They sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7, esv).
How well do you think you know yourself?
If your only measure is your own internal readings, the answer is probably, Not as well as you think. We’re just so good at hiding things from ourselves. We don’t want to see the full extent of where our sin has taken us. We don’t want to believe we could actually be driven by such self-centered motives.
But if you’re living with a sinful stronghold—something you’ve long sought to downplay, which you believe you have under ample control—God will eventually confront that stronghold, enabling you to see it for what it truly is. And often He does that by showing you how it feels to be on the other side of it. One of the surest signs of a stronghold is seeing yourself in the sins of others.
A familiar story from Scripture makes the point. The Old Testament patriarch Jacob, we know, was a liar and a cheater. His given name actually meant “deceiver.” He was always cutting deals, always cutting corners. And while it created some stress for himself along the way, he’d been able to land on his feet in spite of (or, he might have said, because of) his knack for staying one step ahead of the competition.
Enter Laban into Jacob’s story in Genesis 29, the man whose beautiful daughter Rachel had caught Jacob’s unmarried eye, enough that he’d accepted Laban’s terms: seven years’ labor for the hand of one lovely girl. When the seven years were over for Jacob, which “seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:20), the night came for Laban to make good on their deal. Instead, however—through a sleight of hand made possible by cover of darkness and the fog of drunkenness—Laban passed off his less desirable daughter Leah to Jacob as his bride, slipping her into his tent to spend their first married night together.
The liar had been lied to. The cheater had been cheated. The deceiver had been deceived.
More importantly, his stronghold had been revealed.
Do you think God ever allows improbable things to happen in order to advance His purposes? I do. I believe God wanted Jacob to experience what his brother Esau experienced when Jacob cheated him out of his birthright in exchange for a hot bowl of stew. I believe God wanted Jacob to experience what his father Isaac experienced when he realized he’d been deceived not only by his wife, but also by his second son. For though the lack of electric light and the presence of alcohol at the wedding feast might explain somewhat how Laban was able to fool even his cagey son-in-law, God was in control then, just as He’s in control now. And because He wants your strongholds torn down and demolished, He will often create situations where you “reap the whirlwind” of the trouble you’ve stirred up, so that maybe you’ll be horrified by seeing the truth, enough to do something about it.
Now, not every bad thing that happens in life is the direct result of something you’ve done. But each day, you’re either tearing down your strongholds or building them up. And if nothing so far has scared you into speeding up your demolition efforts, God will often help inspire you by allowing you to experience the same criticism, fear, manipulation, or whatever similar mechanism you’ve been in the habit of forcing upon others.
When that moment of revelation occurs—when you see yourself through a more accurate lens—what will you do with what you find?
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me enough to show me my need. Even as I face what seems like the daunting task of dismantling my strongholds, Your Word, Your truth, and Your faithfulness are constantly there for me, and I praise You for it. I ask that in revealing the depths of my heart, You’ll supply what’s missing in my desire for responding in repentance. I do want to be different, especially in these troubling areas where I’ve been stuck in my sin. Heal me and help me, I pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.