5 Steps for Fighting Emotional Strongholds

as featured at I Choose Brave
I'm thankful for the invitation to write for Katie Westenberg and her powerful blog I Choose Brave.
Do you often say the word, “struggle” in relation to overcoming emotional or spiritual battles?

It’s a typical word we use to communicate our problems to friends, family, and even to the Lord through prayer. The truth is, even I had become accustomed to seeing myself through the lens of “struggle”. I struggle with depression, struggle with anxiety, struggle with anger (and the list certainly goes on.) Yet search God’s Word and you will be hard-pressed to find a reference to “struggle” at all. Instead, you will find that the Scriptures paint a picture of warfare, battlefields, and weaponry.

Indeed, the Christian faith is a fighting faith. Battling bravely against the strongholds that plague us requires action, intention, and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In short, our faith in Jesus means we’re free to fiercely fight against fear, panic, anxiety, anger, bitterness, etc.

Even the definitions of the words “struggle” and “fight” are contrasted. To struggle with something indicates there is a restraint we are desperately trying to get free from. To fight against something means we are free to actively exchange blows with our opponent, usually through the use of weapons.

It’s no wonder the Scriptures use battlefield metaphors so frequently. Those who belong to Christ have already been freed from the chains that would bind them. In Christ, the struggle with our strongholds is really a fight against them because we have been equipped with the proper weapons to engage from a place of victory, not defeat.

I’m fighting against depression, fighting against anxiety, fighting against my anger, etc. Do you sense the Lion of Judah beginning to show his teeth through this simple, yet profound mind-shift? 
Those who belong to Christ have already been freed from the chains that would bind them.
Training for a Fighting Faith

When preparing for self-defense, we are taught that we “fight the way we train”. The repeated, practiced, moves we learn, eventually become reflexes we develop to fight against unexpected assaults. As much as we would like to think we can handle ourselves rightly should an attacker lay hold of us, the truth is that without training, we are unlikely to rise to the occasion.

The same method of thinking applies to preparing ourselves to fight against attacks from the enemy, who will gladly exploit our weaknesses and unbelief to make us unfruitful and frightened:

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11:3–4) 

In 2 Corinthians, Paul addresses the issue of false teaching, admonishing the struggling believers for readily accepting falsehoods about the true gospel message. In our own fight against strongholds, we often fall victim to the same way of thinking. Sadly, we too “put up with it easily enough.” Our doubts will cause us to see the Lord’s character as something other than what he has revealed to us through his Word. We’ll think that grace isn’t applicable to us, that God isn’t as good and loving as he claims to be, or somehow he isn’t trustworthy or faithful.

But as professing Christians, we fight against fears, worries, and weaknesses with a divine advantage. We cannot ultimately lose. Regarding this war between our old and new selves, Dr. Tim Keller says, “When you become a Christian, you don’t move from warfare to peace. You move from a battle you could not win to a new battle which you cannot lose.”
When you become a Christian, you don’t move from warfare to peace. You move from a battle you could not win to a new battle which you cannot lose.
– Tim Keller
Fighting with Divine Power & Knowledge

Paul’s care and concern for the Corinthians moves him to rouse the sleepy Christians from their slumber and equip them to fight against false teaching. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, he writes:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...”

Without Christ, our flesh can only struggle. But in Christ, we can fight by God’s power, learning how to take our strongholds to the throne of grace for mercy. We do this by declaring truths about who God is and our relationship to God in Christ. We fight with redemption on our side.

But what does this look like in real life?
Biblical Steps Explanation Example
1.) Specifically identify the stronghold with a biblical label In order to let the Word speak to our weakness of fear, anxiety, bitterness, unforgiveness, drunkenness, fornication, etc., we need to confess it for what it truly is. Anger
2.) Identify satan’s battle tactics What does the enemy want you to believe about this stronghold? What false teaching is he encouraging you to believe about the gospel or character of God? Satan wants me to believe I am owed the comfort and ease of permanently obedient children.
3.) New creation implications What does your relationship with God through Christ mean for this stronghold? What is true about Christ and how does that impact heart change in this area? In Christ, I have the ability to respond to the temptation to anger in a new way. (2 Cor. 5:17, Romans 6:11) I can remember God is in control (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). Christ loved me when I was a sinner, and because of this amazing grace, I can choose to demonstrate mercy to my children. (Eph. 4:31-32)
4.) Scripture coordinates What truth does the Word have to offer regarding the identified stronghold? Eph. 4:31-32, James 4:1-7
5.) Pre-planned escape route. When we are tempted to succumb to our strongholds, what truth about God’s character or our identity in Christ will be our battle cry to fight against it by grace? My anger is not about what is being done to me–it's something coming out of me. I can chose to respond differently because Christ lives in me, and because God is faithful to provide a way to endure this present frustration. (1 Cor. 10:13)
As we fight against whatever strongholds we face today, let us also recognize it as a game of inches. Though we may continue to wage war until that day the Lord calls us home, we are never without the hope of ultimate deliverance. Should the Lord’s sovereignty grant us to fiercely fight off these strongholds for merely a season, or for a lifetime, we press on because we know we cannot lose. This is the hope the gospel brings to our desperate desires for change:

“I have a great need for Christ: I have a great Christ for my need.” Charles Spurgeon
Scroll down to request a free copy of my worksheet Operation Stronghold, which is designed to walk you through putting these five steps into practice.
Christine M. Chappell
Author • Writer • Podcast Host
Christine is the author of Clean Home, Messy Heart, Help! My Teen is Depressed, Help! I've Been Diagnosed with a Mental Disorder (forthcoming with Shepherd Press in early 2021), and Midnight Mercies: Hope for the Dark Hours of Motherhood (forthcoming with P&R Publishing in fall 2021.) She hosts IBCD's Hope + Help Podcast and is passionate about advocating for biblical one-another care and discipleship in the context of the local church. Her writing has been featured at Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Risen Motherhood, and other Christian platforms. Christine blogs regularly at christinemchappell.com and lives in South Carolina with her husband and three children.

Free Worksheet

Need help destroying emotional strongholds in biblical, practical ways? Take advantage of my free worksheet "Operation Stronghold" and take charge of fighting against your weaknesses with the might of God's understood and applied Word. Sign up below to receive a copy via email.
Sign Up Below