Memories Triggering Fear or Fury May Be Silenced and Become Areas of Sweet Victory
A Precious Memory
We entered Prague just after dawn. Moments later, my companion left me to meet our contact. Alone in the car on an empty main street was disconcerting. What should have been a few minutes turned into half an hour. As the cold gray city awoke, I felt I was being watched by hundreds of hostile eyes. My apprehension grew as I imagined any moment someone would decide I was a spy and I would be violently taken away, never to be seen again.
Moments after my companion returned, our contact got into the back seat and quietly directed us out of the city. On a deserted road, we traded places; we got into the back and the man got behind the wheel.
At one point, he instructed us to scrunch down onto the floor beneath a blanket so we were not seen and would not know the location where we would work with believers in Jesus to produce films for Czechoslovakia prior to the demise of the Soviet Union.
Some time later, we pulled up beside a little church in a mountain village. Inside, my heart was transported to heaven by the sound of beautiful voices raised in worship to our Beloved Lord Jesus. I have visited many churches in different countries, but that morning stands out as one of the sweetest.
A Dear Friend
Later, we were driven deep into a thick forest, where nestled in the woods was a little cabin. Andreas, a tall elderly gentleman, who walked with a stout hand carved wooden cane, stayed with us. His voice was like liquid gold. By profession, he had been a newsman, loved and trusted by his people.
After the invasion, when the Russians wanted him to continue as news anchor, he walked away from a life of security and ease, refusing to deceive his people with twisted “truth”. Living a life of obscurity, he remained faithful to his Lord.
Whenever I think of dear Andreas, diligent and always cheerful, I smile. One morning he triumphantly returned from his walk, his hat filled with mushrooms, which he happily prepared for breakfast. To his dismay and utter incomprehension, I politely refused his special delicacy. He patiently explained, “These are not mushrooms. These are truffles!” Normally pigs are used to find them, for truffles don’t grow in plain sight. My memory of Andreas and his joy over his truffles still delight me.
Memories Shape Our Responses
Do you have a memory like this that makes you smile? Memories are made of scents, sights, sounds, touch, tastes encoded into the brain. Even years later, far removed from our experience, a sight, a song, a breath of air touching our face, a scent of perfume, or a taste can throw us back into that moment, where the experience plays itself out as if it is happening in the present.
I can almost hear you thinking, that’s nice if its a happy memory flooding our brain and body with endorphins and feel good hormones, like my time hiding in the mountain and working with Andreas. But what if it is a painful, even shameful memory that triggers us and floods our body with harmful hormones?
Triggers Destroy the Ability to Think
When driving down the highway and someone flips you off, you may be blinded with anger, ready to fight, even to the death. Triggered by the amygdala, you react in fury, recklessly cutting them off, incapable of rational thought. That is dangerous!
When you experience fury or fear that consumes you, it means your amygdala has been triggered. You are not in control. Your brain has thrown you into a self-preservation reactivity out of context with your actual surroundings or the situation you are facing, even as I momentarily panicked sitting alone in that car in Prague, afraid of being thrown into prison.
Those who have experienced trauma know exactly what I am describing. The sight of a certain color, make and model of a car, a rustling or sudden sound behind you can throw you into sudden panic where you feel you are living a past trauma in the present.
You may feel fear or antipathy rising for no apparent reason when you see certain individuals. Your amygdala has triggered a memory of a person who hurt you or a person you love. You are about to react in a way you will regret.
Pause. Breathe slow and deep. It will help you think rationally.
The Brain Remembers
Our brain is a marvelous instrument. It holds everything that ever happened to us, like my memory of Andreas cooking the truffles. We think we can ignore the past, or be safe as we body build, learn martial arts, or carry a gun to protect us from danger in the present. But these cannot resolve the past or equip us for the future.
It is important to know what triggers you to react in fear or in anger. Unless you know your triggers, you won’t remain in control of your own body.
God did not give us the spirit of fear. Fear is a profane spirit that causes us to flee in disarray or to turn in violence on others.
Peter said we have everything we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). If Jesus is your Saviour, the Holy Spirit of God dwells within you. He gives you all you need to equip you to face life with its ugliness and unpredictability.
Here are 2 steps to help free you from negative memories imprinted on your brain.
- Look at Jesus. Fall in love Him. Practice being in His presence. In His presence, there is freedom from fear and anger. Let love have the final word over your life.
- When you feel jerked into a harsh place – immediately cry out: “Jesus, help me. Be with me in this dark place.” Let Him be your safety.
Let’s Pray Together Now
Lord Jesus, I am afraid (or I am angry.) I need you. You understand my thoughts afar off; you accept me as I am. Please help me. Bring the hidden things of darkness into the light; set me free to walk without fear or anger.
Father God, forgive me for giving place to fear. Cleanse me with the blood of Jesus. Your love is greater than my deepest fear; quiet my heart with your love.
In Jesus’ name, I command fear to be bound. I choose life. Father God, drive out fear that paralyzes and confuses me, help me receive your love. Forgive me when I self-protect, making myself my hiding place. Help me run to hide under the shadow of your wing. Keep me safe from spirits of fear and torment.
Father God, you understand what causes me to shake, blinded by rage, wanting to lash out. But when I am so angry, I can’t hear your voice. Forgive me. My anger doesn’t produce your righteousness. Cleanse me with the precious blood. May Jesus, be LORD over my rage.
Jesus, be LORD over my feelings of powerlessness. In Jesus’ name, I reject the voice of fear or rage and command them to be silent.
Lord Jesus, please touch me. Bring your presence, Your light, Your quiet, and Your peace into my mind. Take the bitterness of this memory and sweeten it with your living waters. Fill me with your sweet Spirit that I may choose life.
Heal my brokenness. Make me complete in you. Father, help me think with clarity with the mind of Christ. Help me recognize my true identity. I am a person of dignity. I am not a victim. I am your beloved child! Help me stand strong in you.
Father, deliver me from the lies of the enemy. Thank you fear and rage were defeated at Calvary. Thank you nothing can separate me from your love. Take this painful memory and turn it into blessing, as you develop the sweetness of Jesus in my life. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The trigger feels real. But it is your amygdala reacting out of the past. It is only a trigger.
Tell yourself the truth. You are not defined by your past. You have a new identity.
In Jesus, you have all you need to triumph over the past. You are never alone. Jesus lives in you. He is always with you. In Him, you are safe.
Jesus has conquered all your foes. His love for you is unconditional. Let Him turn memories where you feel insufficient, powerless, afraid, or angry into places of sweet victory.
The Lord bless you and heal your memories so you walk in resurrection life!
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Thank You, Lord, that we don’t need to be held hostage to our past or to our amagdala, for You have given us a new identity in Yourself, and You are composing a new story—our lives in You.
Praise Jesus! He indeed sets us free as we walk in the truth of the Word and in the truth of our identity in Christ. Thank you for sharing Joy. May He be writing His story upon your heart and life.