Disoriented (Psalm 42)

One of my favorite things about Psalms is the honesty within the pages. David (et al.) wrote many of the Psalms persistent in refusing to let God off of the hook when awakening to a place of tension, sin, or desperation — quite literally, their words, hold God to his holy promises at times asking: “Where are you?” Psalm 42:9 (New Revised Standard), “I say to God, my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”

Psalm 42, as Walter Brueggeman explains, is a Psalm of disorientation. This facet of the book of Psalms clarifies reality for us when life isn’t always coherent. “Disorientation,” in Brueggeman’s words, describes a season of suffering, alienation, hurt, and death. At such times, we vent our pain in rage, self–pity, resentment, and even hatred (Psalm 137:8–9). In terms of faith, we rage against the absence of God and fall into despair. We use hyperbole and extravagant speech, which is large enough to give voice to our experiences.”¹

When we unpack these Psalms of disorientation, we see that we are not the only humans who have experienced life’s brokenness. We are not alone in our anger, confusion over experiences, and feeling the absence of God. These Psalms give voice to our feeling and somehow permit us to be honest with God, more times than not, reminding us to pray still and be thankful that God will rescue us and bring us out of the depths as we journey toward regaining our footing. Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God! Psalm 42:11 (New Living Translation)

Other Psalms of Disorientation²

Community Laments
12, 44, 58, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 89, 90, 94, 123, 126, 129

Individual Laments:
3, 4, 5, 7, 9–10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 39,
40:12–17, 41, 42–43, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89, 120, 139, 141, 142

As I explore this honesty in my faith journey, I am learning that one of the first steps in dealing faithfully with loss is to be honest about it — in all its complexity and ambiguity — to be honest with each other, ourselves, and God. I am doing this in prayer, community, counseling, and honesty. One of the most exciting things is how my soul is responding. The depths of my spirit man are often singing, speaking, and praying over me. I recently heard a song that I had forgotten about, called Remember (by Bryan and Katie Torwalt)³. The lyrics quiet me and stir me to recall the power of God:

And oh my soul
Remember who you’re talking to
The only one who death bows to
That’s the God who walks with you

And oh my soul
You know that if He did it, then
He can do it all again
His power can still raise the dead
Don’t tell me that He’s finished yet

Friends, remember today that God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right — everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones. — Isaiah 30:18 (The Message Translation)

I like that wording. We are truly “the lucky ones.”

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