Copyright 2011 by Randy Meulman
The events that have taken place in my life recently are as dramatic to me as the parting of the Red Sea. I really mean that! You see, my wife, Debbie, and I were having serious problems that made living together intolerable. Throughout our marriage of eight years, whenever we have had troubles we would go to the Lord and He would show up for us and give us clarity. He always came through - sometimes immediately, sometimes after several hours or the next day, but he always showed up for us. He specifically spoke to us when we invited Him in. But, this situation was different. The joy had gone out of our relationship and our conversations sounded like a broken record. We weren’t even sure we wanted the Lord to show up anymore. We both felt trapped and I came to the conclusion that I wasn't the marrying kind. Long term relationships with women have never been my strong suit, as the life eventually seemed to drain out of each relationship. Actually long tern relationships with people, men or women, have not been my strong suit.
When it comes to my personal relationships, I often, with tongue in cheek, quote Jesus saying to His disciples, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?" (Mat 17:17 RSV) Now if Jesus who is the Son of God got tired of people, it is little wonder that I run out of gas. Our marriage had run out of gas. Debbie and I just couldn't get past our views of just how selfish and insensitive the other person was. I “knew” Debbie was self-absorbed and she “knew” the same was true for me. It was “crystal clear” to each of us just how flawed the other was. This is not to say we didn’t recognize the fact that we each had our own individual flaws; rather, we felt that the other person’s flaws were the fault of our marital woes. We were both at the end of our ropes. I told Debbie I thought we needed to separate and she said if I wanted a separation we might as well get a divorce, as she didn’t trust me to work on the marriage. Completely defeated, I asked her if she wanted to pray and she responded with a tearful, frustrated and equally defeated, “Yes, I guess so.” I started praying and talking to the Lord out loud and after a few moments I became aware that a stronghold existed between Debbie and me. I told her so and was astonished when she said, I “agree.” I then suggested we go to the Lord and ask Him to reveal the nature of the stronghold and break its grip on us. Once again, Debbie agreed. So we prayed in complete agreement. We desperately wanted the stronghold broken. The "Red Sea" parted immediately - and I mean immediately. Instantaneously, the stronghold was broken - gone!
The “parting of the Red Sea” in our case was certainly miraculous, yet I found it rather disturbing. On the one hand, Debbie and I experienced immediate peace and confidence in our marriage being completely restored – both sensing the renewal of the joy and excitement we have experienced in the past. And yet, neither of us had a clue as to the nature of the stronghold and what had happened to us other than the fact that God had delivered us. The truth of the matter was that I did not even know what a stronghold was. I just knew we were delivered from one. Anyone who truly knows who I am knows I would have to dig deeper. So I set about trying to find out what a stronghold actually is. And, more than that, what in the world did the Lord specifically deliver us from and why didn't He show us who was at “fault”?!
I called my very good friend Jim Moore whom I have known for more than 40 years. Though one could not find any two people more opposite than Jim and I (except maybe for my wife and I), Jim and I are one in the Spirit. In Christ, Jim and I are connected like Siamese twins. I outlined the nature of the problem to Jim and he listened closely, as he always does. He asked me questions and mentioned that he knew strongholds were real because one had existed between he and his former wife and his personal stronghold had also been broken by the Lord. After we ended the conversation, Jim worked for the next several hours trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He was getting nowhere. When we spoke on the phone the following day, we knew we were dealing with an issue that was very elusive - one you couldn't get your arms around. As Jim and I talked and stumbled around the issues of strongholds, at one point I said "When people are caught up in a stronghold they can't see it" and Jim fired back at me, "That's where the power is.” The second he made that statement, I knew he was speaking the truth and the lights went on. The power in a stronghold is that you cannot see you are struggling with a stronghold. And, I believe, we are blinded because we are convinced of our rightness and another person's wrongness. The next point we saw was that a stronghold is not a mistake or sin of the type in which we tend to participate in daily. Someone cuts you off in traffic and you want to flash them the bird or someone tracks mud across your clean floors and you lose your temper for a moment and then it’s over. No, a stronghold is much bigger than that and much more insidious. It is not simply a wrong choice or a single act of “disobedience.” A stronghold is where we, in the flesh, are influenced by a satanic spirit and this spirit is a spirit of death. It is that spirit that came to us in the Garden of Eden when Satan promised, "You will not die" after God had promised we would. "You will become as God" Satan said, “knowing good and evil.” Good and evil separated from God are the Lie. All strongholds are connected to the Lie and may appear as an angel of light or a self-righteous attitude, often based on a grain of truth. They work their ways into our lives in insidious, hidden ways over time.
Another good friend of mine, Terry Constant, was the Chaplain of the Fort Worth Police Department for a number of years. He told me that he learned to listen to people and even took college courses to develop his listening skills. Terry found that as he worked at listening, frequently without saying a word, people started opening up. They felt understood and often discovered a course of action to a problem without Terry trying to point the way. Truly listening to each other is part of love and requires patience, selflessness and an absence of judgment or defensiveness – it is an extension of loving energy. Terry believes that, beyond listening, all we can do is speak the truth in love. In and of ourselves we can do nothing. It is the Lord who heals us and helps us to grow.
When you really examine a stronghold, you will find at its core a lack of love. "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." (I Cor 13:4-8 RSV) The reason love never ends is because love is connected to the very person of God. If you have a stronghold in your life, though it is difficult to see and you feel completely justified in your feelings, you can become aware of it because you will not find any love in it. It may be filled with a defensive attitude and all sorts of justifications about why you feel the way you do. A spirit of reconciliation will seem repugnant and even foolish like casting your “pearls before swine.” In its essence, a stronghold is void of love. If you are having real difficulty with another person or persons, ask the Lord to take away the condemning spirit that is gnawing at you. Ask Him to replace that spirit of death with one of love and life. There is no middle ground in spiritual warfare. In the book of 2 Corinthians Paul makes the statement "For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God." (2 Cor 10:3-5 RSV)
A life full of peace, love, joy, beauty, hope and a profound sense of well-being and freedom is what life is all about. I know for myself that is only possible when I live my life before God. I personally believe this is true for all of us. Yet, so often we meddle in the lives of others, presuming to know what is best as we pass judgment on one another with our seemingly good intentions. One of the clearest illustrations I can think of is found in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus began to reveal to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be killed and on the third day be raised. We are told that Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, saying “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Mat 16:22 RSV) Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." (Mat 16:23 RSV)
Debbie and I have certainly not been good at truly listening to one another, but we know that our salvation, our healing and our hope is in the new creation which is ours in Christ. The renewed joy and faith in our marriage has occurred despite the fact that the Lord has yet to reveal to us the exact nature of the stronghold that was broken and which of us was at “fault.” And it’s no longer important, as we know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our hope lies in listening to that quiet, gentle Spirit who is Christ in us by the power of the Holy Spirit and through Him all things can be done.
If you are interested in reading more about how the Lord delivered me and who we are in Christ, please go to my website: http://www.thequestforglory.com. On the website, there are other materials available which may help you in your walk with the Lord.
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