans 5:12). Their sin spread to everything around them, like a growing cancer. Things that once were good, like relationships and words, are now marred because of the evil introduced into the world.

This is why there are times when those we love and once trusted hurt us with their actions and words. Because of sin, people choose to engage in the harmful and manipulative abuse of others.

The abuser is fully responsible for the suffering they inflict, regardless of any excuses or mental health issues they may have. God will hold them accountable for their sinful actions and words.

As the Bible teaches, people will have to give an account for their words because what they say comes from their hearts (Matthew 12:34-37). Every insult, act of manipulation, and fear-instilling word will be brought to judgment.

A sufferer of abuse might feel silent and unseen, but the Lord knows all things. He sees the pain and will bring righteous judgment on the abuser.

Listen to What God Says about You

For so long, victims of emotional abuse have listened to and absorbed what their abusers have said about them.

The words they hurled and twisted into them as a means of control became a part of the sufferer’s identity. Those who have endured emotional abuse have been flooded with lies about who they are.

To break free from these lies, sufferers of emotional abuse can turn to the Bible. Within its pages is the truth about who they are and what God thinks of them, which is far more important than what their abusers have said.

Reading Scripture and allowing it to sink in through meditation and memorization can offer people hope and healing from the hurtful words and actions of others.

In God’s Word, individuals are reminded that:

1. You have value as a person made in God’s image. The Lord specifically made humans in His image, which means we all have worth (Genesis 1:27). We are each “remarkably and wondrously made” (Psalm 139:14, CSB).

No number of insults or torment from another person can change the solid truth that our lives have worth and meaning. The words of others do not define us because God created us and has the final say about who we are and what we are worth.

2. The Lord loves you. People who have experienced emotional hurt from others can struggle to accept that they are worthy of love.

However, Scripture teaches that God loves them. He loves them so much that He sent His Son to die in their place so they could receive eternal life if they place faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection (John 3:16).

The Lord’s love is unconditional and unchanging. As the Bible says, “No power in the sky above or in the earth below — indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39, NLT).

3. In Christ, you are a beloved son or daughter. When we place faith in Jesus for salvation, we become children of God (John 1:12). In His grace and love, He adopts us as His sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:5).

Even if someone has not yet placed faith in Christ, He desires for them to come to Him. The Lord does not want any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The more people absorb what the Bible says about them, the more they will change their view of themselves. No longer will he or she view themselves from the distorted view that their abuser instilled in them. Instead, they will understand that they are valued and loved by the Lord.

Seek Help and Consider the Healing Power of Forgiveness

Of course, dealing with the trauma and negative health effects of emotional abuse is not something that anyone should go through alone.

Getting professional help in the form of a Christian counselor or therapist is important in the healing process. They can help with the short-term and long-term effects of abuse, as well as implement scriptural principles into their treatment.

Although many people have stigmatized therapy, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. The Lord, in His goodness and mercy to all people, has provided advancements in medical treatment, including treatment for trauma and other mental health issues.

This blessing is even greater when the therapist or counselor is a follower of Jesus who carries out treatment from a biblical worldview.

In addition to getting help from others, those who have suffered emotional abuse should open themselves to the opportunity of offering forgiveness.

When a person forgives someone who committed a wrong and hurt them, they exercise grace but also invite healing into their own lives.

Forgiving is not about saying that what the other person did is “okay” or that it no longer matters. Neither is it about entering back into a relationship with the person or staying with them. Forgiveness is about showing grace and healing from past hurts.

Individuals may need to work through the Bible and pray for a long time before they are ready to forgive their abusers. However, forgiveness is possible through Christ. We have a Savior who suffered unjust treatment and cruelty at the hands of others.

Yet, He asked His Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34). We can find encouragement and strength from Jesus’ example, to forgive just as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32).

As individuals work through these painful areas of their lives and find the strength to forgive those who have abused them, they will find healing and hope.

No longer will they be defined by what others have said and done to them. They will have the love, strength, and resources to move forward in their lives — lives that have always been worthy and valuable in the eyes of God.

What Does This Mean?

Experiencing abuse of any kind is not something any of us choose or desire. Sadly, though, it happens because we live in a broken world affected by sin.

Although those who have suffered emotional abuse have been made to think they are guilty and worthless, God says something far different. Through His Word, He reminds individuals that they were lovingly made in His image.

They have worth and value as human beings and are deeply loved by God. This love is not in words only but proven through His actions. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, He demonstrated His love for all people, including victims of abuse.

Individuals can take steps toward healing by receiving treatment and therapy, replacing the lies of the abuser with the truth of God, and being open to offering forgiveness. The scarred hands of our living Savior can transform and redeem any emotional wounds we have. He knows what it feels like to be abused, and He offers His loving care.

Author’s note: This article is not meant to replace medical advice or treatment but to offer biblical information and encouragement. If you or a loved one is suffering from emotional abuse, seek assistance from police and medical professionals. Help is available.

If you or a loved one are in immediate danger or considering suicide because of emotional abuse, call 911 or the local emergency number, as well as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/somethingway

Sophia Bricker is a writer. Her mission is to help others grow in their relationship with Jesus through thoughtful articles, devotionals, and stories. She completed a BA and MA in Christian ministry, which included extensive study of the Bible and theology, and an MFA in creative writing. You can follow her blog about her story, faith, and creativity at The Cross, a Pen, and a Page.

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