How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?…I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13:1-2, 6
When starting a new school, new job, new church, or social club, we are always put through orientation. We understand this. But life surprised me to learn as Pastor Mark Batterson learned: “Jesus doesn’t do orientations. Jesus did disorientations. Doesn’t it seem like His disciples were in a constant state of disorientation?…Sometimes God needs to disorient us so He can reorient us.” (Mark Batterson, The Wild Goose: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God)
Sometimes God needs to disorient us in order to teach us new things about Him, about life and even about ourselves. Perhaps at different points in your life journey you have felt lost, disoriented. It can feel like driving cross-country without GPS, map, or even compass. There are times that God does not make sense for us; we cannot figure out life. We might feel like Dante, in the first line of Inferno who says that in his life journey he came “to a dark wood with no clear pathway through.”
Because God does not do orientations, I find the writings of Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann helpful in this. Brueggemann points out the three major types of psalms: Psalms of Orientation, Disorientation, and Reorientation. We gravitate towards Psalms of Orientation in which the psalmist feels good about life and oriented to God and what is happening to him. In these psalms, life is good and makes sense to us. Psalm 23 is such a psalm as David experiences God as his Shepherd who cares for him and leads him in right paths all the way Home.
But the same David who wrote Psalm 23 wrote today’s psalm, in which David expresses deep disorientation: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?” We can feel just like David sometimes. But we see in this psalm that going through disorientation prepares David to learn yet greater things about God, about grace and God’s wonder. Psalms of Disorientation ultimately take the psalmist, and you and me, to Reorientation. We see this as David began the psalm feeling forgotten by God, but ends with Reorientation; “I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6).
Significantly, Brueggemann notes that there are more Psalms of Disorientation than Psalms of Orientation. Times of disorientation were frequent in psalmists’ lives, as they can be in ours. But God is moving us along to teach us new and wondrous things about who God is and His faithful promises to us.
How might God be teaching you new things about Him in what you are going through? New things about life, about you? Stay open! Ask God to teach you, and He will!
A fellow traveler,