Growing up, I have only ever experienced the word ‘stronghold’ in a negative context. I’ll admit, that I was never one to search up the meaning and definition of anything myself. I simply trusted the words told to me. There was always this instinctive level of trust I would always place in people because of the position they were in. for example, if you were a pastor, I would presume as a pastor, you know what you are taking about so I’d simply believe you. The few times I would search it up myself, if what I had heard didn’t line up with what I found; I would assume ‘I am wrong, they are right’. No questions asked.
Recently, the word stronghold was used in a context different to what I had known which brought my curiosity to attention. I had believed stronghold as a word used only to speak of the devil’s devices, attacks and hold over you (that which keeps you in bondage even when you don’t want to be – Romans 7:15-20). It was hardly spoken of from the standpoint of God being our stronghold. Yes, God is our stronghold and yes, it’s scripture! – (Psalm 18:2).
Stronghold is defined as:
- A place that has been fortified to protect it against attack.
(fortified means a place provided with defensive works as protection against attack.)
- A place where a cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld.
- A place dominated by a group or marked by a characteristic.
- A protected place where the members of a military group stay and can defend themselves against attacks.
- A place of survival, security or refuge.
Synonyms include: Fortress, fort, castle, tower, refuge, bastion, bunker, home, fastness.
The Greek word for stronghold is ‘oxyroma’, taken from the root word ‘oxyroo’ which means fortify. This translation is referred to specifically in 2 Corinthians 10:4 -5. It’s used figurately of false arguments in which a person seeks ‘shelter’, ‘a safe place to escape reality’. Interestingly, the same Greek word ‘oxyroma’ was also used to refer to prisons in ancient times.
“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 everything pretensions that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive (prison) every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4 -5 (NIV)
Another version says….
“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog eat dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way – never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4 -5 (MSG)
Another version says….
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but might before God to the casting down of strongholds); casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4 -5 (ASV)
So, what does a stronghold look like and what does it sound like? I hear you asking, oh wise reader.
This week, I chose to go the cinema to watch the movie ‘Welcome to Marwen’ with a friend of mine. I chose to omit the movie trailer prior to going to the cinema. I find the highlight reels ruin the cinematic experience as watching it means choosing to watch the whole movie in a 30 – 45 seconds spoiler and I’m often left with an anticlimactic experience after.
Based on true events, Welcome to Marwen is a film about a victim who suffered a brutal attack and how he found a unique therapeutic outlet to help him through his recovery process. Mark Hogancamp, the main character created a world subject around World War II. That was his world of escapism.
According to the Psychology dictionary; escapism is tendency an individual has to escape from the real world to one of delight or security. It can also be used to define the actions people take to help relieve persistent feelings of depression or a way to mentally and emotionally escape their reality. This can include everyday stress of life, work, school, relationships or even more traumatic events such as griefs, distress, death, illness etc.
The everyday activities that forms the norm to a healthy existence (eating, sleeping, exercising, gaming, work, any form of arts and entertainment etc.) becomes the chosen avenue of escapism (when taken to extreme). Psychologist Frode Stenseng, argues the existence of 2 forms of escapism; with different affective outcomes dependent on the motivational focus that is behind the engagement in the activity. They are self-suppression and self-perception.
Escapism in the form of self-suppression stems from motives to run away from unpleasant thought, self-perception and emotions, whereas self-expansion stems from motives to gain positive experience through the activity and to discover new aspects of self.
I am a visual person and for me, it was daydreaming and sleeping. I would spend so much time in my bed and would not want to wake up to face my reality. I would conjure up what I thought was the ‘perfect’ reality through my imagination. With a lack of understanding. I found it became a very addictive stronghold (psychologically) I longed to get back to; my preferred residence. It became a form of self-suppression for me. If you have watched ‘Welcome to Marwen’, my reality at the time was my blue pill; the reason why I wanted to escape.
What I thought was my coping mechanism became a stronghold; a noose that disabled the quality of my self-confidence and self-image, distorted my outlook on life, relationships and identity. It became the very thing that robbed me of psychological maturity and caused me to build a strong hatred for my mind, because the very thing I thought was my haven, my place of imagination; became the very thing the enemy began to use against me.
Strongholds can look like fear, anxiety, doubt, worry, depression, darkness, deception, temptation, failed relationships, trapped by past experiences, and ultimately, it sounds like defeat.
So, how do you even begin to overcome these strongholds which has imprisoned you for as long as you can remember?
Firstly, I believe it is identifying your means of coping, your chosen escapism that you often use in dealing with whatever situations that seems insurmountable. It is understanding what you choose to turn to aside from God as your place of (good) stronghold. In the process of identification, a heart of repentance is something that needs to follow.
I remember I would cry for hours and days on end because I felt overwhelmed, overpowered, helpless but always would remember how easy it was to rid myself of everything real and fall into a daydream. I never fully understood the power of God and the sword of his word (Ephesians 6: 17). Ephesians 6:10 -18 admonishes us to be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. It gives its voice to let us know that the struggles we face is not one against flesh and blood and employs us to put on the full armour of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18). As I ponder on what exactly 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 means; trying to find a deeper meaning. I find it means what it says.
As I said earlier, I am a visual person; therefore, I imagine my choice to use the powerful word of God to pull down every thought which tries to stand against the word of God is evidence of the commencing act of transferring power and authority between strongholds; God’s vs. the enemy. It is your choice at opting for freedom. It is you finding strength outside of yourself and in God and reclaiming your life back from the hands of the enemy. It is discontinuing the enemy’s attacks and devices to neither hurt nor hunt you anymore. It is choosing to live. It is everything you have imagined and even more that you could possibly become (1 Corinthians 2:9). It is hope. It is faith. It is knowing who God is and his power.
So, what does 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 look like?
It is searching the scriptures to find the what God has said regarding whatever your insurmountable reality looks like and find counteracting promises of God and meditating on his word until it overrides your current situation. Is it fear? Find words on the love of God, after all, perfect love cast out all fear. Is it anxiety? Search for counteracting words of God’s peace, after all, peace from God is not like one the world gives (John 14:27). Is it feeling powerless? Helpless? You know what to do. Meditate on his word; every day; the power in His word never runs out!
All this to say, there is something beautiful about acquiring knowledge and gaining understanding for yourself that causes your worship to shift. It permits you bring a different type of worship to God; one filled with understanding.