April 24, 2023

What to do When Scripture Triggers Us

What do we do when the Bible, which is said to bring us love and comfort, brings us the opposite? 

When I was growing up, I doubted God often. I had big questions and there were many loose ends. People would give me the (legitimately great) advice to read my Bible. This is the advice Christians have given for hundreds of years. I’d pick up my Bible and scroll through and the heartache and hurt I was feeling got worse. I suddenly had more questions, and the original question was still unanswered.

Is God saying I’m not okay? Is He violent?

My confusion with one subject led to confusion with multiple. The Bible wasn’t helping. I’d put it down in greater turmoil than when I picked it up. 

Where else could I go if even the Bible was triggering me?!

One verse in particular triggered me for years. After hearing God’s voice for the first time, I wanted, more than anything, to hear it reliably. But I couldn’t. Then I’d read my Bible and come across the verse, “My sheep hear my voice” and I’d wonder if I was really a sheep. Was I actually a “goat?” Was something inherently wrong in me? Was I not chosen? 

I thought the Bible was triggering pain in me, but in hindsight, it wasn’t the Bible that triggered me- it was my understanding of it. 

Now, I know that that verse isn’t saying if we don’t hear, we aren’t sheep. It is saying: if we are sheep (defined by our belief in Him), we receive the gift of hearing Him. The verse was telling us of our capabilities,(!) not a prerequisite. In reading the whole Bible, we can see what makes us a sheep is our accepting the gift of salvation- thats it!

How could I have known that it didn’t mean I needed to hear Him to be considered a sheep? How could I have known it was telling us that we DO hear Him (whether we recognize it or not) when we have accepted salvation? 

So many truths are obvious in hindsight. But I didn’t understand the verse until God spoke to my heart about its meaning. And then the fear slipped away, and I was no longer triggered. 

Do you have a verse (or verses) that trigger you? Are you convinced God is scary and condemning because of your understanding of the verse? 

Through my (many) times of being triggered, I’ve learned God’s character is always true. No matter what it seems, His character is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. When I read the Bible and I am left with a feeling that God is rough and hateful and scary, I am not understanding it correctly. 

This isn’t to say there aren’t difficult truths in the Bible. God is clear and some truths aren’t comfortable or convenient for us. But HIS CHARACTER is always loving. And His law always comes from that place of love.

The Bible convicts, just as God does. But the Bible does not scare, because God does not scare. The Bible is the Word. And the Word is Jesus!

If Jesus wouldn’t tell you something, the Bible wouldn’t either. The Bible does not go against God’s character. 

It is so difficult to read some passages- like God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, or God telling armies to kill the people around them. How can we reconcile these directions with a loving God? 

In our efforts to avoid cognitive dissonance, we can deny, excuse, or explain. We say God didn’t mean it, or that part of the Bible isn’t true. 

But when we are triggered, the answer isn’t to ignore parts of the Bible that trigger us. He doesn’t let us choose who He is and what He says.  

The key is to know His character when reading the Bible. 

His character is always looking to love and redeem the world. He created us, and then came to save us. He loves you more than anything and He would do anything for you. And He is all of the fruits of the spirit. 

These may seem like religious platitudes, but if we know these basic truths about who God is, we can rest in them when mysteries arise. 

We will never fully understand the mysteries of God. We may never understand why He says certain things. Yes, context helps! But God doesn’t see life and death the way we do. He sees eternity, and He sees the value of all people being with Him forever. 

If we read scripture and we are triggered, we can rest on the truths of His character and let Him walk with us in our doubts. All we need to do is go to Him and ask Him about who He is, and be patient with ourselves and with the process. He is gentle and loving, and He works with us. As long as we stay open to Him, He will get us through. 

So, if you’re in a season of being triggered by the Bible, you’re not alone. But it’s also not the end. Sometimes, we need to be in the process to get from the place of confusion to peace. But even when we haven’t arrived at the peace and clarity, we can have confidence in who God is. We can rest on the fact that accepting His gift of salvation is enough, and that all you need to do for salvation is to say yes. Everything else will be okay.

So yes, read your Bible. And if you’re triggered, that’s okay. He loves walking with you through it. And no matter how bleak it seems, He is always good and He always loves you. You can rest on that.

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