God said to Moses, Go on out ahead of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel. Take the staff you used to strike the Nile. And go. I’m going to be present before you there on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock. Water will gush out of it and the people will drink.
Moses did what he said, with the elders of Israel right there watching. He named the place Massah (Testing-Place) and Meribah (Quarreling) because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because of their testing of God when they said, Is God here with us, or not?
Amalek came and fought Israel at Rephidim. Moses ordered Joshua: Select some men for us and go out and fight Amalek. Tomorrow I will take my stand on top of the hill holding God’s staff. Exodus 17:6-9 The Message
We all have triggers – people, events, circumstances, objects, pictures or words that activate wanted or unwanted behaviors/emotions in our lives. The trick is to identify those triggers so we can head off the undesirable behaviors or use those triggers to initiate new behaviors.
For example, why do later-evening TV commercials advertise pizza or burgers? To trigger that gotta-have-one-now response to run out to the fast-food restaurant that’s still open and satisfy that craving we’ve just been reminded we have. Been there, done that….. And for some reason, those commercials seem to activate that craving even more when I’m trying to diet.
When I recognize that “binge” trigger associated with the late-night TV fast-food commercials, I can take steps to keep myself from acting on those impulses. I can call my daughters for a chat if it’s not too late. I can work on a project during the commercials so my mind is occupied or even use commercial time to do some exercises. I can also pre-plan a healthy snack and go to the kitchen for it when a fast-food commercial comes on.
The commercials are negative triggers for a binge eater just like being around friends who are drinking alcohol could tempt an alcoholic to take a drink after being sober for months. But are there positive triggers as well?
Sure! Think of a particularly inspiring song and how you feel each time you hear it. When I was going through my own painful time of childhood abuse recovery, I loved the upbeat kids’ songs on our local Christian radio station. Those songs always lifted the depressing gloom and left me in a better mood – they triggered hope, enthusiasm and faith in my heart. So I listened to them every time I could. I even recorded them for later listening.
Being the “counselor” that he is, God understands the importance of positive triggers in the healing process. At Rephidim, things are about to become more difficult for the ex-slave nation of Israel. They’ve faced hunger and thirst. Now, they will face their first human enemy – the Amalekites.
God gave his people numerous indicators of his love and care. He provided a physical presence with them in the cloud and the pillar of fire. He performed miracles and repeated his message many times in a variety of ways that he would protect, deliver, provide for and love them. God also gave them the staff of Moses as a visual trigger that would remind the children of Israel of his power and authority:
- God first used that staff to prove to the Hebrew elders that “I AM” had sent Moses to deliver them. Moses threw down his staff and it became a snake. When he grabbed it by the tail, it became a staff again
- God used it to signal the beginning of the plagues as Moses struck the Nile and the water became blood
- God made a way where there was no way when he instructed Moses to hold up his staff at the Red Sea, parting the waters
- And now at Rephidim, God instructed Moses to strike the rock with the staff, causing water to pour out of the crack in the rock
- As they face the Amalekites, Moses intends to take God’s staff up onto a hill overlooking the battlefield so both the men who fight and the people who watch may see it raised up in his hands.
The sight of the staff is a positive trigger of faith. It was intended to lift their depression, to remind them of the things God did before, to let them know he still intended to work on their behalf, to give them a sense of his power and authority and to motivate them to move forward in God’s wake.
Think about your experiences on your healing journey. What kinds of ways has God proved his love, protection and care for you? What positive triggers of faith has he given you? (pictures, Scripture verses, music, books, people, etc.) How can you use those positive triggers effectively when negative events trigger the old behaviors of doubt, feelings of doomed or the urge to complain?