When The Chokehold Becomes A Stronghold

Of all the horrifying news we must hear from day to day, perhaps the worst for me to endure is when a child is abducted. As a parent, I can not fathom how I would ever close my eyes again without my consciousness continuing to scream, “Where are they? Who are they with? What are they going through?” My mind shuts down at the thought.

I sank in my chair a few months back when I heard of the kidnapping of Ben Ownby, an eleven-year-old boy. I have a son the same age and the “what if” thoughts of this happening to him sent me into a tailspin. These stories make us watch our young ones a little closer – guard them a little more carefully. I prayed for this family every day as I kept up with their saga on FoxNews. “Let this time be different, Lord. Find this baby safe and sound.” I know you were as relieved as I when Ben was later discovered in an apartment along with a young man named Shawn Hornbeck.

As the story began to unravel, we learned that Shawn had been held captive for over four years and that he was often left alone later in his imprisonment with many opportunities for escape. Experts attribute this behavior to Stockholm syndrome which causes the victim to form a bond with their captor. For others, fear itself can be enough to serve as chains.

Spiritually speaking, there are many of us who suffer from what we will call the “Stronghold” syndrome. Much as the original abduction in this case, Satan orchestrates a ”chokehold” event which leaves us feeling as if his hands are clamped over our windpipe and we are sucking desperately for our next breath. This could come in the form of loss, victimization, poor financial choices, betrayal, deceit. The list is endless. It is important to note that sometimes these things are perpetrated against us and we have no control over when they come into our lives. Other situations are the results of our own sin. In either case, where we turn for deliverance will determine how long we remain in captivity.

Isaiah 30 describes a time in Israel’s history when they were threatened by invasion from Assyria. The chokehold was on. However, instead of calling to the God of their fathers to rescue them, they formed an alliance with Egypt who had been the source of their original bondage! Israel chose to trust in a self-controlled deliverance instead of allowing Jehovah to guide them. “Speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions” but “let us hear no more of the Holy One of Israel” (vs 10-11).

A stronghold can be defined as a state of mind that colors every decision we make from how we relate to others to how we carry out our daily routines. It is the first thing we think of when we wake up and the last thing before we sleep. How many of us when confronted with our bonds simply do not want to deal with it? To hear God’s counsel is to be forced to act; unfortunately, the bizarre thing which often happens next is that Satan slowly releases his grip and trains us to replace his hand with our own. We don’t know how to live without the pain. We can control it. We can stuff it down. Pink Floyd said it well, “I have become comfortably numb”. (Can I quote Pink Floyd in a Bible Study?) I can just imagine Satan walking smugly away, “On to number next…my job here is done.” He can do that when we pick up where he left off by choking ourselves with fear, self-condemnation, or perhaps the false belief that we are protecting someone else by keeping our pain to ourselves.

What God says is that there will come a day when we have dammed up so much sin and/or pain that a breach will come. The wall will come tumbling down and when it does, there will not be one piece useful to either ourselves or anyone else. This is absolutely Satan’s design for our lives. There isn’t a day we are not fulfilling either God’s plan or Satan’s. Satan may not be able to occupy a believer’s soul but he certainly can occupy our mind thereby rendering us ineffective for the Kingdom we so desperately want to impact.

Gratefully, there are verses 18-26 as a remedy for the first 17. My favorite part comes next, “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitants in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.”

All God is waiting to hear is our cry for mercy. Just like Shawn Hornbeck, freedom is never further than a conversation away. Girls, it is time. We do not have to live one more day in the grip of Satan. It may take some truth-telling, some repenting, and some revelation. It may feel like we are dying instead of actually breathing again. Rejection is the reality we fear most. Take heart – though we can not always trust the reactions of others when it comes to laying ourselves bare, no matter the circumstance, there is One we can rely upon and He will “in
no wise cast us out.” (John 6:37).

During his captivity, Shawn sent an email to his own parents’ website set up to aid in his search. “How long are you planning to look for your son?” he asked. The answer: “As long as it takes.”

Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it, ” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. And you will defile your graven images overlaid with silver, and your molten images plated with gold. You will scatter them as an impure thing, and say to them, “Be GONE!” (Verses 21-22, emphasis mine)

How long will God watch and wait for His children? As long as it takes. It is time to come home. He’ll guide us….all we have to do is ask.

Father, I pray for my sister who is far from home. The dying she can stand, it’s the living she’s not sure about. Show her the next step in the path back to You. Help her to have the courage to obey You, especially when it hurts. Please walk her through these days when she doesn’t know what will happen next. O God, build her faith. Amen.

*Adapted from a post on my now defunct WordPress blog”