A stronghold is a false argument that rises up as a defensive wall behind which a person seeks to find a safe place to escape from the reality of the problems they are facing.
Strongholds form as a result of deciding what we consider weighty or powerful. If there is something or someone that we perceive to be bigger or more powerful than God, then God by default is lowered in our estimation. Since God is seen as unable or unwilling to defend against that which we feel threatened by, we will seek to erect our own “safe place.” When we do this, we often subconsciously come to the conclusion that we need to protect ourselves from God and cut ourselves off from the One True Protector; instead we wall ourselves in with lies that Satan uses to lie, steal and destroy with.
There was a time in my life when I came to understand that there was a stronghold of fear in my life. I didn’t know what the root of it was, but I knew that it was a sin to allow it to remain. I was allowing fear to motivate decisions instead of God, and I’m not proud of many of those decisions. I began to pursue freedom from bondage to fear by asking God to help me. He began to reveal the root causes for a number of fears that I had. Fear was like an octopus with multiple arms. Over the course of a number of years, the Lord began to reveal the life event, lies and false refuges (idols) that led to the formation of these strongholds. With the help of members of the body of Christ whom God had equipped to help me, I have found victory over many fears as strongholds were broken.
While there is no formula that God will use every time a stronghold is broken over someone’s life, there are some common elements that we commonly see. If there is one question we will benefit from asking ourselves regarding strongholds in our lives, it’s this: where do we put our hope when it comes to freedom from strongholds? Psalm 146:5 says, “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.” While God may use others to help us walk out our freedom, it is the Holy Spirit who knows what is needed, not man. The Holy Spirit may give another person the needed revelation to help you be set free, but it is God who we need to keep our eyes on.
Another thing to keep in mind: when it comes to tools for restoration, whether it’s breaking strongholds, breaking curses of generational sin or any number of other tools, there are two elements that are almost always present: repentance and forgiveness; and breaking strongholds is no different…but more on that later.
How do we break free from strongholds?
The first thing to do when we’ve identified that there is a stronghold in our lives is to bring it to God in prayer and ask Him to help us break free. At this point, we may not even know what to call the stronghold or how it developed. That’s ok, just describe what you’re seeing happening in your life. Tell the Lord that you want to be free and ask Him to help you. Ask Him to guide you and to bring to mind any memories that are pertinent to the situation and to give you revelation that you will need for the journey.
The next thing that can be helpful in breaking strongholds is to ask some questions:
Question #1:“When did this start?” When was the first time this became an issue in my life? Strongholds often occur when pivotal life experiences happen; during times of crisis, trauma, even during life events that were meant to be happy ones, but went sideways. It may have been when there was a death or a wedding in the family, during a surgery, when the next person in your lineage stepped into the role of the patriarch or matriarch of the family, at the birth of a child or during a divorce. The possibilities are endless.
Unless an event was so traumatic that it was blocked from memory, events where strongholds form are often cemented into our memories. It is often just easy to miss the significance of those events or to even realize that something was life-altering. Don’t assume that an event had to be catastrophic in order to be the root of a stronghold. It isn’t as much about the event as what we came into agreement with in that situation. For example, when I was quite young I came into agreement with a stronghold of rejection. While painful, it wasn’t through some catastrophic life event that this happened, but through common childhood playground interactions with friends. It didn’t matter; agreeing with the lie that I was rejected became the filter through which I interpreted life after that until the stronghold of rejection was broken.
Question #2: Who was involved? This is significant, because it leads us the answer of the question: Who do I need to forgive? Consider both offenses of sins committed against you as well as offenses for things that should have happened but didn’t. Remember to include yourself and God on this list of people to forgive. (Even though God is incapable of sinning against us, we are still capable of being offended at Him)
Question #3: what did I turn to in order to feel safe or comforted when this stronghold first began? What did I turn to in order to escape reality? Did I turn to something such as food, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, anger, isolation, perfectionism, emotional insulation, sarcasm, control, work, fantasy, or any number of things? Once you’ve answered this question, you’ve just identified those things that you’ve elevated to the position of an idol in your own heart. An idol is anything we turn to in order to have our needs met apart from God; in this way we’ve put _______ above God. It’s where we’ve put our trust.
Question #4: Did I come into agreement with any lies during this life event? Lies about God, myself, life, etc.? What are those lies? How have they redirected your life? If you can’t think of any, keep pursuing this one. There will always be at least one lie about God involved in a stronghold; a lie that led us to believe that we needed to defend ourselves rather than trusting God to be our Defender. Ask the Lord to give you revelation about this. In Isaiah 9:6, God calls Himself the Wonderful Counsellor. Again in Psalm 32:8 He promises to counsel us when He says, “I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” For more on this topic, check out my blogpost entitled, “Overcoming Depression Through Restoring Trust.”
The next thing that we can do to break free of strongholds in our lives is to use our weapons. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, ““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.” So what are those weapons?
The first weapon we have been given in order to break strongholds is the word of God. Just as we don’t take just any medicine when we get sick, but instead take the specific medication for the specific illness we’re dealing with, we don’t grab just any scripture when we need a weapon. We take up the scripture that is fitting for the need. If we need a scripture, say to overcome believing the lie that says God didn’t help us when we needed it, Psalm 46:1 would be a fitting weapon: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” If you don’t know where to find a fitting scripture for what you’re dealing with, www.openbible.info is a great resource. The word of God is such a powerful weapon because it is truth. We see this metaphor represented as a sword in the armor of God in Ephesians chapter 6.
The second weapon we have been given in tearing down strongholds is our testimony. We have the power to demolish the lies that we’ve been in agreement by replacing those lies with truth. Each time we testify to the truth, those strongholds begin to fade away and lose their power.
The third weapon we have been given is the Name of Jesus. Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.” When we don’t know what to do, speaking the name of Jesus is a mighty weapon against the strongholds in our lives.
The fourth weapon we have been given is the blood of Jesus. Revelation 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” It was through Jesus’ death and resurrection that He purchased our freedom from strongholds.
The fifth weapon we have is our faith. Half the battle is in holding onto faith that freedom from strongholds is actually possible; and not just once we get to heaven, but while we live on this earth. Having faith and patience is especially important when freedom happens over an extended period of time like. 1 John 5:4 says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
The next step to breaking off strongholds in our life is to repent
- For agreement with the lies that we have believed that gave this stronghold it’s power.
- For turning to anything other than God for comfort and/or defense
The next thing we can do to break strongholds in our life is to ask God for an exchange; to give us the truth where lies used to have a place in our lives.
If you have recognized that there is a stronghold that you’d like to be set free from, I want to invite you to walk through some steps to break it off of your life. If you are willing, then here we go:
Prayer for guidance:
“Dear Lord, I now recognize that there is a stronghold in my life. I no longer want this to have any power over me. I ask that you would help me to break free from this. Please give me any needed revelation to understand when this started, any lies that I believe about it, and where I mistakenly put my trust instead of in you. Please guide me into freedom from this stronghold. In Jesus’ name, Amen
After you have prayed this prayer, find a quiet time to answer these questions:
- When was the first time this stronghold showed up in my life?
- Who was involved, directly or indirectly?
- Who do I need to forgive? (remember to include self and God if applies)
- What did I turn to in order to feel safe or comforted during the time this began (and since)? In what way did I seek to escape from the reality of my circumstances?
- What lies(s) did I come into agreement with about God as a result of this event?
- Are there any lies that I came into agreement with about myself as a result of this event?
- Are there any other lies that I came into agreement with as a result of this event?
Forgive those who were involved, directly or indirectly:
Dear Lord, I choose to forgive ___________for_______________. Their actions made me feel____________. (Identify and tell the Lord about everything their action/inaction made you feel until you have exhausted everything you felt) I no longer want to hold this against him/her. I loose this offense to your perfect judgment. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Repent for turning to something other than God in order to feel safe or comforted:
“Dear Lord, I ask you to forgive me for turning to _____________ instead of to you when _________________happened. You didn’t deserve my lack of trust. Right now, I want to reaffirm my trust in you. I ask you to help me to turn to you instead of this false refuge in the future. I ask that you would break off this stronghold right now. “
Exchange lie(s) for the truth:
“Dear Lord, please forgive me for coming into agreement with the lie that says__________. (repeat until you have repented for all lies involved) I ask you to exchange those lies for truth. Please reveal truth in this area to me. Thank you for freedom for this stronghold. I receive it in faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I hope this has been helpful in helping you to understand what strongholds are and one way that the Lord might use to break them.