No one will understand. If they knew this was in my past, they would shun me. Who could be friends with me and know this about me? This is the stuff nightmares are made of. What do I do?

Will life ever get better?Although these are some of the things I’ve thought, I’ve heard statements similar to these many times from other women. Each one was caught in a web of her own fear and shame about things she had done or things that had happened to her. She felt hopelessly trapped because nothing could be done to change the past.

Some pain can only be ignored for so long before it begins to reveal itself in other areas. Ask a doctor or physical therapist what will happen if you ignore pain in your knee and instead just favor it, limping through your daily life. Eventually, you’ll begin to have problems in your hips and your back.

Emotional pain is no different. It will begin to pierce through your perspective and into relationships, offering choices like negativity, depression, anger, discouragement, and panic. Do you really want to live like that?

You have a choice; you can break free from strongholds in your life.

The clearest picture I’ve ever seen of a stronghold was created by one of my former pastors, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Dan Stanley, Senior Pastor of RockFish Church near Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, calls it the Stronghold Corral, and you are the horse trapped within its borders.

The Stronghold Corral by Dan StanleyTake a look at this image on the left. The four walls are hopelessness, shame, powerlessness, and fear. Frequently I hear women describe being afraid of anyone finding out, being ashamed of the situation, feeling powerless to affect any change, and feeling hopeless that anything will ever get better.

Now please keep in mind that this visual is greatly simplified. All kinds of other issues can sneak in and confuse or compound what’s going on. By sharing this, I am not negating the importance of a biblical counselor or even the use of prescribed medications to help you through whatever is plaguing you. This is just a tool that helped me and I have seen help others.

Look at the four walls: which most consumes you? For me it was fear. Which wall seems the least intimidating? For me it was hopelessness. It is here at the weakest wall that you begin to focus your energy. It is this weakest wall you attack with the truth of Scripture to tear it down. Yes, this is hard and sometimes painful work, but keep going. Keep your mind focused on the end goal: freedom!

Soon, you only have three walls standing. Don’t stop! Don’t be satisfied with simply escaping the corral; continue to work to tear it all down. As that first wall begins to fall away, attack the next weakest wall with more Scripture. And as it begins to fall away, work on the next wall. Soon you will only have one wall left to face.

I found that as I worked on the second wall, the remaining walls became weaker. They didn’t have the structural support they’d had in the beginning. Walls of lies had been replaced with a foundation of truth, which meant the walls of my stronghold no longer consumed me. No longer controlled me.

And I found freedom.

If you are looking for some truth to attack your walls, here is a starting point:

Hopelessness: Psalm 9:9-10, Jeremiah 17:7-8
Shame: Isaiah 41:9, Romans 8:1
Powerlessness: 2 Timothy 1:7, 2 Peter 1:3-4
Fear: Isaiah 41:10, 1 John 4:4

What verses would you add to these lists?

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