Strongholds, although this word can be seen as a save place or refuge, it is also the opposite where a certain mindset is used to hold us captive and when used as in the latter a stronghold just might be preventing us from living the abundant life.
Let’s begin by thinking about blocked goals. You know, the times when we set our sights on something like marrying our high school sweetheart but then he ran off with your best friend. Or maybe like me you always wanted to be a teacher, even as a little girl, but things got in the way and when you finally decided to go to college your husband said no (not to college but to traveling over 200 miles each day to attend classes.) And maybe your child had such a caring heart for others and you really saw them becoming a missionary someday but they got into trouble along the way and have yet to find their way back into the church body. These are things that can really take the wind out of our sails and cause some deep-seated resentment toward God or others. The story of my prodigal has served to teach me many lessons that have been extremely painful and even drove me to temporarily delve into unbelief and hopelessness.
My youngest son was difficult from the get-go. By kindergarten he was already having problems on the bus and with all authority figures. It is a long story but to bring you up to speed and when I suffered the biggest disappointment was over six years ago now. While sitting in jail and under my influence, he opted to see if the judge would let him go to Teen Challenge, in hopes of getting the help he needed to get his life straightened out. The judge court ordered him there and we were holding our breath thinking that this is it, this kid is finally going to turn things around. Teen Challenge is a twelve-month plus program that I really do believe in because they have proven very successful at helping anyone who is ready to help themselves recover from whatever it is that got them in the program! My son pulled himself out after seven and a half months and it was just like I was socked in the gut. I just knew this was the answer for my guy and that it would bring him back to the Lord and I was devastated. I wanted to throw my arms in the air and tell God that I give up, that’s it and that he is hopelessly lost. I really hope to never revisit this place again.
Let me say that pitfalls like the blocked goal described above can turn into your times of preparation! It can be a time of tilling the hardened soil around the heart. In a Bible study that I did many years ago called “Trials, Don’t Resent them as Intruders” the author, Juanita Purcell said this and it has stuck with me:
“Faith does not grow on a smooth road without obstacles. However, we must view trials as steppingstones—not stumbling blocks. Each trial we pass through should help us climb a little higher and draw us closer to Christ.”
We all have dreams that have been soured. And my prodigal’s situation is a perfect example of obvious disappointment. It is situations like this that the enemy uses us to render us hopeless! When we are in a hopeless mode it can lead to depression and depression is many times anger turned inward, a blocked goal. The plan didn’t develop the way that I thought it should have or would have if only…He had taken the road I knew would bring healing to his wounded spirit. What I found though, was that this was a lesson for me. You see God wanted me to know Who was in charge. And it wasn’t me!
I am very grateful for an amazing little group of people who I pray with almost every week and we have met for going on eleven years. They are my prayer partners and accountability group and I thank God for them often. They played a big role in helping me to get back to believing that God would make a way where there seems to be no way. For a good couple of months it was like I was numb. With their tough love and words of encouragement I soon found myself back on the journey of faith. It is certainly easy to see how I could have continued on the downward spiral of unbelief and become very bitter and angry. I could have missed out on walking in my kingdom purpose.
Faith is where I need to rest when it comes to my goals being prohibited.
Hebrews 11:1 (NKJ)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Do I trust God with the unknown? Can I trust Him when circumstances take a different path than I anticipated? Will I be able to admit that I am not in control and that there is Someone much greater and more trustworthy than I could ever be? Who knows the beginning and the end and what is best?
Father, I am so guilty of trying to step in and take charge but then so disappointed when my way didn’t quite turn out as I expected. What I need to do is take a deep breath and then open the Word and look at the many times You were faithful to those whom You called Your own. Faithful even when they didn’t deserve Your favor but Your judgement. It is rock solid truth that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Right now I am choosing to trust in You.