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Triggers

Triggers

From there Abraham journeyed . . . and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. Genesis 20:1-2

In treatment, my chemical dependency counselors wisely insisted I work on Relapse Prevention, identifying triggers that caused me to once use drugs so that I may know how to handle those triggers in the future. I had to admit that there were certain stressors (chaotic schedule, working overnights) to which I should never subject myself again. I can avoid that. What though, about those life stressors that I can’t avoid? There will be trials and triggers that I can’t sidestep.

We all have life stressors, and we all have ways of dealing with those stressors, some of which are healthy (exercise or prayer) and some of which aren’t (binge eating or drinking alcohol). Today, I’m addressing those unhealthy pacifiers we all turn to for comfort: overeating, chemicals, pornography, shopping, or social media/games/screen time. These are unhealthy because, by definition, they sooth us temporarily but fail to address the problem, while making things worse later.

Pot is the only thing that helps my anxiety. This is something I hear almost daily, and I’ve stopped believing it. Marijuana may help right now, but studies show that marijuana (or alcohol) worsens anxiety over time. I can explain this to my patients, but still, anxiety remains a powerful trigger to seek relief right now.

Anxiety was Abraham’s trigger. In today’s passage, Abraham traveled to Gerar and once again lied about Sarah being his sister instead of his wife. Previously, Abraham used the same lie to protect himself in Egypt (Genesis 12). He was afraid that in a new land, the king would kill him to obtain his beautiful wife. Abraham had many times trusted God, following his commands. But when anxious, Abraham stopped trusting God and tried to save himself through deceit. It didn’t end well.

Like Abraham, when anxious, we often choose unhealthy responses, making things worse in the end. Life will always have triggers. Some we can avoid and some we cannot. It would do us well to understand our triggers and our unhealthy responses. If we want to stop self-destructing, then when in distress, we must go to God, asking him what he wants us to do. The answer probably won’t be to smoke pot. It may be that we need to let go of the thing that’s making us anxious. Or it may be that we need counseling and medications. These things aren’t immediate, but they also aren’t self-destructive. God never asks us to choose the self-destructive. So, we must learn to go to him, asking what to do. Then, we must do it.

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