Breakout From Emotional Strongholds
The hiker was elated. "This is great! Who are you?"
But the hiker couldn't bring himself to let go of the only piece of security he thought he had. So after thinking about it for a minute, he shouted, "Is there anyone else up there?"
A stronghold is like a fortress the Enemy has built on your turf, which is why the New American Standard Bible translates this word as "fortresses."
Our Enemy, of course, is Satan, who can build strongholds in our minds and hearts if we allow him to gain a foothold in our lives. The Devil is a relentless Enemy who is not content just to conquer territory in your life. He wants to erect strongholds, which he can then use as his base of operations to attack you whenever he feels like it.
When you have an enemy who can take refuge in his stronghold and come out from it to attack you at will, you won't get anywhere until you tear down that stronghold and leave the Enemy with no place to hide.
Our emotions are particularly defenseless to satanic attack because emotions are feelings that have no intellect of their own. An emotion is a deep-down, often immediate and intense, reaction to something that happens to us.
People who are in emotional strongholds usually know something is wrong. When they get up they don't say, "Good morning, Lord," but "Good Lord, its morning!" They are in such a hurry that they don’t take time to pray or read from the Word. These people are caught in the stronghold of busyness.
In severe cases these people may feel as if they are struggling just to survive because they feel hopeless and can't seem to shake the emotional traps they're in.
Emotional strongholds are attitudes that result in actions that hold a person hostage to something contrary to the will of God. We need action but we need action moving toward the right power.
God never ordained for His children to go to bed and wake up depressed every day of their lives. All of us have times when we struggle with our emotions because we are imperfect people living in a fallen world. But strongholds are feelings or actions that dominate your life and consume most of your time and effort. (Enabling is a stronghold also)
For many Christians, the cause of their emotional disturbance is not the emotions themselves. It is because they have not understood their true identity in Christ or learned to live by grace—so they don't know how to respond to the spiritual causes of their attitude of distress. When I say distress, I mean the emotional longing for what ever it is that Satan has used to pull down your defenses.
Three Wrong Ways to Deal with Emotional Strongholds
A person who is in emotional distress but doesn't look for the spiritual root of the problem is like someone who turns off the smoke alarm in his house and opens the windows to let the smoke out without ever looking for the fire.
As you know, those are wrong ways to deal with a house fire because all they do is mask the symptoms instead of solving the problem. In the same way, many people use the wrong methods to deal with emotional strongholds because they fail to understand their true nature. I see at least three ways that people try to deal with the pain of an emotional problem without really confronting it.
The first of these is through outright denial, which could be called suppression. This is when a person knows something is wrong but makes a conscious and deliberate effort to run from or bury the problem. Often running from the problem leads the person straight to (Ida Mae’s house.) People in this situation may constantly insist they are fine and everything is cool when they know that's not true. The truth is they don’t know how to handle the problem. They continue to let the problem over take them, helping to strengthen the stronghold against them.
A second faulty way to deal with emotional strongholds is through repression, or unconscious denial. This is where the pain may be so intense that the person has pushed it deep down below the level of consciousness. These people may no longer be aware of why they feel the way they feel or do the things they do. Someone's denial may be conscious at first, but if it goes on long enough, the person may actually succeed in pushing the problem out of consciousness. Doing this the person become a cold face liar. He not only lies to himself, but also to any body anywhere, anytime. He will even use dog urine for his drug test…and swear with a straight face that he has not done drugs or whatever.
A third wrong way to deal with such problems is to bury them with busyness, drown them in alcohol, or try to drug them out of existence. Those in this category who don't fall into substance abuse may stay on the go constantly, or always make sure that either the television or some other noise is going at all times—so they don't have to hear the alarm going off in their souls.
Remember when you were a child and you didn't want to hear what your brother or sister was saying? You would put your hands over your ears and shout, "I can't hear you!" or start singing to drown them out. That's fine for kids, but it's a terrible way to live as an adult. (I see my grand kids do this quite often)
Painful emotions are like the pain signals our bodies send out to alert us that something is wrong. You can ignore or deny pain, but if there is something really wrong it will not just go away. Just as when we are in physical pain and need to go to the doctor to find out why. When we are hurting emotionally we need to find out why.
Please don't misunderstand what I said about the fields of psychology and psychiatry. When practiced correctly—that is, biblically—the mental health disciplines can help people discover and correct what is wrong. But when there is a failure to take the spiritual side of an issue into account, or to see that emotional problems have spiritual roots, then only the symptoms are being addressed.
The Cause of Emotional Strongholds
Emotional strongholds are fortresses the Enemy has built in our minds and hearts. They are built on his lies about who we are and what has happened to us or what we have done. This means that the root cause of these problems has a lot to do with the Enemy's specialty, which is either trying to lead us into sin or ensnaring us in our own sin or someone else's sin until we are completely bound up. (Also, when one member of a family gets bound up, it usually binds up the rest of the family.) (Satan is trying to build a stronghold in the family unit itself for his destructive purpose.)
I don't want to deny or dismiss the fact that some emotional problems have physiological ties. There is a strong link between the physical and emotional parts of our makeup, because we are whole beings and are not made up of separate compartments. For example, if you are told you have cancer and you react with fear, that fear has a basis in fact. Feeling fear in the face of cancer is a normal reaction, not a stronghold.
But the kind of bondage the Bible calls a stronghold is rooted either in our own sin, in the sin of someone else, or in the fact that we live in a sin-tainted environment. You may have been abused as a child, and as a result of the abuser's sin against you, you are in emotional bondage as an adult.
Now you may be dealing with this in sinful ways with drugs or alcohol, or by taking out your anger on someone else. But in any case, the root cause of emotional strongholds is sin—which is why any solution that doesn't address the spiritual issue is not really a solution. (Please understand this, all the cases of Satan built strongholds, are started with SIN.)
The Bible reveals that the entry of negative emotions into the human race was because of sin. God put Adam and Eve in a perfect environment, but as we see in Genesis, chapter 3, Satan came onto the scene and enticed first Eve, and then Adam, to rebel against God. The first thing that happened after they ate the forbidden fruit was, "The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings" (Genesis 3:7).
Before this, Adam and Eve had been naked but without shame (Genesis 2:25). But now they were ashamed of their nakedness and had to cover themselves. The emotion of shame entered into the human race. There was also fear, for in Genesis 3:9-10 we read that Adam and Eve hid (DRUGS ETC) when they heard the sound of God walking in the garden. "Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, 'Where are you?' He said, 'I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.' "
And it gets worse. The murder of Abel by Cain involved the emotions of jealousy, anger, and hatred on Cain's part because God accepted his brother's offering while rejecting his.
It's interesting that Cain was also depressed. When Cain's bloodless sacrifice was rejected, "his countenance fell" (Genesis 4:5). But instead of dealing with his emotions by turning to God in repentance and faith, his anger drove him inwardly into depression and outwardly into murder. Depression is well described as anger turned inward. (Not all but some)
There is quite a long list of powerful emotions and destructive patterns of behavior that entered the human race through sin. That's why a person who is trying to overcome a stronghold without looking to the spiritual reason for it will never find the source of the fire in his emotional house. He will hear the shrill sound of the fire alarm, but his efforts will be geared toward silencing that alarm.
Now for fear that you doubt the causative connection between sin and emotional strongholds, look at what God said to Cain when He saw that Cain was angry and depressed. "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:6-7).
This was probably the first counseling session in history, and God the Counselor went straight to the heart of the problem! Sin wanted to master Cain by holding him in bondage to his wrong thoughts and the resulting wrong emotions.
Three Categories of Emotional Strongholds
Let me briefly mention three common categories of emotional strongholds, relating to where we are in our lives. The first category is those strongholds that are rooted in the pain of the past.
This may be childhood abuse, as previously mentioned, or some other shocking experience in the past that is impairing the person’s ability to function today. (I am not sure but it could come from divorce of the parents of the captive person or persons. It could stem from a long list of things that has happened in the lives of the infected person.) (Infected with sin)
These experiences are like recordings in the mind that keep rewinding and playing every time something triggers the bad memory. Satan keeps his finger on the re-play button, and he's an expert at knowing what it takes to start that recording running again.
He doesn't stop there either. He'll try to make sure that every time you replay that past trauma, it seems worse than the time before. He'll add to it until it seems as if your whole life is in bondage to the past. He will also use the past memory or whatever it was to trigger the person to go get the drugs or alcohol or whatever it is that he wanted the person to get to in the first place. Satan is the great deceiver!!
Here's one other trick the Devil likes to play on you when you are being held bondage to the emotions of past traumas. He will bring people into your life that went through what you went through and have not been victorious over it—and soon you'll be caught up in their lack of victory because misery loves company.
A second category of strongholds is made up of problems in the present. What is going on in your life right now may be overwhelming you. If anybody could have been depressed and in bondage to his circumstances, it was the apostle Paul. He wrote about what he had endured for the gospel's sake:
[I have been] beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
Few of us could put together a list of trials that could compare to this. But instead of throwing in the towel or hiding in a corner, Paul moved on because he had learned that his sufferings were the key to God's power within him. As he put it, "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). We can hold to this truth in our struggles as well, but we have to make a conscious effort to operate under the “Power of God”.
A third category of strongholds relates to the future. Many people are so afraid of what might happen that they don't want to get out of bed in the morning. As bad as it is to be held in bondage to the past or the present, it may even be crueler to be a prisoner to tomorrow, especially if our fear centers on a bunch of "what-ifs" that haven't even happened. What if I get cancer or have a heart attack? What if one of my children dies?
Jesus told us, "Do not worry about tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34). Fear of tomorrow is another emotional trap the Enemy has laid for us.
The Cure for Emotional Strongholds
We've already seen that trying to deny or suppress painful emotions doesn't do any good, nor does it help to try and avoid them by keeping busy and never facing them. That doesn't work because Satan always has another thing around the corner. The busier we are and the more we are on the go, the more strongholds Satan can build in our lives.
(Here we see the horse and water thing. I can tell a person what to do, God can tell a person what to do but until the person becomes a doer of the Word, he is helpless to control his strongholds.)
I turned on the light in a bathroom in a gas station the other day, and the roaches scattered everywhere. Satan and his demons are like cockroaches when the light comes on. They scatter because Satan can't handle the truth. He can handle you and your ideas, but when you come at this issue of strongholds from the perspective of what God says, you will experience a change in your thinking that will result in a change in your emotions.
Many Christians have never come to grips with their true identity in Christ, that is, they are a "new creature" for whom "the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
To breakout and stay out it will take constant reinforcement from the Word of God.
That’s my story and I am sticking to it.