Triggers. Triggers are mysterious. They can be sight, smell, taste, a spoken word, a way you are touched. So in essence, all five senses are affected by triggers. If we have had any form of trauma, abuse, neglect, loss, we continuously attach those moments from the past to other things as time moves on.
For instance, if we were in a serious accident we might hear a screeching tire and freak out. If we lost a child, anytime we see a child their age we can be triggered and feel the loss as if it had just taken place. It usually leads to episodes of anxiety, isolation and for an addict, acting out in their addiction to escape the pain.
Think for a moment about the nation of Israel. They grew prosperous under Joseph in Egypt. (Genesis 41:41) But then after a few hundred years of flourishing and working as shepherds and farmers in Egypt, a pharaoh arose who knew nothing of the legacy of Joseph, the famine, how God rescued them, (Exodus 1:8) and he decided that because Israel was growing too big for his own comfort, they would subdue Israel and make them slaves.
As the story goes God heard their cries for freedom and sent Moses to deliver them. After 10 plagues and Pharaoh losing his firstborn son the Israelites were allowed to leave. God promised to bring them to a land flowing with “milk and honey” and a place they could forever call home. It came with a catch though. They had to go in and subdue the godless nations there before they could claim it. Beat down slaves had to go to war? Seriously?
The First nation they were to face was Jericho. A huge walled city that towered over the land. After a couple months of hanging out in the wilderness, providing for their every need, Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land for reconnaissance. Two of the ten, Joshua and Caleb said, "No problemo. We can take these cats with the Lord on our side." (Reese Revised Version) However, the other 10 said "No way, Jose! They are huge! We look like grasshoppers in their sight!"
They were triggered.
These 10 were also in Egypt treated as slaves with whips and forced to build the huge buildings that made up that towering metropolis. In fact, all they saw when looking at Jericho was a city that reminded them of Egypt. They most likely began to relive the pain of the whips, their feet in the clay making bricks and the harsh treatment from Egyptians taskmasters and fear gripped their soul.
And what if they lost the battle? Who knows what Jericho might do to the survivors. Beating? Raping? Other forms of torture? "No way am I going back to that again!" (Funny how later on in the wilderness they complained about their conditions so much they thought going back to Egypt was the lesser of two evils).
That one negative report caused God to say, “Ok you don’t think I can handle these guys after how I set you free from Egypt? Do you not remember that whole parting of the Red Sea where you stepped onto dry ground and crossed over into the land I was giving you and then I completely plundered the entire Egyptian army under water? Then you will stay in the wilderness and the generation to come will go in and take the land." And so it was.
The Israelites stayed in the wilderness for 40 years and the former generation died off except two - Joshua and Caleb. At around 80 years of age or so, they entered the land with the others of the younger generation - now middle aged - fought the battle and defeated Jericho. (Joshua 6) It could’ve happened 40 years earlier but everyone was afraid. Because they were triggered, those 10 spies sewed an incredible amount of fear among the whole nation of Israel - numbering most likely in the millions.
Triggers can prolong our journey to true freedom. Sometimes for decades. If we allow them to loom large over our life, like a walled city, we will never enter into all God has for us to experience. There’s a saying, “It’s always today in Traumaland.” But you can move through to tomorrow by holding fast to a loving Father who will not only carry you through the pain, the fire and the flood (Isaiah 43), He will fight the battle for you. (2 Chronicles 20:15-17).