Home Menu

Wrestling Against Enemy Strongholds


Pres did some wrestling in middle school. I hated watching his matches! My emotions would sky rocket to ten and try their best to leap right on off the scale; my body was one mass of tense muscles as I’d twist and turn — wanting nothing so much as to get down on the mat with Pres and throw my mother-weight around; my face lost any angelic glow that might have been there; all thought of composure was forgotten completely as I yelled and stomped and shouted my instructions (as if I knew what to do). I was mean and ready for the kill — and completely exhausted when the match was over!

Wrestling is intense one-on-one competition. No weapons. No bats or balls or clubs. Just your strength against your opponent’s strength. But good training and practiced skill give you an advantage over your adversary — even though he might be bigger and stronger than you. And of course the goal is to pin your opponent — get his back on the mat by using some sort of hold he can’t break.

I’m sure you already see the jump from the gym to spiritual application.

We are in a formidable wrestling match all day every day all year long. And you say, “Thanks, Anabel. Please don’t help me anymore.” But it’s very much like the sport: good training and practiced skill give you the advantage over your opponent, the Deceiver. His goal is along the same line, too — to get you flat on your back by using a hold that you can’t break — a hold that is your downfall and he knows it and uses it sadistically. A hold that always causes you trouble — maybe not defeat every time, but big trouble.

So let’s take time out for some training. This is where the Deceiver most effectively hits us — strongholds. What is a stronghold? A stronghold is a destructive pattern that has a strong hold on us; patterns that have become so deeply entrenched we life them out habitually, never recognizing that we are exhibiting un-Christlike behavior or that we even have a choice to resist. We never stop to analyze or ask ourselves, “Is this really the life of Christ doing or saying this through me?” No, instead we mumble, “I’ve been this way all my life and I don’t see any hope for changing.” So our opponent gets us in a strong hold and we passively give in to his strength, knowing that he will win — he always does when he gets us in this intolerable, offensive position. And we say, “I just can’t help myself. It seems impossible to resist or to control my response.”

Here are excerpts from a letter written by a woman who is allowing the Deceiver to control her through strongholds of inferiority and inadequacy.

I’m feeling very defeated right now. That voice that is so good at tearing me down is loud and clear and it seems that no matter what I do or where I turn I am assured that the garbage I hear is true. I go around with so much anger inside because of how negative I feel toward myself. I’ve started quilting classes, but even trying to quilt makes me feel stupid. Everyone else is picking it up — but not me. I am so frustrated. You know what I’m trying to say — it’s that I have to be so many different people and I don’t make it even being one!

Strongholds. Destructive patterns that control this person’s performance, thoughts, and emotions.

Let’s say that you are driven to succeed, working 70 to 80 hours a week. Your wife prods you along, nagging at you constantly about more money, more prestige, friends with VIP labels. You insist on the very best address, clothes with the right monogram, belonging to the most elite country club. This is a stronghold. The Bible calls it pride.

You find contentment only in having something new to occupy your time. You’re restless and never content. You don’t consider others and their needs or desires, in fact your motto is: As long as I’m getting my needs met, why should I worry about theirs? This is a stronghold of self-indulgence.

You’re sick a lot and you whine, whimper and complain. Your one topic of conversation is composed of the last doctor, the last diagnosis, the latest pains. You say things like, “I’m just different. No one even listens when I try to tell them how badly I’m hurting. No one understands me. No one really cares about me.” This is a stronghold of self-pity.

You name it — anger, guilt, inferiority, pornography, timidity, fear, materialism, perverted sexual pleasures, being a super perfectionist or a sofa spud—they are all strongholds. These patterns are built into our thoughts, feelings, and behavior in one of two ways: 1) by repetition — the same thing happening over and over and over again, or 2) by trauma — this just happened to you one time, but it was such a terrorizing, traumatic experience that it was seared into your memory banks and now controls you — it has a strong hold on you.

Most all of us consider our unique strongholds to be a forever part of us. Behavior that, to our way of thinking, is past any kind of help. God uncovered the strongholds in my life: 1) performance based acceptance, 2) performance based self-acceptance, 3) being a perfectionist, 4) constant self-introspection, 5) super sensitivity toward any kind of critical evaluation, 6) depression, and 7) suicidal tendencies. These weren’t just habit patterns. They were strongholds in my life. I performed in them habitually, blindly, never recognizing that I was exhibiting un-Christlike behavior or that I even had a choice as to whether or not I behaved that way. I’ve always been like this, how can I possibly change?

Well, I have some exciting words for you! A stronghold can be demolished. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s a challenge. But the Lord God says, “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for me?” And we let out a resounding NO! (I always examine myself when I enthusiastically “resound,” when I answer His question so boldly, with such conviction. Do I really, really believe this? Be careful. You see, if I do, then there isn’t any ground for me to excuse my behavior — my strongholds.)

Yet how many of us are clutching our strongholds to our breast, holding on to them for dear life. But you say, I’m a victim, and you blame the person who abused you and declare them guilty of ruining your life, of causing such stress, of being the source of your defeating strongholds. You’ve no idea what my life has been — just one horrible rejection after the other! I can’t possibly change. My family was so dysfunctional! You wouldn’t believe! (Remember the question God asked us? “Is anything too difficult for Me?” And what you are saying is, “Yes, God, my strongholds are too difficult for You to overcome!” Better think that statement through carefully. Something that is beyond God’s power? Then, you need to question the ability and the validity of your God.)

Read the following excerpt from another letter I received:

Dear Anabel, Your teaching on strongholds has given me a renewed zeal to yield completely to my Lord. I’ve enclosed a list of my strongholds. You can help me rub Satan’s nose in them! In examining my life, it looks a bit like Jericho! The walls are thick and strong and I think even Joshua might find it a challenge! But, praise the Lord, I know who I am! I am sanctified and powerful because of Who lives in me — so watch out strongholds, the trumpets are blowing and I’m marching!

I have found that appropriating the victory over strongholds that is ours in Christ can be nut-shelled into “the four R’s of victory.”

R #1: This woman has RECOGNIZED her true identity in Christ. She sees that these habitual, destructive performance patterns are strongholds. She understands that the thoughts served up to her are presented to her by her opponent, hoping to get her in a hold she can’t break.

This isn’t me! This isn’t the way I really want to act and I don’t have to let these thoughts control me! Christ living in me is perfectly capable of overcoming negative patterns. Besides that, this type of performance doesn’t glorify Him and it certainly is NOT performance that He would life out through me.

R #2: She is REFUSING to let these destructive strongholds and behavior patterns dominate her as they have in the past.

I will not allow these strongholds to continue to control me. I have been set free from sin. I have been crucified with Christ and now I am a new creature in Christ. Old things have passed away and everything is new! Praise the Lord! I will refuse those thoughts. They are not mine.

R #3: She is RECKONING herself to be dead to sin — but alive to God, her source of strength.

I know that I can’t win this battle. My opponent is bigger and stronger than I am. For me to tackle him would mean sure defeat. But, I have Someone living inside of me who is far greater than my opponent.

R #4: She is RESTING in His ability to overcome for her, through her.

He tells me that the battle isn’t mine — it’s His. He tells me to stand back and watch Him fight. So –I’ll do just that.

Sure, she’s in the match and her opponent is wise and strong. But, she’s undergone some training and is becoming skilled in how to face the enemy. TRAINING? She now understands who she is and Who lives in her. SKILL? She’s becoming adept at stepping aside and letting Christ face her opponent. Is anything too difficult for Me? Wow! You talk about strength. You talk about being muscled up and a real wrestling champion!

I just might not even lose my composure….

About the Author

Anabel spent decades teaching in many contexts through Lifetime Guarantee Ministries. She has taught countless others how to have a genuine intimate faith and a sound marriage. She shared from her heart about living from the heart. Lifetime’s beloved founder and mentor passed away November 7, 2010. Her legacy and influence are timeless and priceless.