I worry. Like many, I am imaginative enough to be able to envision many fears. I then serve those fears by scrambling to take measures to prevent the fear that I have imagined from coming to pass.
Perfect love casts out fear, says 1 John 4:18. Perfect love comes from God. I could have more of God’s peace if I (somehow) provided more space and more time for surrendering the activities of my soul to him.
Worry is precisely antithetical to this. In worrying, here is the cycle: I spend time on scrambling to head off fears, which leaves less time for pursuing and experiencing peace, which means I am undernourished and therefore more vulnerable to further worry, which sends me off into additional scrambling.
The reason why the enemies within us are able to launch this kind of ongoing, successive attack within our minds is because they occupy bases of operation in our minds. 2 Corinthians 10:4 says the enemies in our minds live in strongholds.
How do you deal with a stronghold?
In biblical times, the military reality was that defensive measures were more powerful than offensive measures. There was no air power to rain down bombs. In biblical times, when faced with a stronghold, the armies often overcame it only with a blockade or a siege.
That is, the armies confronting a stronghold stopped feeding the fortified base. They could not bring it down, so they stopped supplies from getting in.
When I obey worry and try to defeat it on its own terms, I am trying to resist a stronghold by pounding on it. Worse, by taking measures and spending time to head off or guard against some unlikely fear that my imagination has concocted, I am not actually just being prudent, but instead I am directly serving the fear. I am directly serving the dark part of my imagination that keeps on concocting these fears, because I feed that dark part of me by accepting its reality. In yielding to fear in this way, I am like the serf outside the stronghold who perhaps pounds on its walls now and again, but who also keeps growing crops for the stronghold and keeps on giving sustenance to the masters inside of it.
Fear and worry, in this context, are two different things. Fear is the feeling. We can’t help what we feel. But worry is the indulgence—the churning of thoughts or the suffering of wasted energy through unnecessary steps. Jesus’ command, “Do not worry,” specifically addressed the choice, the tangible response.
Here, then, is the way to deal with strongholds: Don’t give them tribute. Worry is the example I have used here, but the principle applies to other tributes to other sorts of strongholds as well. Do not give your energy to refuting the stronghold when the price of this resistance is accepting the stronghold's argument first. Pounding against the stronghold might leave you just as consumed as if the enemy had poured out of it and overtaken you.
Instead, turn away. Give your energy and your time to something better, something fully positive. Indeed, in the context of that previously mentioned verse from 2 Corinthians, we can count on divine weapons able to pull down strongholds—perhaps something like air power after all.
Let the war in your mind therefore be a war of attrition. Your lack of engagement leaves your enemy to gradually wither, and might even clear the field for the arrival of a superior force.