The enemy has used sorrow to drive a wedge between many people and the Lord. Hope deferred and disappointment from unmet desires can lead to a feeling of hopelessness. When a person’s hopeful expectations are delayed from season to season, sometimes to the point where you feel you’ve been stuck in the wilderness for years on end, it can become grief to our soul. What’s worse is when the enemy launches fiery darts and the lies hit you one by one:

You’re never going to get it right. You are going to keep failing the tests and repeat those same mistakes that keep you trapped in the wilderness.

It’s not God’s will to heal you. Not everyone gets healed.

It’s not God’s will to answer that prayer you’ve been pestering Him about. You need to just let it go.

You are not good enough to be promoted.

Your kids have their own will. They are never going to serve the Lord. Accept the facts.

You have nothing to offer anyone.

Maybe you’ve heard some of the lies, too. It’s believing the lies that whispers trouble to our soul. King David was no stranger to difficulties and experiencing sorrow. Many of the Psalms were written from a place of pain and anguish.

In Psalm 6, David asked how long he had to cry out before the Lord remembered him. He pleaded with God for deliverance from a troubled soul and asked God to heal him, and for a while it seemed as though David was on the brink of despair. David was afraid, because he mentioned the fact that his soul could not praise God if he died. He goes on to say that the fact that his soul was in grief affected his vision for the future. Maybe you can relate. I’ve been there many times myself.

Read Psalm 6 and take a look at verses 7 and 8. Something happens.

To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. On an eight-stringed harp. A Psalm of David. 1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.

2 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.

3 My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O Lord–how long?

4 Return, O Lord, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!

5 For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?

6 I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.

7 My eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all my enemies.

8 Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.

9 The Lord has heard my supplication; The Lord will receive my prayer.

10 Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled; Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.

All of a sudden, the tone of David’s song turns from sorrow, grief and the despair from feeling forgotten, to a confident declaration that God has heard his prayer and victory is on the way. I can just picture David as he dries his eyes, composes himself, and tells the enemy, ‘Get away from me!’ The Lord has heard me and now YOU will feel ashamed because the Lord is going to trouble you.

So, how did David get his soul out of prison? Maybe it happened quickly, or maybe he had to plow through some more difficult nights of prayer and torment in his soul before he arrived at the revelation that brought a renewed confidence in God. We do not know the length of time between verses 7 & 8. One thing I do know, is that somewhere in his process, he began to question what voice he was listening to and where his confidence was anchored. David was determined to start with a fierce examination of his own heart We know this because the Psalms are full of his questions.

In Psalm 13:2 David asks, “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?”

When we allow our soul to counsel us, it can lead us to places we should not go. Feelings are not a truthful witness. Answers don’t come from looking within and taking counsel from a soul troubled with depression, discouragement, doubt, or other negative emotions. Thinking about problems only brings more discouragement. Trust me, I’ve been there more times than I can count and it’s never been the solution. Praying invites God’s intervention.

Adversity is an opportunity for the enemy to try to overtake our state of mind. He uses our feelings to try and silence our praise. But when he silences our praise to God, he is also effective at diminishing our faith.

Tests and trials are about choices. At any given moment, we are faced with many choices.

  • A choice to complain, or a choice to praise.
  • A choice to feel sorry for ourselves, or a choice to shake it off.
  • A choice between a soul where darkness dwells, or a soul filled with light.
  • A choice between bondage or seeking deliverance.
  • The choice between the door of compromise, or the door of conviction.
  • The choice between an opportunity from man or wait for the opportunity from God.
  • A choice between preferring religious doctrine or fresh revelation.
  • A choice to withhold our worship or offer God a sacrifice that will bless Him.
  • The choice to accept unbelief and doubt, or the choice to believe His word.

So many choices, every single day. Every choice matters. A religious spirit will tell you that if you are faithful in your church attendance, tithing and service you are in good standing with God. You are doing your duty. Yet, none of those things have anything to do with the condition of a person’s soul or determines whether someone is spiritually healthy.

David and other psalmists presented their souls to God for examination. Shouldn’t we do the same? David knew he could not discern the right condition of his soul. That is why he said in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” David wanted to know if there was anything within him that might be displeasing to the Lord. He cried out, “Lord, show me!” David, the Apostles, the psalmists, and the Lord Jesus himself challenged their souls to submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, knowing their hearts needed to be freed from the prison of adversity. Whatever trial they faced; they understood that the condition of their soul was key to personal triumph. A soul that is suffering from hurt, unforgiveness, bitterness, heaviness, discouragement, sorrow, or grief is a soul that is impoverished and ‘spiritually lean.’ Many people try to keep living business as usual without attending to the needs of their soul, but it will quickly deplete a person’s strength, peace and joy, leaving you empty. If you’re praying, prophesying or ministering to others from an impoverished soul, it will fall flat and lack power. Negative emotions come from a root of unbelief and bitterness, which are corrupted and lacking faith. This sort of ministry is impotent of power because it does not represent the fullness of the Holy Spirit. It’s the anointing that breaks yokes, and we cannot afford to be without a full reservoir of holy oil. God’s power is released through faith, confidence towards God, purity, compassion, and love for others.

When we face tests and trials, they are not intended to make us comfortable. The enemy wants to see what we’re made of, and where we have weaknesses, he can exploit. He wants to know where we’re vulnerable so that he can tempt us. God already knows, but He wants us to know where our soul has leanness, sickness and is need of healing. The refiner’s fire exposes the condition of our soul by the very responses that come out of us. When people fail, when circumstances are difficult, when we are unable to change the circumstances that feel overwhelming, what’s in our heart will be squeezed out of us and brought into the open.

If a person is prone to being critical or judgmental, a religious spirit of pride and self-righteousness will come out of their mouth when they speak about others.

If a person is divisive, it will be exposed.

Likewise, if a person is full of mercy and compassion, that, too, will be revealed.

If our faith and confidence have been exhausted, the dregs of what’s left in our vessel, which can often be tainted with bitterness and unbelief, will come out of our mouths.

Pain that comes from hope deferred, long seasons of waiting, hoping, praying and testing without a real breakthrough is very real. It causes people to want to throw in the towel and give up. And, maybe you don’t publicly renounce your faith, but you find yourself going through the motions of going to church without really expecting anything new or different to happen. You give up hoping God will show up, so you just do what you perceive as your duty but inside your faith is wilting.

How often we have felt as if we could endure the test if only we knew how long it would last. Like David, we want to know how long we will feel discomforted in our circumstances. Our soul feels troubled. Vexed. When we are in pain, the lies from the enemy bombard our mind to cause pain. Anguish of soul comes from the feeling that somehow God has forgotten about us, or He is disinterested in relieving our pain. Neither of these things is true, but the accuser, who is a master when it comes to emotional manipulation, always seeks to create distance between us and God. When the enemy can silence our praise, he robs us of breakthrough.

In Psalm 43:5 David asks, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” David challenged his soul to create a dwelling place for God’s presence.

How about you? Is it well with your soul? Or is your soul in need of healing?

The psalmist writes that the Lord kept his soul from settling into silence in Psalm 94:17. God sent His help that was a comfort to his soul, and thus kept his foot from slipping. The word of God discovers the condition of our soul. Take, for example, the scripture in Revelation 3:17. Are we so full of the desire for worldly things that we have failed to realize our soul is spiritually impoverished? Have other things replaced our love for God? Are we actually wretched, blind to our real condition, and exposed as one whose soul is in need of nourishing?

Praising God is a sign of trust and confident, hopeful expectation that invites His intervention. It is not our striving that produces breakthrough. It is entering His rest. When we’re at rest, that is when we can hear from the Holy Spirit. When everything else has been exhausted, when you’ve done all you know how to do and the answer hasn’t shown up yet, that’s when you know HE IS THE ANSWER. God knows your need, but many times He has chosen a specific way for His answer to come and it’s beyond your ability to produce the answer in your own effort. Force your soul to settle down and put your trust in the Lord. In quietness and confidence, you shall be saved!

The strength of Israel, and in King David’s life, was the power of worship. Worship elevated God to His rightful position as being exalted as the ONLY God. He was the God of victory. He was the One that fought for His people. The worshipers were sent out first. They continued to exalt God, and continued to declare, “Praise the Lord! His mercies endure forever!” The God of Israel had a reputation for winning, and it put fear in the heart of the enemy. It caused the enemy to be defeated. Worship expanded their influence and allowed them to conquer their enemies. Worship expanded their territory. Many people pray for increased influence, but they don’t always associate the power of worship to create that favor. They think success comes from their own strength, abilities or working harder. Let me draw your attention to a man named Jabez who prayed for increased influence and territory. It is found in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the name of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I might not cause pain!” And God granted him what he requested.

This man knew how to pray big. He asked for blessing, increase, favor and for God’s presence to be with him. It is noteworthy to mention that he was more honorable than his brethren. That mean he had integrity and good character. Jabez’ very name was a constant reminder that his arrival in the world caused pain. It wasn’t his fault, but he got saddled with a name that meant ‘pain.’ In Biblical times, a person’s name was a prophetic pronouncement tied to their destiny. I believe Jabez cried out to have a destiny that was not associated with the remembrance of pain, but a destiny that brought glory to God. God wants this for us, too, but it can only come from a soul that is healed. People get excited when they get an encouraging prophetic word for their future. They get excited when they have a vision from God. There are many encouraging messages about taking the land for God and expanding your influence, yet fewer messages that speak about death to yourself, the seasons of death of the prophetic word, and death to your dreams. God is process oriented, and He never bypasses the process we need to go through because He doesn’t want character issues to destroy the blessings. He doesn’t want pride to destroy us when promotion comes. He will not share His glory with another. It is a painful process as God uproots pride, selfish ambition, and other things that come from ourselves. There are times when we wonder, “Is this refinement ever going to end? How long will I sit on the shelf? How long will I witness other people walking into their dreams while I remain stuck? Why am I stuck?”

The answer to those questions largely depends on our willingness to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, to surrender to His will, and to offer our soul for examination. Many people are afraid to do that because they don’t trust God. In the end, God is going to have his way anyway. Our refusal to face what is corrupt within us is a resistance to Christ being formed in us. There are many things God will not allow us to take into our Promise Land. Deliverance is a must, yet many churches rarely offer the deep teaching that actually heals and frees the soul from captivity. The seeker sensitive, feel-good messages don’t get the job done because there is no challenge to repent and change. Messages that convict us of our own need for change is what is needed in this hour. A message of peace when there is no healing of people’s souls is a grave injustice to the body of Christ because it leaves them with a false sense of security. Their faith is shallow and they are not prepared for war. They are like the story of the emperor with no clothes. They are unaware of their own nakedness and vulnerability, and unprepared for what lies ahead. We have generations of people raised on milk and they are not able to process the meat of the word. They must be taught the importance of renouncing the things they’ve been a part of and closing doors to the enemy before they go to war in prayer. If you try to take authority over a spiritual enemy that you still have an agreement with, this is an open door and he’ll find a way to use it against you. The gospel of men may not offend people but the gospel of the kingdom will, because it challenges people to put themselves on the altar and die to themselves. Deliverance is not optional. Without deliverance we remain stuck in the wilderness. We must renounce our idols, break agreements we’ve inadvertently made with the wrong spirits and attitudes tied into all the false gods we’ve served. The god of self must be dethroned. Unforgiveness, offense, selfishness, lust, the pride of life, the desire for attention or recognition, and resentments (among other things), must all die in the wilderness. There is no place for those things in the Promise Land. That is why the majority of Israel died in the wilderness and God had to wait for the next generation to grow up and be ready to take the land. They needed to be trained for war. The Israelites were a fearful, unbelieving people that would not let God do the internal work in their soul. They refused their own deliverance in many ways because of their attitudes. If a person lies to themselves and tells themselves, I don’t think I need deliverance; there is a stronghold of pride and they can’t see their own blind spot. We all need to practice humility and ask the Lord to show us what we cannot see. We cannot assume we can judge our own soul with righteous judgment, because we can’t. You can’t see into your own soul unless God opens your eyes to what is there. The Israelites couldn’t bring themselves to trust God, so they kept on with their idols, rejected humility, and submission to His leadership.

God won’t birth something new until we have allowed Him to cleanse us of those things that are impurities to our soul. The wilderness is full of tests that are intended to help us realize man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Tests show up unannounced and at inconvenient times. Many times, we don’t realize we’re in a test until it’s almost over. We must surrender our pride, thinking we know enough to guide ourselves out of the wilderness, or that we’re ready to be released into the new thing we’ve been waiting for. God knows, we don’t. We can only be led by the Holy Spirit because He is our tour guide. He is our Divine Leader. We can make all kinds of plans in our own heart, but it is God that directs our footsteps. The wilderness trials are about listening and obeying, but they are also about developing integrity, surrender, and learning to trust the Lord. He will allow us to go through some painful situations where we incur loss, financial difficulty, persecution, relational loss, and all kinds of challenges, but in the middle of the battle we cannot afford to drop our shield of faith and run off to nurse our wounds.

Much of the last year my husband and I incurred a lot of deep disappointments. Norm worked very hard for 3-4 months on a construction job and didn’t get paid. They left him holding the bag of unpaid wages, not only for himself, but for others he hired, on the promise that there was money in an escrow account to pay all the contractors. That turned out not to be true, but we did not know that going into it. The part that deeply offended me, is that the person that hired him is another Christian. We went to church with this person, out to lunch, fellowship and prayer at this person’s house. When this person was injured in an auto accident, we went to pray for them. It was a struggle to get my heart in the right place before we went to pray, because I was still working through offense. This person committed fraud. We dealt with broken promises and lies week after week. We went through deep financial hardship and are still trying to recover. There were other disappointments last year, too, with things that initially seemed like it was God opening doors to the desires of our heart, then later finding out it wasn’t, and dealing with the emotional letdown of it all. I began to retreat, because I felt overwhelmed and discouraged. My soul was wounded and in need of healing. Self-pity is another thing that must die. Soldiers don’t win a battle by sitting on the sidelines nursing a grudge or feeling sorry for themselves. It’s time to get over ourselves and pick up our swords and fight. It’s time to get healing for our soul. We all need to fight for our wholeness, because that’s the only way it comes. The people who usually don’t recover are those that are incapable of being honest with themselves and God.

The enemy wants to defile your heart and keep you out of your Promise Land. What are you going to do? Cooperate with him and let him succeed? We all wish at times there was an easier, softer way, but there is not. It takes a commitment to be fearless, to ask God to take the things out of us that hinder the ability for Christ to be formed in us. It HURTS to surrender offenses. It HURTS to choose Christlike responses while your flesh is screaming, “This is unfair! There’s no justice in this!” It is not comfortable to go through the process of dying to the demands of your flesh. We are the ones that must tell our flesh, “No, you died and were buried in the waters of baptism. You have been bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus. You don’t get to dictate what you want.” Our Spirit must be led by the Holy Spirit to forgive, surrender, and let go, so we can move forward. We must decrease so that He can increase. Healing the soul takes time, but God is not in a hurry. Let Him have His perfect work. Yield your soul to Him that it might be transformed into a vessel that brings Him glory. Praise Him because it will expand your borders and your ability to have favor to influence others. Soon enough, you will rise up in faith, sword in hand. Amen. May your soul prosper and be in health!

Here are some ways to release your soul from captivity.

• Live in the present. Do not fixate on things that are behind you and end up forfeiting the opportunity to move forward.

• Let go of things beyond your control that you cannot change. Surrender them to God.

• Forgive those you blame for the pain in your soul. The actual root of pain is from your own disobedience and unforgiveness.

• Renounce self-pity and refuse to allow it to complain to you and through you. Command any ungodly emotions and the spirits connected to them to leave and go back to the pit.

• Cast your cares on the Lord, believing that He cares for you.

• Feed your soul the word of God. Declare scripture over your life.

• Put on your spiritual armor. Keep your shield oiled with the word of God.

• Refuse to entertain unbelief.

• Practice gratitude every day. Gratitude is key to positive mental health. Thanking God for your blessings will heal a troubled soul.

• Offer God praise and worship every day. It will revive your soul.

• Praise will release your soul from prison.

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