Revisiting Triggers


I’ve decided to revisit an old post today, both because the subject is freshly relevant in my life (again), and because it was mentioned yesterday in a message I heard, confirming it was time to face some things I had hoped to be finished confronting in my life.

The subject of triggers is an often talked-about one, but one that remains largely unexplored by masses of people who openly acknowledge having them and being affected by them in adverse ways. Unfortunately, the popular trend in today’s society is to tout our triggers as self-justifying excuses for reactive behaviors when we don’t want to humble ourselves and take the low, Christlike road in relationships and situations that are painful. It is easy, and honest, for us to say we are triggered by words or events in certain circumstances, and to then either retaliate or retreat, and retain victim status when it’s all said and done.

The problems with this are numerous, but most critically, being ruled by our triggers cuts off daily opportunities for us to grow, and for God to be glorified. When our triggers have control of our emotions and responses, that means the Holy Spirit doesn’t. So, while we often (maybe even daily) pray for God to lead us, He can’t until we allow Him to heal the triggers that we keep allowing the enemy to retain possession of.

The reality is that we all have triggers, whether we recognize them or not. This is true because no one has managed to live in this crazy world without experiencing some type of tragedy, pain or suffering. Even those with comparably “good” lives have been rejected or critized or unpleasantly surprised at some point in their lives.

As humans, our bodies and brains store up, or record, the fears and griefs from our past. Unconsciously, we remember – physically, mentally and emotionally – the painful things that have happened to us.  And more often than not, when we experience something in the present that feels even a little bit like something we went through before, our body and our minds and our hearts respond automatically, in an attempt to shield us from the pain. Sometimes we fight it, and sometimes we run from it. But it takes a very present and submitted and healed heart to stand and deal maturely through it.

We are, in all honesty, somewhat of a prisoner to our past experiences.  And many times, we regret the responses we have, and end up needing to apologize, or live with the bitterness and bondage of choosing not to.

The truth is, Jesus came to not only save us, but to heal us, and to set us free from the pain of our past. I used to think this meant He wanted to set me free from the guilt of all the wrong things I had done. That’s true, but it also means He wants to set me free from the wrong things that were done to me – as well as the right things that should have been done but weren’t (He covers all spectrums of trauma!). My past was painful in part because of my own foolish choices. But it was also painful because of the choices others made that did deep damage, and left me with a lot of triggers.

I am beginning a new journey of sifting through some past wounds with Jesus, and it’s touching an area I previously brought to Him for healing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time to deal with it then, and I definitely didn’t have the emotional capacity to handle it. He knew it more than I did, and mercifully gave me enough healing to be able to keep functioning well for a time.

That time, however, has expired. I am now stepping into a new timeframe, and there is room to process the pain of this particular part of my past. Where I used to be okay when this certain subject was mentioned, I am now triggered, and all kinds of emotional upheaval occurs. In truth, I’d rather just go around it, and learn to live with the measure of healing I received before. If left to my own devices, I would probably try to stretch this thing out as far as possible, and see if I can’t make it work the way it is for the rest of my life. But God has something else in mind…He wants to heal my triggers. And He wants to heal yours, too.

A little bit of healing is nice. Learning to survive is a good start, but too often we stop at that, when God has complete and total freedom in mind for us. He gave His life for our complete and total freedom!

Many of us have walked through some terrible fires.  What’s worse, we may have been thrown into some of those fires.  Such memories can be painful and tormenting, and it’s understandable that we would want to avoid reliving or re-facing them.  Sometimes, because it was so painful to go through, we live with unspoken vows, swearing we will never again allow ourselves to be placed in such a helpless or hopeless situation.

So, when we smell fire, we often just react, with understandable (though not always beneficial) resistance.  And the enemy of our souls maintains his stronghold in our lives. He keeps his finger on the triggers of our hearts, but makes us think we’re in control because we have succeeded in not letting ourselves be hurt again.

May I remind you that he’s a professional liar?

I wholeheartedly believe, because I’ve experienced it, that when we begin to give God opportunities to touch the places in our lives that make us fearful and jumpy (our triggers), we begin to experience healing and freedom. It might not feel pleasant or easy at first, but it is SO worth it! Like a patient showing up for surgery, we have to focus on the outcome rather than the intake process. We know it’s going to hurt, and we are surrendering total control to someone else, but on the other side of it, we hope to come out a little more whole, and a lot more healed.

As you and I begin to pay attention to our triggers, I think it’s important to remember something: in the moments when our triggers are pulled, there is a God-appointed opportunity for some healing to take place. It isn’t always the enemy pulling the trigger. Sometimes it is God, seeking permission to repossess something that has been used to back you into a corner He wants to bring you out of.

I remember once talking to a dear friend of mine who felt wounded by her husband. He was doing something at the time that was hurting her deeply. Although I couldn’t justify his choices, I could see that God was actually taking something the enemy wanted to use as a weapon against her, and using it as a tool to dig into one of her most vulnerable and already wounded places. If she would have responded to the trigger, she would have skipped right past an opportunity to see something that God intended to set her free from. She would have remained ignorant to her own bondage. Instead, she chose to submit to God’s gracious and mysterious hand, and to give Him access to that trigger. I am happy to report that she came through that experience with so much joy and freedom!

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, whatever your triggers are, learn to turn them over to God. You don’t have to continue allowing the enemy to manipulate your responses to what God sends or allows as opportunities for your growth.  When the enemy comes to play with your pain, aim your trigger at Heaven and let God change the lens of your experiences. Rather than holding onto recordings of your past pain, let God reframe it for you, and lead you into a healing that will allow you to look back as a prisoner no more.

With God, all things are possible.  No matter how deep your pain may be, no matter how trapped and powerless you might feel in your habits or responses, God can turn it around, if you will just agree to let Him, one memory and one trigger at a time.

The blood of Jesus is powerful enough to heal what you quite possibly can’t even begin to see your way through. It is powerful enough to complete the healing that has only just begun. It is His will that our lives be healed. Go after your inheritance, daughter of the King! Go after a life that is healed and no longer the territory of the enemy.

Freedom feels good. It feels like home, because that’s where Jesus dwells with former captives, in celebration of all the ashes He has turned to beauty. Bring yours on into the pile, and agree to let Him guide you into what’s been promised. He knows the way, because He is the way. All you have to do is lean into Him when you’re triggered, and the tide will change.

{Photo images courtesy of}

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