A stronghold is a pattern of thinking that keeps us from fully connecting with God. They are areas where our weakness has thrived and bad habits are born. Some strongholds are obvious; a terrible temper would be a stronghold of anger. Other strongholds are more subtle or disguise themselves as being productive habits. A person who works hard could actually be suffering from the stronghold of greed. They may have inadvertently let the desire for money consume their life and distract them from both meaningful human relationships and their relationship with God. The work ethic that appears to be a positive trait is actually a spiritual stronghold that takes their heart and focus away from God.
Regardless of whether they are flagrant or well hidden, breaking strongholds is never easy. It is human nature to resist change, especially when changing is unpleasant.
While we will feel more at peace and closer to God after the strongholds are gone, actually breaking strongholds is uncomfortable and frightening. It requires trust in both God and those around us, two sources of support strongholds work to strangle. Here are six signs that you need to take a leap of faith and start breaking strongholds.
There are many causes for low self-esteem. One common cause is perfectionism. You feel that because you make mistakes, you are somehow worth less as a person. This, of course, is not true. No human can be perfect. We are, by our very nature, fallible.
Another cause of low self-esteem could be rooted in vanity. If you think you are fat and are ashamed of your body, your self-esteem will drop. The same is true if you look in the mirror and wish that your teeth were straighter or your legs longer. Your physical appearance, of course, is not what matters in God’s eyes. Accepting your appearance, imperfections and all, can be difficult due to our constant exposure to what is marketed as the “right” look. The media is filled with photoshopped images of both men and women and half the commercials on TV seem to be for various weight-loss systems. Remind yourself that it is not the appearance of your flesh that matters, but the purity of your heart.
Keeping Your Passions or Talents to Yourself
You think that you are protecting yourself from rejection or harm. Perhaps you feel that you aren’t a good enough painter to display your works. Maybe you think your new marketing strategy isn’t worth showing your boss yet; it can still be improved.
Stop holding yourself back. God gave you the gifts you possess for a reason. You should make use of them. Show off your talent. Teach others to embrace their gifts. Be brave and share your passion for oil painting instead of trying to explain away the flecks of paint under your nails.
Trusting someone with something you have worked hard on is not always easy, but if you never show anyone what you’ve done, the doubts will continue to plague you. You may get a positive response that boosts your confidence. You may also get constructive criticism that allows you to continue honing the gifts you were given.
We all have moments when we get impatient. We have all been frustrated by the slow moving car that insists on sitting in the passing lane when we are running late for work. We have all been there when the man in front of us at the grocery store can’t decide if he really wants to keep the bananas he thought were on sale. We stand there and tap our toes or check our watches, ready to be anywhere else.
We’ve all experienced those moments. Occasionally being impatient is not a problem. It is when you are always impatient that you need to start breaking strongholds.
Impatience is a twisted combination of anger and pride. We feel that where we are going or what we are doing is more important than what anyone else is doing. We are then angry when we are delayed by what we see as less important issues.
Impatience blinds us to other people’s lives and turns our focus inward. We see only our wants and needs. We become selfish.
If you find yourself taking things personally, it might be time to start breaking strongholds. Defensiveness is a nasty mix of anger and insecurity. Someone accidentally steps on your insecurity and you feel personally attacked. You get angry and lash out with spiteful words. You push away friends and loved ones, convinced that they are trying to hurt you or get under your skin.
This is not a healthy response or the sort of response God would want.
Defensiveness often goes hand in hand with the inability to accept criticism gracefully. You might ignore the critique completely, prideful and assuming that you know better. You might also do the opposite and take the correction of a mistake to mean that you are incapable and lose all motivation. Neither reaction is a healthy one or one conducive to keeping our hearts turned toward God. No human being is perfect. We all make mistakes and we all have room for improvement. When you become overly defensive, it is a sign that you have forgotten that.
This stronghold is almost always caused by fear. You may have been hurt before and fear that you will be hurt again. You may believe that you will be rejected if you try to form a connection with someone. Perhaps you suffered from a betrayal and are wary of getting close to someone again.
Regardless of the reason, it is not healthy or holy to isolate yourself. To break this stronghold, you must face your fears. You have to try and connect with other people. Pray to God for strength to overcome your fear of being hurt. Forgive the person who betrayed you and create a new connection to fill the hole they left behind. Human beings were not meant to be alone. We are social creatures and depend on each other.
There is also the danger that isolating yourself will diminish your empathy towards those who are suffering. If you isolate yourself, you have fewer reasons to care about the world you fear will reject you. You become less sympathetic and less likely to reach out to those who need you.
If you find yourself thinking life will never improve or that things will be bad forever, you need to start breaking strongholds. God is all-loving and all-merciful. As such, we do not suffer without reason. Challenges and trials are meant to test our faith and teach us lessons we would otherwise not learn. Our struggles are meant to teach us strength and our suffering is meant to teach us to empathize with others.
When you feel hopeless, remember that there are lessons to be learned in every trial. Look for the lesson you are meant to be learning and remind yourself that your struggles will not last forever. Instead of obsessing over problems, focus instead on the blessings you do have in your life. God leaves blessings in every situation if you look hard enough. Remember, God loves you and is always with you, even in the darkest of times.
Breaking strongholds is never easy, but half the battle is realizing they are there. Subtle indicators are easily blamed on other things in our lives, and the root of the problem is left unaddressed. Once we identify a stronghold, we can break it. We free ourselves from the suffering and are able to refocus on God. Having broken the strongholds in our lives, we can show others how to break strongholds in their lives and help spread God’s love.