May is Mental Health Awareness month. Here at Newbreak Church, we care deeply about providing resources for you, wherever you are on your journey of getting healthier spiritually and mentally.
No doubt the apostle Paul dealt with mental health battles, even if that was not a coined phrase in his days. After all, we all face “mental health” battles since we all have to deal with “mental trash” that comes into our minds. Many of us don’t even realize how deeply lodged specific destructive thoughts or beliefs are in our minds. Paul addresses this.
4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4–5, NLT)
The Greek word for “strongholds” refers to an edifice that could be up to 20 feet beneath the surface. It was either where generals or prisoners of war were kept during a siege.
However, we bet you imagined a towering edifice, like a skyscraper, but that’s quite the opposite! Something like a tall castle would serve a different purpose than the kind of stronghold Paul is referring to. Paul uses this metaphor to describe false ideas as being something deeply rooted beneath the ground, which not only refers to strongly lodged in their place. This not only makes them hard to detect (due to their concealed and secretive nature) but also makes them hard to remove since they are buried in the solid earth.
So, when it comes to our thought life, there are some things that might be “strongholds” buried deep and fortified in your mind, secretly holding hostage the whole and healthy you that is waiting to be set free from captivity!
How do we do this? Two key phases.
1) Identify the strongholds in your mind.
To make it simple, start with one. Don’t get lost in all the “mental trash” that might be clouding your mind. Locate that one stronghold that seems to be doing its worst lately. Remember, strongholds can be hard to detect so we must define them before we defeat them. If you are comfortable, it may be good to journal your thoughts or prayers so you can re-read your entries and see if it becomes more clear. Also, you can try talking to a confidant who could possibly identify it for you. After all, it’s hard to read the label when you are standing inside the bottle.
2) Name the truth that demolishes that stronghold.
Strongholds might be deeply lodged in place, but they are not invincible. And depending on what the stronghold is, it might be a journey and a multifaceted process to remove it, but the process of removing it will definitely include naming a truth that God has given us to demolish it. Scripture will be your aid in providing a declaration that has more weight and authority than even a deeply ingrained “stronghold” in your mind!
For example, if you believe your life is a mistake, it is good to recall Psalm 139:1-3, 13-14 (NIV).
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Did you catch that? Although God never everything about you—nothing is hidden—he cares for you; for he is the one who was there forming you in the womb. You are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” You are not a mistake. This truth is greater than any trend (mentally or socially) that tries to tell you otherwise! That’s because God’s Word has more weight than any authority in the world.
Here are some other practical pieces of advice that will help t0 uproot the “strongholds” in your mind.
Think through your thoughts rather than just react to them.
When you experience difficult challenges, you can react to them and think yourself into despair every time. You don’t have to get trapped by disabling thoughts. You are capable of getting out of your shame, despair, hopelessness, and anger by taking control of your thoughts. Separate yourself from your thoughts. Think about what you are thinking about. Acknowledge the struggle and call it out: “Hello, fear. I see you are here.” Then, begin to talk to God (pray) through what you are thinking and feeling. It’s amazing how liberating it is to just put the spotlight on our mental trash! Often times the light will cause it to begin to flee like light on a cockroach! And while there are many mental thoughts that are much more like “strongholds,” even those can be dismantled over time.
Choose to focus your thoughts on the right things.
Redirection is a powerful tool! Fixating on God and His goodness is the first step to seeing a pattern change in regards to what soundtrack is going on in your mind. The progress here will likely be slow and steady, but keep with it and it will have lasting effects that actually alter the anatomy of your brain.
Even on the days when you aren’t using the spiritual tools afforded to us, don’t quit on a bad day. Perseverance will breed more victories in upcoming battles. And at some point, even the Devil himself will tire. As it has been said: “The devil will give up when he sees that you are not going to give in.”
May the strongholds in your mind be uprooted in Jesus’ name!