Dear Truro Family,
Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to teach on the psalms of lament and the imprecatory psalms (the ones where the psalmist asks God to curse his or her enemies). Psalms like these make up over one third of the entirety of the Psalter, and yet we tend to ignore them. We’re not sure exactly what to do with them.
Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggeman calls these psalms the “psalms of disorientation.” They were written during times when what the psalmist had previously believed to be true about God, or reality, or relationships, was in tension with the lived experience of the moment. For example: we believe that God is good and loving, and yet we turn on the news only to see examples of evil and injustice all around us. Or another example: we know the Bible says that Christians are to love one another. But what do we do when our lived experience is one of hurt, or betrayal, or even hate?
The imprecatory psalms and psalms of lament (“psalms of disorientation”) name that cognitive dissonance. They express the disorientation that we often feel when what we previously believed to be true seems to be in tension with lived experience. These psalms give words to those feelings and experiences, and in doing so, they teach us to pray – to bring all of our feelings and our emotions and our confusion to God, who alone is big enough to handle it.
These psalms help us put that dissonance in the right place, and to bring it to the right person. When we don’t do that – when we bury the dissonance, or just “try really hard” to “just let it go,” the hurt usually comes out sideways.
These psalms of disorientation (like Psalm 6, or 22, or 109) are such gifts to us. They give us language for our hurt and pain, and help us direct our hurt to God so it doesn’t come out sideways. Lent – of all the seasons of the Christian year – is a season of disorientation. It’s a season of repentance, and lament, a season in which we name our sin and our pain as we follow Jesus to the cross. It’s a season where we’re reminded that Jesus alone can deal with the mess, and we’re encouraged to bring all of our brokenness to Him. These psalms have helped me to do that in this season, and will continue to do so.
Your brother in Christ,