Show me Your glory, I pray.
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people
wept that night. And all the Israelites complained against
Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, “Would
that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died
in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall
by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty;
would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” So they said to
one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”
Once when Daniel Boone returned from a long exploration of the Cumberland Wilderness he was asked if he ever got lost. “Nope,” Boone replied. “Not lost, but bewildered a heap of time.” The Wilderness can be bewildering not just for Boone, but for any of us. It is easy to lose our way and become disoriented.
Pastor Mark Batterson writes about spiritual growth in the midst of bewilderment and disorientation:
“New chapters in our lives often begin with orientation. You go through an orientation when you start a new school or get a new job. But God begins new chapters in our lives via disorientation. Jesus didn’t do orientations, Jesus did disorientation… We don’t know exactly where we are going much of the time, but that disorientation develops our dependence upon God. And it is our dependence upon God, not our best-laid plans, that will get us where God wants us to go.” (Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase: Reclaiming the Adventure of Pursuing God)
Disorientation can indeed lead us to rely on God to get us through, rather than our best-laid plans. I think about the weeks and months after my wife Melodee’s death from cancer. I was disoriented and had to depend upon God to get me through. But so can the loss of a job, retirement, a new job, empty nest, loss of health, and so forth, lead to disorientation and eventual reliance on God.
It is obvious in today’s scripture that the Israelites are disoriented and bewildered in the Wilderness. They are sure God has brought them into the Wilderness to die, so that they want to choose a new leader to lead them back to bondage in Egypt.
I have been encouraged in my own Wilderness disorientation and bewilderment by Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann’s book, Spirituality of the Psalms. Brueggemann points to three categories of psalms, calling them Psalms of Orientation – Disorientation – Reorientation.
We delight in the Psalms of Orientation and often read them in church, in which we praise God for a blessed and well-ordered life. These would include psalms like 1, 8, 14, 33, 104, 131, and 145. But the Psalms of Disorientation are dark and very different, telling about our world collapsing into the “pit”. These psalms groan and grumble about feelings of abandonment and despair (see psalms like 13, 22, 73, 79, and 88). They are honest expressions of struggle and confusion. It was a Psalm of Disorientation that gave expression to Jesus hanging on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).
Then, there are Psalms of Reorientation that celebrate a new chapter of life with a whole new understanding of God and the world. In these a psalmist sings, heartily praising God for drawing him up out of the “pit” and putting a “new song” in his mouth (Psalm 40:2-3). Psalms of Reorientation would include 23, 27, 40, 100, and 103. Notably, Brueggemann points out that there are more Psalms of Disorientation than Psalms of Orientation and Reorientation.
The fact that God includes Psalms of Disorientation tells us that God feels with us in our pain and confusion; He understands. While times of Disorientation in the Wilderness might unsettle and disturb us, they press us onward into even greater trust in the Lord. Soon they will have us singing Psalms of Reorientation, psalms of new praise to our God.
- Can you think of a time in your life that was disorienting? If so, what was it like for you?
- Have you experienced God bringing you into reorientation and a new understanding of God and life? If so, did God give you a “new song”, new words of praise to Him?