Triggered: Living Free

At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our series called Triggered.

The Four Messages in the Series:

Humbly Seeking
Signs, Lies, and Wonders
Living Free

Next Steps:

Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Triggered: Living Free Next Steps

Message Audio:

Message Notes from John Burke:

We all want a life filled with purpose and freedom, but we often find ourselves trapped and triggered. 

Have you ever seemingly overreact to a physical wound people did not know you had. 

Now Imagine if for some stupid reason, I thought it was unmanly to admit I had an unhealed wound.  When my wife or daughter or son tried to get close, hug me, I would react and push them away, and then blame them for my reaction? That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

That’s exactly what happens when we deny the signs and symptoms of a wounded heart like we have talked about the last few weeks. 

When someone does something that pokes the unhealed wounded heart, we get triggered:

  • We rage, we fight, we push away, or we attack back; we defend, we accuse. 
  • Or we might just stay withdrawn to protect the heart. We avoid people to protect ourselves. 
  • We blame others for our over-the-top reactions to some little comment that pokes at the unhealed wound. 

This is exactly how evil spreads—hurt people hurt people hurt people because we’ve never healed.  So we stay vulnerable to evil’s lies.  

This is what we’ve been talking about the past 3 weeks.  Let me review where we’ve been.

Spot the Symptoms Early 

When fully triggered, your Amygdala hijacks your brain and floods you with adrenaline and hormones –doesn’t care about relationship, just protecting you, fight or flight, so it’s too late to relate. When you feel intense emotion, your face muscles start to tense up, your heart starts beating faster, your mind is racing to defend you…

STOP De-escalate, Re-engage the Rational Brain 

You need 20 minutes to De-escalate and let the hormones dissipate from your hijacked brain. Ask “What’s going on inside of me” or “What’s going on between us?” Just observe facts—this re-engages your higher functioning brain that cares about relationship. But this doesn’t get at the roots of what’s Triggering you.  

Search for Lies, Agreements, and God’s 3rd Story perspective

Last week we talked about how to spot the lies and agreements and replace them with Daily reminder of God’s Truth. 

We said you have to Let God Heal the Wound because Triggers are sure signs there’s something unhealed that God wants to heal in you. 

We said evil works to steal, kill, and destroy. 

Evil propagates through unhealed wounds, lies or agreements, and triggered reactions.

So we have to see Triggers as signs of something God wants to heal in us. 

What do you do? Some requires a much longer, deeper dive than I took—in fact, severe trauma can literally cripple your brain so you need time to re-wire it from that trauma. This is why we always recommend working with a professional counselor. 

But here’s what I did.

Let God Heal the Wound

First, realize God wants to heal us:. 

Jesus said this is why he came: 

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted….” Isaiah 61:1  

Jesus came to heal our broken hearts.  He didn’t come only to forgive us all our sins and set us free from all our addictions, but to get to the root and heal us, so we could experience His joy and life to the full in our hearts as we follow His Spirit. 

David in the Psalms says: 

“He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3  

God wants to heal our wounded hearts, he wants to return to us life, joy, wholeness so that we have full hearts that can fully love and give to others. Even love our enemies. 

That’s how God overcomes the evils of this world—as we follow His Spirit.

The night before his crucifixion, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to live in and through us

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you… Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. John 13:16-20

God’s Spirit is in everyone who trusts in Christ. 

  • He’s called the Advocate, or Comforter, Encourager, or Counselor
  • The Greek word Paraclete can be translated any of those ways.  
  • Jesus says, you have a personal Counselor, Comforter and Encourager always with you.  

God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit are all One—not different Gods, only One God. But God has intersected our finite human dimensionality of time and space in the form of Jesus. But God the Father was not confined to Jesus’ body or killed with Jesus—Jesus was the exact representation of God in human form. But when Jesus left, He didn’t leave us alone though He is physically gone, He’s still with us each by His Holy Spirit. His Spirit lives in and with all who invite Jesus into their lives. 

But here’s the deal—He’s our Counselor, but He won’t make us heal.  Let God Heal the Wound  and last week, I shared my story of seeing the wounds and lies and agreements I had made and how God healed that in me. But it’s so critical to let the Counselor Heal us, I want to go deeper into it.

And it’s not true that time heals, and moving on does not heal, and just sucking it up and toughening up—that doesn’t heal—that hardens. And a hardened heart is dangerous. Some of us have unhealed wounds because of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Bitterness spreads. Bitterness in your heart creates doubt in your mind. 

So I want to dive a little deeper into how we let the Holy Spirit heals us, then how we let the Holy Spirit grow us up in love, joy, peace, patience, etc..

Let’s look at how to

Form a New Habit to Respond to God’s Spirit  

Spend time in Solitude 

Carve out 1-2 hours to just be quiet, alone, and uninterrupted praying and talking to God.

Pray the prayer of David, 

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 

Ask God to search your heart and show you if there’s any unhealed wound from the past, or if there’s something you’ve done relationally that needs mending.  Ask, and sit quietly calming your mind and listening.

Do the Grocery Store Test

If you turned down the aisle in the store, and there in front of you was [fill in the blank], but he/she didn’t see you—your first inclination would be to turn around before you had to meet eyes with them.  Don’t evaluate why, just write down that name. 

There’s a wound there—something that needs healing.  Just write down their name—what they did to you or what you did to them–in a bit we’ll talk through what to do with it.

List every person or event that might possibly have wounded you

I say “might possibly” because our tendency is to over-spiritualize and say “I forgave that” or “that didn’t really hurt me” and so we ignore the cumulative effect of all the “paper cuts” still oozing. So no spiritual editing—just put them all down. 

  • “People leaving and not telling me.” 
  • “Hearing from a 3rd party what someone said about me.” 
  • “When my spouse said or did…” 
  • “What my dad said…”

John Burke shared that he didn’t think he had much of anything—but he set aside an hour, thinking it would take me 15-20 minutes to list them—3 hours later, he finished my list of people and what happened. He described a season of burnout in his life as having hundreds of paper cuts. Each one on their own was not very bad, but all together, he was really wounded.

Go back through the list.

Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth

Ask the Spirit to help you see the Truth from His perspective (his 3rd Story). 

Don’t try to be strong or brave or forgiving at this point. 

Just sit with each memory in the Light of God’s presence and let yourself feel how that originally felt. 

Write down what happened and how that felt.

  • “I felt intense sadness,”
  • “I felt betrayed,” 
  • “I felt rage,” 
  • “I wanted to get back at her,” 
  • “I wanted to hurt him.”  

Be honest before God. 

Jesus promised God’s Spirit is a Comforter, Encourager, Counselor. He will be in it with you so listen for His voice in your soul. The good news is, God will lead you to healing, and living in His truth, and it changes the triggered reactions and leads us to freedom and life.

The memories where the sadness is still fresh (emotion wells up and you push it away), or the hurts are still raw, or it still makes you angry, or you REALLY don’t want to think about it – These are still very unhealed places in your heart. 

That doesn’t mean you’re a horrible Christian, it means you need God’s grace and healing that Jesus paid a costly price to give you. 

Don’t deny it, receive it.

But it may take some time—guidance from a Christian therapist or in community with others here at Gateway South.

Humble yourself and ask God to speak to you. Ask Him to give you an open heart to hear His voice and even hear from others who you may have stopped listening to.

Our path towards growth remains humility and walking in step with the Spirit.

Trust God. Listen to Him. Acknowledge areas needing growth.

Just acknowledging what’s still there unhealed is a courageous step of faith.

Forgive and Release 

Jesus taught us “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:25 

Jesus paid for all our sins—if you’ve accepted Christ’s payment realized you needed His forgiveness

You are positionally forgiven, adopted as his child, he says that will never change. 

But…if you are refusing to forgive or let go of an old hurt or wound or injustice—you’re not going to feel experientially forgiven—the Holy Spirit’s going to keep convicting you to forgive, to let it go, because it’s holding you prisoner. 

That old unhealed memory is enslaving you to the past evil or wrong—you’re not free, and God wants you free, free to follow His Spirit. 

He forgave you everything, so forgive others. Then you’ll experience the forgiveness and intimacy God intended for you.

This is SO key to our healing. 

David Moore is one of our board members. He has a video memory—like a photographic memory, some things are as video real today as when they actually happened. They’ve publicly shared their story of marriage breakdown, near divorce 20 years ago. When they were in Counseling, working through wounds, David shared something Kay had said and done, and with hurt and anger in his voice he recounted the memory. The counselor asked, “When did Kay do that to you David?” “27 years ago.” But it was as fresh as yesterday. He said,

“Once I forgave her, and let it go, the memory lost it’s power to keep triggering me.”

As we seek Live at Peace with all people if possible then we grow in freedom by continuing to Walk with God’s Spirit in a daily, moment by moment way.

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery…. Galatians 5:1

3 tools God uses to continue to heal us and grow us daily so we stay free:

Our Willingness 

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants…19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these… 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control…Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:16-25

God doesn’t run over your free will. His Spirit works with your willingness.  

So the secret to becoming the Masterpiece God intended is to stay willing to follow the Holy Spirit who lives in you if you’ve identified with Christ. You don’t have to try harder to change, you just have to stay willing to listen to your conscience and those little promptings in your thoughts, and God’s Spirit chisels away these things that muddy up and destroy the masterpiece and brings out things that truly make us come alive.  

You don’t focus on changing—but moment by moment willingness to follow God’s Spirit—he produces the changes and you’ll like it!

—just stay connected to God’s Spirit in willingness. 

Our Minds 

5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6  

This is a tool the Spirit uses to shape us — our minds, our thoughts. 

So we don’t need to try hard to change, we need to be willing to let God’s Spirit into our thoughts. 

Before letting Christ in, we let our physical desires, or our fears or insecurities, or our old addictions or self-centered ways lead our lives and control our minds. It was really the only option we had. 

But when we trust in Christ and identify with him in baptism, we have another option — we now have the option to let God’s Spirit influence our thoughts and lead us toward life and peace.

We learned the truth about those cycles (and who we really are in God’s eyes), and have been able to adopt healthier patterns of behavior, as well as making our ‘Us-ness’ (our relationship) a priority.

We use the tools on a regular basis to help us through the rough times and to stop the cycles before they start.  The knowledge and tools have proven to be invaluable in helping our relationship to be less rocky and more peaceful. We both recognize our triggers and cycles much easier now and we try to be proactive in keeping a cycle from going further or better yet, getting started. It’s been surprising and inspiring to watch us succeed at this. And it’s proven to us, yet again, that with God, all things are possible.God is good!”

A New Kind of Community 

  • God’s Spirit uses our willingness, our thoughts, and finally each other to help chip away the rough spots and polish down the hard edges. 
  • As we learn to follow God Spirit, then we are better able to be a community that can call out the masterpiece that God sees in each other. 
  • And the truth is we need this — we need people around us who can remind each other What God Sees in us, and not to muddy up the masterpiece, can encourage each other to stay willing to let the Spirit to do his work in us. 

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another. Hebrews 10:24-25  

We are to be a community of people that follow God’s Spirit to motivate each other, encourage each other, but we must regularly meet together in smaller groups where we really know each other to do this. 

That’s why we encourage everyone here to connect into a serving team or a small group — and even within that group to find two or three others to act as spiritual running partners together. 

To regularly ask each other, “what you think God spirit is trying to do in your life? And how can you best cooperate with His work?” 

Where you regularly confess sins and shortcomings—why? 

Because it helps us not stay stuck in the mud — God uses that honesty and transparency to heal us. 

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

I know some of you this sounds really weird and scary — but it’s actually incredibly freeing and life-giving– because it lets you die to the need to impress others or pretend you’re better than you really are, and instead it helps us learn to depend on God’s Spirit with the support of others who are willing to be honest as well. 

And I’ll tell you, after living in this kind of community, I don’t ever want to be without it. 

I know I can be deceived, I know I can spiral down to bad places, but I also know that I’m growing as I walk by God’s Spirit, and I love who I’m becoming. 

So I connect regularly with a group of men who encourage each other, we confess our sins to each other, we pray for each other, we ask each other what God’s Spirit is doing in our lives and help each other figure out ways to cooperate and be willing — and because of that our friendships are incredibly rich and life-giving, and God uses us in each other’s lives to chip away the rough edges become more of what God intended.


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