Any number of things can exercise a strong hold over us and that to varying degrees of intensity, which can become mentally imprisoning, distorting of personality, distracting and weakening.
Examples of strongholds include pride, selfishness, fear, guilt, alcohol, drugs, gambling, addiction, gossiping, meddling in the affairs of others, criticism and fault-finding, and thoughts about our own future (including death).
But God says: "I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11).
Other strongholds may include power, hobbies, lust & sex -> opposite (heterosexual) or same (homosexual), money, possessions and self-indulgence, hypochondria, travel (including cruising), to name but a few.
Ultimately, all wrongdoing in the world can be tracked back to pride and/or selfishness, but overlaying mental illness or/and demon possession can enormously complicate a situation which may call for experienced professional help.
Man says: 'I've lived a good life: haven't hurt anyone: pay my taxes but you know what, we all fudge a bit here and a bit there don't we? Everyone does it....don't they? Want to see what I nicked from work the other day?
Strongholds can bring deep unhappiness and sadness.
An old friend in strong denial and unwilling to seek help, seems to be under a very powerful stronghold called narcissism -> self-absorption, self-obsession, self-centredness.
This is seriously affecting the long marriage and family relationships with spouse, adult children and grandchildren, and appears to be a form of mental illness. The other marriage partner is distressed but powerless to break that strong hold. Prayer is certainly availed of.
What God says.
"EVERYTHING in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from [our heavenly] Father but from the world." (1st John chapter 2 verse 16: emphasis added).
Man may say: Ouw, did you see her? Gee I'd like to........Yep, this is our 3rd Winnebago: the other 2 were smaller but this one's got all the bells and whistles, everything that opens and shuts. We'll keep it 'till they bring out a bigger one..'.
God says: "Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death...ruthless men gain only wealth." (Proverbs chapter 11 verses 4 & 16). Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint." (Proverbs chapter 23:verse 4).
Or s/he says: John, when was it; our 3rd or 4th trip to Paris? You know...that cute little restaurant in the Latin Quarter, where I found that....?. Jane, was it when we were in Mexico last August, or was it our last time in Argentina when.....?
God says: "you were [at one time spiritually] dead in your...sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of the world...[at one time all of us were] gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts." (Ephesians chapter 2 verses 1 & 3).
And man may say: 'I admit I drink too much. When I was ill-health retired the psychologist said I was alcohol dependent. But I'm not an alcoholic. I just like a drink.'
God says: "let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently...not in...drunkenness, not in sexual immorality...not in dissension and jealousy...Rather, clothe yourself with the LORD Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Romans chapter 13 verses 12-14).
Meaningless life followed by numb extinction?
What happens when I die? Is there 'pie in the sky when I die', or does numb extinction follow meaningless life?
Jesus (who has the "power of an indestructible life") came to "free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews chapter 7 verse 16, and then chapter 2 verse 15).
Human wants...never completely satisfied.
My high school economics teacher regularly used to say: 'human wants are innumerable, ever changing, and never completely satisfied'. How right he was.
"Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. People who want to get rich fall into temptation...For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." (1st Timothy chapter 6 verses 6-10). "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (Philippians chapter 4 verses 11-13)
I haven't learnt all of this yet and probably never will: but I haven't been tested the way St. Paul was either.
Gavin Lawrie is a retired Barrister and Solicitor from Tweed Heads NSW and author of the book 'THE EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION: Uncovering The Faulty Science Of Dawkins' Attack On Creationism." He is married to Jan with two adult children and they are grand parents.
Gavin Lawrie's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/gavin-lawrie.html