Each of us has a stronghold built around our lives. Each of us has a defense. Some more apparent than others, perhaps, some more difficult to detect, but they are there nonetheless. They are there because at some level or another, we each have deep underlying insecurities, and we want to protect ourselves from the world.
Why are these insecurities there? They may be there because you’ve been abused. They may be there because you feel inadequate. They may be there because you have known poverty, or loss, or any number of worldly struggles or suffering. But at the heart of it lies one simple reason: they are there because of sin. They are there because this world is broken, because we all fall short and are incomplete without Christ, but none of us has been able to bridge the gap so completely that we are whole this side of heaven. Desperately seeking safety that can never be assured on earth, we try to guard ourselves.
What’s wrong with being guarded? Strongholds are walls that we have built to keep others out. It may not seem that way, but sometimes we do it subconsciously. Guarding yourself comes at the price of relationships, both with God and other people; the higher your wall, the more superficial your relationships will be. First and most importantly, strongholds keep us from God because God is supposed to be our stronghold (Psalm 27:1). Therefore, anything else that we depend on is an idol of our own making. When we build walls, we replace God’s protection with our own. Our lips say that we trust God, but our actions prove otherwise. Second, strongholds keep us from having deep relationships with other people because we only let them see what we want them to see. When they look at us, they don’t see the beauty of our soul; they see a wall. And who can love a wall? When we build strongholds, we forfeit the depth of love and acceptance for the shallowness of popularity.
What are your strongholds? Some of you may know right away. For others, they’ve so long been a part of you, so cleverly disguised and hidden even from yourself, that it may require discernment and guidance from the Holy Spirit to seek out these strongholds and destroy them. Prayerfully consider the following questions:
What am I most afraid to let go of?
What do I turn to when I feel uncomfortable or threatened?
What do I feel like I most need to prove?
What makes me feel the most exposed?
What do I fear will happen if I lose my protection?
Answering these questions will give you valuable insight into what your strongholds are and why they are there. If you can understand why you do what you do, it becomes easier to work through your emotions and get rid of the strongholds that keep you from God. If you don’t, there may come a day when they are taken from you. God is jealous, and His love is a tough love; if anything is keeping Him from your heart, He will stop at nothing to win you back. When His people Israel continued to chase after other things, seeking security elsewhere, God decided to put a stop to it: “Israel has forgotten their Maker and built palaces; Judah has fortified many towns. But I will send fire on their cities that will consume their fortresses” (Hosea 8:14). With their strongholds burned to the ground around them, Israel had nowhere else to turn but to the Lord. When all of their sin and weakness was exposed, they had to face their utter helplessness and depend on God.
Destroying strongholds can be a scary business, not only because we feel exposed, but also because we’ve worked our defense mechanisms into the fabric of our being for so long that we feel they’ve become a part of our identity. If we strip them away, what will be left of us? If our stronghold defines us, who are we without it? The beautiful part is that God doesn’t leave us there; He transforms us into something new and beautiful. As He did for His people Israel, He will replace our facade with a true identity, the security of which can never be taken away. He will give us a new name: “I will say to those called ‘Not My People,’ ‘You are My People'” (Hosea 2:23). Once the stronghold is torn down, we are no longer captives within our own walls. We are free to know and be known, to love and be loved.
We are free when we are His.