Why can't we rejoice or weep with each other anymore? Why do we feel entitled to people tip-toeing around our triggers? We have managed to make everything about ourselves. A friend shares an exciting thing with us and it triggers our lack or loss of said thing. A friend shares a sorrow and it triggers how our sorrow is deeper. Friends can't share in joy anymore. Friends can't hurt with each other. This is so isolating! We have come to see our own interests as more important than others. Your struggle is not as real as mine. Your joy rips the bandage off my raw pain. We are so preoccupied with our own lives and situations that we allow our triggers to supersede our love.
We constantly have to label our lives with trigger warnings because somewhere someone will be triggered into something painful. There is pain everywhere. This sin sick and fallen world is teaming with surprising and unspeakable ways of hurting us and leaving deep throbbing wounds in us that never quite heal right. We cry out to God for healing and sometimes we don’t get the answer we want. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we get an answer at all. This thorn in our flesh, the one that digs and tears at us, the one that even the slightest touch triggers lightning bolts of pain through every nerve is real. This world is not as it should be and as a result we hurt. The remedy to that hurt is not isolation though. That is what happens when we avoid people for fear of them triggering our hurt. We isolate and remove ourselves from the very thing that could be the vessel God uses for our solace. Isolation is the Devil’s playground. He wants you to be alone. If you are alone he can be uninterrupted in whispering his lies to you.
We spend our energy shielding our triggers and hiding from the pain but as we live life we find that more and more triggers manifest themselves. These losses, those unmet expectations, this betrayal, and that tragedy begin to add up faster than we thought possible. If we spend our lives trying to shield our triggers, pretty soon we will just remove ourselves from all of those things that God brings into our lives to enact healing and redemption. Christ was well acquainted with loss, betrayal, and tragedy. Isaiah prophesied that Christ would be “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain” (Isa. 53:3a) and the writer of Hebrews declares that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus knew all about triggers. Hebrews’ author doesn’t stop there but continues on with hope, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16) You will notice that it doesn’t say “Therefore let us draw away from people and things that will trigger us so that we can avoid pricking those raw nerves.” No! It says draw near to the THRONE with CONFIDENCE! Hallelujah! Our High Priest who is our Intercessor takes those triggers and he redeems them. He might not heal them in the way that we expect or hope for but he redeems them for a purpose.
Paul proclaims, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:12). This verse gets a bum rap but in the face of these wounds it is our hope and our life line! God is at work in ALL things! And he has a purpose for it! Our wounds are not arbitrary just as Jesus’ wounds weren’t. The greatest evil that ever happened, the death of the Son of God was not without purpose! His death was to redeem a wounded and wounding people. We too are called to die. We are called to die to ourselves, to our sinful nature and its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24). “Greater love has no man then this that he should lay down his life for a friend” (John 15:13). That might mean literally laying down our physical lives for our friends but that is not going to be everyone’s specific calling. So what does that mean for everyone else? That means that we lay down our lives by setting aside our triggers, by running to the throne confidently and laying those triggers and that pain at the pierced feet of Jesus. That means allowing God to take those wounds and use them as He used His Son’s, for redemption.
To redeem means to buy at a cost. Our redemption cost God is Son. God is in the redeeming business and therefore, by association so are we. In order to be used in the incredible and holy act of redemption it is going to cost us something. It is going to be painful. It is not going to be easy. But it should be viewed for the privilege that it is. To be used for the glory of God and the redemption of others is a sacred privilege that is only ours through Christ. That means that when we leave our pain and triggers at the throne, we are freed to love one another, to rejoice with one another, to grieve with one another, to minister to one another! We have been bought into the freedom of God’s servitude. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:30) Jesus said we will fine rest in humility. It takes powerful humility to view others interests as more important than our own. In order to do this is not going to be easy and it probably won’t be simple. Pain is not simple, so moving on from it isn’t either. If it was, we would all have done it already, right? Sometimes, that means some good long prayer time and delving into the Word. Sometimes it is that and talking to a close trusted friend. Sometimes it means to also seek professional counseling. There is no shame is reaching out for help when the pain from those triggers tries to drown you. Like I have said earlier, isolation is the Devil’s playground.
Now you say, what about not causing a brother to stumble and to be sensitive to others in their struggles, yes! Do that! To those of you, reading this who are not on the painful side of this spectrum right now, yes! Remember us! Remember our hurts. Be sensitive to our pain. We are all called to consider others interests as more important than our own. That exhortation applies to not only those who are in pain but those in happiness as well. So to you, dear brothers and sisters, please be kind and examine your heart’s motivation before you share so that you can love us as you ought. But you don’t need to try to examine ours. We must examine our own hearts and must work by the grace of God to leave our triggers behind so that we may be free to love you as we ought. The freedom that we find in letting go of our triggers allows for God’s beautiful design of community to minister to our hearts. Have you ever entertained the idea that perhaps the avenue for our healing could be Christ bringing another's rejoicing into our lives? Is it so impossible to believe that we can be helped by someone else’s joy? Have we truly lost the art of rejoicing with each other that much? How often did Paul write of rejoicing in his letters to the early churches? In Philippians, in Colossians, in Ephesians, Paul’s letters drip with thankfulness and rejoicing with these churches. It would have been so easy for Paul to write “You know it really sucks being in this prison while all I hear is about how you get to be in community and fellowshipping with one another.” But he didn’t. He found joy in hearing of God’s church growing and their faith deepening and broadening. Oh, the beauty of that kind of joy and love! If the prisons that Paul found himself in weren’t enough to ruin his joy and love for people, then the prisons of our pain shouldn’t be either! I don’t know about you, but I want that kind of love and joy! That is not going to come natural or easy but just like any love it comes with a choice.
So today, I am choosing to die to myself and rejoice with others, to grieve with others, to see others interests as more important than my own and to see the merciful hand of God in people and things outside of myself. I won’t do it perfectly but as the Holy Spirit reminds me and makes me aware “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). The Christian life is not meant to be lived on an island but in a Garden. Lord, let my life and my love be a glimpse back to that Garden, the way it was meant to be.