(Photo by Lindsay O’Neil)
Set Free: A Testimony
How Karissa Nunes Overcame Self-Harm
By Selma Komisky
“When I was eleven I began to cut myself as a way to relieve the pain and the anger, it was also in some twisted sense, a way to get back at God for what I felt He had allowed in my life.”
– Karissa Nunes
Karissa Nunes was a missionary in Slovenia and is currently a missionary in New Jersey. She is also a pastor’s wife and mom of two (she is currently expecting). This is her story told in her own words.
I grew up in Denver, Colorado. As a kid, I saw the realities of this world at a young age and by eleven I was already in a lot of pain and held deep anger towards God. However, I thank God that he gave me the parents that he did. My parents are both strong believers and they have always been my greatest role models throughout my life. They were truly a saving grace and the light that He used to in my life to help guide me out the darkness that I had began to walk in.
Even though I had grown up in church, my understanding of God and who He is was entirely inaccurate. I had perceived that God’s love was motivated by my good behavior, therefore all my unanswered cries to Him were a sign that I was not good enough, that I was not Christian enough. For all my parent’s love and faith, they could not counteract the poisonous effect that bad theology and unbiblical teaching from an unhealthy church had had on my perspective of God. I had been impressed with the idea that if you pray hard enough or act good enough, God will hear you. So after years of unanswered prayers and continued pain, I began to blame God and came to my own conclusions on what His character is; a distant and uncaring deity whose only concern was that I follow the rules.
At thirteen, my parents and I walked into a Calvary Chapel and as I sat in youth group month after month, hearing the Bible taught verse by verse for the first time, the Word of God began to soften my embittered heart. The change was not immediate, but there was something so impactful about the church; the people, the teaching, the genuine love for one another, it was something I had never experienced before and as hard as I tried to ignore it or push others away, it got to me. God’s love had reached me. Within a year, I dedicated my life to him.
Even after I decided to follow Christ, I still struggled with cutting. It had become the way I released anger and pain. I had a constant and deep-seated pain from childhood, but there was also insecurity and pain from situations and issues that are common during teenage years: rejection, heartbreak, stress, feelings of unworthiness, pressure for perfection and self-hatred from failure. These are all issues that most young people face and everyone reacts differently to these experiences. I dealt with it through cutting because that had become my form of emotional relief from eleven-years-old. After a year of walking with Christ (I was fifteen at this point), I was involved in ministry at my church and volunteered in any way I could. I was passionate about serving God. I would go long stretches of time without cutting, to point where I would believe myself to be past it but whenever hardships or trials came, I would fall back to my old habit of binge cutting. As much as I prayed, “God help me not to cut,” I would always succumb to the pull of my old instincts. I felt hopeless and thought that I could never get better. But as I continued to grow in my relationship with God, and as my understanding of Him deepened, I realized the severity of my sin in turning to a razor blade rather than my Savior. It was idolatry and it was only holding me back from true healing.
So I spent a week in focused prayer and fasting. I asked a close friend to pray for me during that week. Instead of merely praying “God help me” and moving on with my day, I committed myself to falling before Him and asking for deliverance from the bond that cutting had over me. I prayed specific prayers asking that He would take away even the temptation to cut. I stopped praying short little prayers for help or for strength and actually cried out for release from the addiction of self harm. And He did, He healed me.
After that week, I never cut myself again. I never felt the desire to cut myself again. And in these last nine years, God has healed my pain and restored my heart. He has walked with me in times of suffering and in times of joy, and through each trial and he has shown me his unyielding faithfulness and deepened my understanding of who He is. I know that God heals us all of different things in different ways. I have spoken with young girls struggling with self-harm and not everyone overcomes it the same way or in the same fashion that I did. But I do know that God can break the chains of cutting, not only have I experienced it personally, but I have also seen Him set other young girls free.
(Karissa and family in New Jersey)
Stay tuned for her missionary story coming out in our February Issue.