What is a stronghold and how do you tear it down? A stronghold is a fortification, such as a fortified city. In many places in scripture God is called our strength,1 our strong tower,2 the place we run to when we need help.3
However, there is another meaning of stronghold and that is something that takes root in our lives as a pretense, which is a fancy word for lie. It’s something we believe, but it is just plain wrong.
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”4
These pretensions or lies develop in many ways, but one way is through things that happen to us in our childhood that we cannot process correctly. It happens when our needs do not get met — needs like provision, protection, identity, comfort, teaching, companionship and communication. God will meet these needs, but as children we don’t understand that. All we understand are the people nearest us — our family or those we consider our family.
Our father’s role is protector, provider and the one who sets our identity. Just think of all the times we take a jar to dad to open. Why? Because he has the strength in the family. We know Dad is the one who is usually the most concerned about providing income for the family. And all it takes is one pat on the back from dad and it surpasses 1,000 good jobs from Mom.
Our mother’s job is to comfort and teach us. Hugs and loving touches give us fond memories of our mother. Anger, screaming and beating sets up an adverse reaction. We learn basic things from our mother about how to cook, wash, clean, wear the right clothes for the right weather and much more.
Our siblings are our first companions and the ones we communicate with. When my brother was little no one could understand him. I am 2 ½ years older and I could understand him perfectly. So I was his interpreter. I remember clearly my parents asking, “What did he say?” And I’d answer and he’d shake his head yes. The point is our siblings get us because they are more our age.
The interesting thing is that all of these roles also relate to Father God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus. If we had good relationships with our biological family, it will transfer well over to our relationship to God.
Father God is our provider, protector and setter of our identity. The Holy Spirit provides comfort and teaching. And Jesus provides companionship and communication.
So for instance say our father was weak and not a very good protector. Perhaps he was afraid. Perhaps you wanted him to protect you in a way he didn’t. It might be that he was a great dad, but there was one time you as a child perceived he didn’t protect you. That got stuck in your mind and heart .
At an early age, we learn to have fear if we feel no one is protecting us or if we feel we have to protect ourselves from someone who is abusing us and we can’t tell anyone for some reason. When we begin to develop our concept of Father God we cannot seem to believe He will protect us and so we self-protect. Perhaps we do that with anger, control, overeating, overachieving or drinking or drugs.
False protections become strongholds
Whatever we choose as a false protection we allow to become a stronghold in our life. It makes us feel protected for a short time period. For instance if a father figure in our life sexually abused us, we may turn to food thinking if we are larger we can protect ourselves better.
Remember this is the emotional reaction of the child who is us. As we grow up we understand this isn’t the truth, however the little girl is still with us because she is us. So she still wants protection.
This sets up the juxtapose behavior within ourselves that we can’t understand. Why can’t I lose weight? I want to, but I just can’t seem to stick with it. That’s because the fear has been stuffed with food and the little girl is crying to be heard. Her emotional needs are crying louder than your adult cognitive needs.
This same thing can happen if a wonderful loving mother or grandmother gives feeds us delicious high calorie food. It doesn’t matter that it was only given on special occasions or when we visited, it still begins to set up that comfort equals those foods. And when we aren’t around those people and want comfort, we go to those foods.
It happens before we realize it. Certain foods or extreme overeating has become a stronghold in our lives. It gives us a physical feeling of fullness that we equate with the comfort or protection we crave. It really isn’t the food we are craving, it’s what only God can provide for us —protection and comfort.
I know this to be true, because I allowed comfort foods to become a stronghold in my life. I paid it homage and allowed it to set up a solid fortification around me. Of course the Holy Spirit’s role is comforter and teacher, but I never got there completely until in the last few years. Although had you asked me I would have felt I had a good relationship with the Holy Spirit. In reality, it was sadly lacking.
Tearing down strongholds
The dismantling of strongholds comes in various ways, but in the final analysis we must get to the root issue and allow God to replace the lies or pretenses the little child within us believes and then allow the God to become our strength and pour His truth into our hearts.
God always trades up. I gave Him my desire for comfort foods made with processed sugar and flour and He gave me His comfort and protection. As I have asked Him questions about next steps on this journey, He teaches me. There’s so much more communication with Him these days. I have questions and He has answers. We are a perfect combination.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on this subject. I will write more on this subject. Until then let me say, if you KNOW you have allowed a stronghold in your life, name it, renounce it, hand to God and ask Him what do you give me in exchange?
Will you do that and tell me your results? And ask your questions. They may become the subject of my next blog post on this subject.
1 Psalm 46:1, Psalm 28:7-8, Psalm 118:14, Habakkuk 3:19
2 Psalm 61:3, Proverbs 18:10
3 Psalm 31:1 MSG
4 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV
Teresa Shields Parker is an author, speaker and coach. Her bookSweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds is the #1 Christian weight loss memoir on Amazon. She shares transparently and openly about the challenges of losing an extreme amount of weight. Sweet Grace Study Guide gives practical tips on weight loss.
Her new book, Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation, published Dec. 2014, shares the stories of 17 individuals on the weight loss journey and includes much information from Teresa. Downloadable pdfs of all books are available under the products tab.
Sweet Change Weight Loss Coaching and Accountability Group provides support, encouragement, weekly videos, action steps and an online group for those wanting to be intentional about their weight loss efforts.
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Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach, podcaster, and speaker, who has lost 250 pounds and kept it off since 2013. Her books include: “Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor,” “Sweet Grace Study Guide,” “Sweet Victory: Winning the Battle,” “Sweet Surrender: Breaking Strongholds,” “Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy”, “Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God’s Help,” “Sweet Freedom Study Guide,” “Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation,” “Sweet Hunger: Developing an Appetite for God,” and “Sweet Excuses: Stop Lying to Yourself & Start Losing Weight.” She also offers Overcomers Christian Weight Loss Academy and VIP intensive coaching. Don’t miss her weekly podcast, Sweet Grace for Your Journey, where she shares tips from her personal journey of losing weight and discovering healthy living. Contact her at [email protected].