Strongholds

Strongholds are invisible barriers to successful living.  It’s like almost realizing success and something causes us to fall short of our goal.  It can be anything a person tries to do and fails repeatedly over a period of time.  It’s like hitting a wall, and not being able to go around it.

I have a friend who has been lonely and wounded as long as I have known her.  She is a very intelligent, compassionate, and hard-working woman who prays for others and cries out to God for relief for herself.  Nothing seems to change.  Knowing God’s character to be one of compassion and help, especially when we cry out to Him, I began to pray for my friend, “God what is wrong that she doesn’t get relief?”

I believe He showed me she has a stronghold that is preventing her from receiving His help.  What could that be, I asked?  He showed me that she isn’t catching “arrows” (hurtful words and actions) and dealing with them in a spiritual way that would give her freedom of thought and healthy self-esteem.  Instead, she is internalizing them and allowing them to hurt her.  She is believing the criticisms, at least subconsciously, because they come from loved ones who don’t have a very good sense of respect and fair play. You know the sort of person who will accuse you of something because they are angry or want to provoke or control you.  It’s really their problem, but she has trouble seeing this clearly.

How did this problem happen?  I believe it is the work of the evil one.  He sees vulnerabilities, especially when we are young, and capitalizes on them.  We are overweight, very shy, don’t want to offend anyone, believe anyone in authority must be right, or even the opposite, anything that keeps us from being balanced, humble and functional.  Brick by brick he builds a wall that robs us of our productivity and freedom of choice. His object is to disable us from following our God-given calling in life.  We thrive on work, especially when it is doing what we were meant to do.

We can measure if we have a stronghold if there is something that holds us back from being fully functional. My friend is almost debilitated by her emotions, her need for support.  I have a problem with my weight.  Originally, I used it as a shield from sexual abuse.  Now, it prevents me from having that good first impression needed in my work.  I must try twice as hard by my personality and by wearing nice clothing, not that I am unattractive or seriously obese.  The media portrays how a successful person must look, and it’s not obtainable for most people.  But that’s another blog.

As I was praying, I believe God gave me the word “sloth.”  I didn’t understand, and I certainly didn’t want to call my friend slothful, because she isn’t, according to my my idea of the word, laziness.  I looked it up and was surprised at the definition.  Wikipedia lists it as one of the seven deadly sin, and comes from the Latin word acedia. It can have a physical, spiritual, or mental meaning.  They all basically refer to not taking care of business.  Not actively cleaning house on mental thoughts, choosing the right foods and exercise, or letting spiritual homework slide.  The spiritual meaning caught my attention for my friend. Her sin is believing others criticism as factual when it is being raised up against the knowledge of God (in the following verse) who says she is beautiful, intelligent, and precious to Him.  She hasn’t been taking those negative words and casting them down.  They are lies.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

So how do we tear down those stronghold walls?  Brick by brick as the Lord reveals the lie and shows us the truth in His word.  We don’t dig out a brick in the middle of the wall first, but as He reveals them to us one by one.  It’s easier that way; He deals with us gently as we can handle it.

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Our weapons?  Ephesians 6:13-18: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, ”

It is difficult to recognize a stronghold in our life, because the biggest lie is that we are just weak and to blame.  Once we acknowledge the problem, then it can be confusing as how to tear it down.  If it is invisible, how do you tear it down?  The above verses will give you clues and directions of where to start and what to do.  He will guide you on the particulars of how to do it.  But, like my friend that kept crying out to God for help, how can He miraculously solve your problems when you keep accepting the same arrows that wound?

So what is it like to live without that stronghold?  A better prayer life, greater victory in accomplishing “our work.”  More joy and freedom.  And don’t forget to fill up your spiritual house with good things, lest more evil comes back.  (Luke 11:25)