Happy Reorientation Day
The realities have set in. The grief curve is moving deep towards the bottom. The evidence is everywhere. Personally, I am hearing from pastors, helping churches and dealing with Christians where desperation and frustration have set in.
The macro-social dynamics reveal the evidence. The divorce rate in China is skyrocketing. The cause? To little money, too much screen time, too much conflict, too little communication about expectations, and uneven division of housework and childcare. Remote therapy has surged in America. Early indications are there are not enough counselors to help those who are crying out in pain for help. Domestic abuse calls have surged. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, and relational break downs are all occurring.
The five stages of grief inform us about the difficulty of the situation. Depression is what we can expect to see for the foreseeable future. (The diagram below is from a resource called ReThink provided by the Corpus team. It explains the stages of grief people and organizations are going through during the current crisis).
Is there anywhere we can turn for help? Psalm 121.1-2 says, I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD. . .
The desperation is real. And even unexpected voices are encouraging people to turn to God. The governor of Mississippi led his state in prayer on TV. A CNN news anchor ask a Christian pastor to pray on air. Hollywood entertainers are online telling people to turn to Jesus and read the Bible. A businessman stood in the Rose Garden and preached the Gospel with the President standing beside him. The Prime Minister of Australia, one of the world’s most secular countries, is leading viewers in prayer on television. Things must be really bad, and they are. In times of disorientation we find our Re-orientation in the Lord.
One of the places many are turning for help is to the book of Psalms. I have noticed more pastors preaching from the Psalms, more posts on social media quoting the Psalms, many governmental officials appealing to the Psalms. And many churches are reading from the Psalms during their online services. People are seeking to give comfort, hope, direction, understanding and more to their listeners. I think the Psalms are the perfect place to turn in these disorienting times.
It was Walter Brueggemann in his groundbreaking book, The Message of the Psalms, that provides one of the most meaningful and simplest outlines for understanding the Psalms. Brueggemann identifies 3 types of Psalms in the cyclical nature of the human experience. According to Brueggemann there are Psalms of Orientation, Psalms of Disorientation, and Psalms of Re-Orientation.
While the Psalms of Orientation are a distant memory right now, most people can relate to the Psalms of Disorientation. Let me give my own outline to the Psalms of Disorientation. What we are facing is disorder leading to disruption, leading to disorientation, resulting in discouragement and for some even disillusionment.
It is at this low point of disorientation where the human heart recognizes it is empty and hurting, and it is powerless and helpless. We realize we cannot control the outcome of the crisis. We are not in charge of the circumstances. The thin veneer of human control is shattered, and we are asking existential questions about life’s meaning? what do I truly believe? and where if anywhere can I turn for help? This is life’s most vulnerable moment; however, it is spiritual life’s most valuable moment.
It is here where the Psalms really can help us! As Brueggemann says, “the Psalms of Disorientation teach us how to talk to God in our desperation.” The Psalms reveal it is ok to be angry, frustrated, and hurt. It is ok to vent these feelings and fears to God. It is ok to wrestle with these issues.
You/I are not the first to do this. As a matter of fact, every generation must have this moment, or they are doomed to live a shallow insignificant life. This season of suffering has been called the dark night of the soul, and it is a place where God does some of His very best work. We learn to walk by faith and not by sight. We learn the world is broken and we come face to face with the fact that we are broken too. We like Job sit in our sorry and gain a much better and more realistic view of the world we live in and the life we live.
Thankfully, for the believer, disorientation is not the last word! There is a coming Re-orientation for those who will put their hope in God. Psalm 73 was King David’s ultimate re-orientation. In light of his troubles, he makes his way into the presence of God confessing “his foot had almost slipped.” But when he comes to the Lord and finds spiritual reorientation, his “bitterness melts away and his hope surges.” He confesses his faith and trust in God, “Whom have I in heaven but you? and besides You I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Here are the 4 things David teaches us that come with our spiritual Re:Orientation:
- Relationship – Our isolation is overcome by the most meaningful relationship we could ever hope to experience – a relationship with God. As a matter of fact, we discover that we have been living far below what we were designed to enjoy when we were living “ordinary” lives without an extraordinary relationship with the living God.
- Relaxation – We discover we can relax recognizing that we are not in control, but God is. He has numbered our days, and He has a purpose for our lives. He is in control and we are not. You can be anxious but, in your anxiety, you will not be able to add a single day to your life. So, relax, God’s got this.
- Resilience – One of the things your faith in God will provide you is an unending resilience in the face of difficulty. Resilience will empower you to: A) accept your new Realty. B) Develop new Routines. C) Reinvent your schedule. D) Reflect deeply about what matters. E) and Reframe how you view life.
- Renewal – Victor Frankl who wrestled more deeply with meaning and purpose than most of us ever will wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” This is the ultimate re-orientation, and this is what God is able to accomplish.
Philippians 2.5-11 was Brueggemann’s inspiration for his three-fold outline of the Psalms. Paul reveals the ultimate gospel orientation when Jesus Himself went through this cycle of orientation, disorientation, and re-orientation and He came out on the other side victorious.
help us make sense of what we are feeling.
teach us how to talk to God in these times of frustration.
assist us in pouring out in human language all of the thoughts, feelings, and hurts that that flood the heart and mind.
speak to the topics every person faces during their life as they experience celebration, suffering, surprise, and survival.
reveal the hidden thoughts and emotions of the human heart.
and lay our hearts before God so we can understand our feelings in light of the eternal God.
Happy Reorientation Day as you read the Psalms!
Visit: www.drrobpeters.com for more resources.