“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
Stronghold is a word with double-entendre or meaning. It is the strength we have in the Lord as identified in this wonderful psalm. It is also the besetting sin that holds onto you in life even when you try harder. The concept here is that our greatest strengths may also be our greatest weakness.
I love the psalms. In fact I wrote a book on them and their faithfulness to me, Great is God’s Faithfulness. They speak to emotions of every kind, joyful and peaceful as well as troubled and fearful. In other words, they speak to the real lives of all of us. David starts Psalm 9 praising the Lord with “all my heart.” He praises His wonders with gladness and joy. It is a praise to God for His deliverance from his enemies asking Him to continue to do the same. “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9). What is this stronghold? It is the place where we can stand firm with confidence. David was exhorting the Lord for His strength in Psalm 27 and Psalm 9 in times of trouble. I did the same as I stood in the smoke and acrid steam standing between two cars in which I had once driven before a dramatic halt in a head-on accident in the Virgin Islands. The twisting, jungle ensconced and narrow, left-side drive trails along the mountains and beaches are a terrifying carnival ride I don’t plan on experiencing again soon. But there I stood staring at the crumpled cars, viewing the license plate, “Ps 27.” I immediately went to this empowering and steadying verse written above. He is my “stronghold” and the centering light of my life. I can trust and not be afraid. Scripture is alive and dynamic, sharper than a two-edged sword and penetrating deeply. And so it did that day as it has on many others in my life of faith. It has become my stronghold.
But there is another side to stronghold and that is “besetting sin.” These are sins that keep coming back. They are sins or selfishness against God as all sin. They are perhaps bad habits where we go when feeling down or our low self-esteem is feeling sorry for itself. For Abraham it was lying. For some it might be sneaking a drink of alcohol or looking at pornography on the Internet. These sins can be overcome, but not easily. Some say we can become sinless this side of heaven. I don’t believe the Bible teaches us so. Although; we can and must become more like Jesus by the power of His Holy Spirit. Yet strongholds may still exist is us. Perhaps another word for stronghold is idol.
Idols are not necessarily carved images or gold, silver or wood as the third command speaks. But the concept is the same, as we may worship them. Is your idol your work where you spend 16 hours a day and many weekends? Is it your constant training for another marathon run, even though your body and marriage are falling apart? Is it your obsession with anything other than God? If you are struggling with this question you probably have issues. For me over my lifetime I have struggled with weight resulting in an eating disorder in my teens caused primarlily by living with an alcoholic and mentally ill parent. This is an obsessive and serious psychological illness, usually needing intense therapy and even hospitalization to break. It can and does end in death for some who cannot let their dysmorphic or flawed view of their bodies go. It may be pornography or alcohol, which are addictions and illnesses. Indeed they need help and much of it is spiritual illness. It is not being obedient to God’s commandments and the fruit of the Spirit, which is self-control. It requires discipline to break such habits and often, professional help. For me it includes having an accountability brother to hold me to my promises and walk with God.
So do you have a stronghold in your faith in a loving and ever-present God, or do you have a stronghold apart from God? You might have both, but need to ask God to take away your obsession with anything other than Him as your center and purpose for life. Pray about it, journal about it, share with another close friend or counselor. It will not go away by itself. Center your life on Jesus Christ, the only perfect sinless human and model.