Orientation, Disorientation, Reorientation

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11: 25-26 ESV

By Eric Peterson

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep…” Genesis 1:1-2.  The origin of our existence.  Complete and utter chaos.  But not for long!

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good…” Genesis 1:3-4

When God speaks something happens. God does some of His very best work by speaking words of life and order directly into chaos.  God is speaking in this world that He so deeply loves.

John begins his Gospel by saying that this Word of God became flesh and took the form of Jesus. And as He came into the world He kept speaking the Word of God. And through the Word of God that is both spoken and embodied—which is to say, through Jesus—there is a new creation.

Orientation, Disorientation, Reorientation | The Navigators | A yellow wildflower grows in the ashes after a forest fire.

Jesus was going about teaching and preaching and healing when He got the news that His dear friend (perhaps His best friend) Lazarus was gravely ill.

It’s instructive to see what Jesus does and doesn’t do in this crisis moment. For starters, he doesn’t panic. He waits a full two days before going to Bethany. We see a Jesus who acts almost nonchalant, patient, nonreactive. What is true about Jesus then is true about Jesus now: In moments of crisis He doesn’t panic.

But once He gets there, instead of waving His hand and saying, “Stop your crying, people. Don’t worry. I’m here,” He enters in. He feels deep empathy toward others who are sad, and He accesses His own emotions as well. He weeps with them.

Perhaps in no other moment in the biblical narrative do we see the full humanity of Jesus converging with the full divinity of Jesus. He enters into solidarity with the mourners, shedding His tears. And then He finds His voice. He speaks a resurrection word: “Lazarus, come out!”

Lazarus comes out. This changes everything!

This is what Jesus does in our day. When our otherwise up-to-this-point-oriented lives give way to disorientation, when we’re not sure which way is up, or when the ground shakes underfoot, Jesus enters the chaos and He speaks words of life. They don’t return us to our previous state of being, but they reorient us to a new way, a deeper and more profound way of being in this world.

We’ve been hearing it quite a bit, the language of “when everything gets back to normal again …” I don’t believe God wants us to return to where we previously were. It would be uncharacteristic of God to not use a major, global disorienting disruption to get our attention, and to reorient our affections.

There is a pile of evidence these days that suggests ways we have gotten off track, have lost sight of what is fundamentally important. There has been so much focus on power and wealth and control and pleasure that we’ve neglected our care of the earth and of vulnerable people in our midst. We’ve lost sight of our mortality and of our need to invest in eternal life as citizens of the Kingdom of God. Wouldn’t it be a shame to go through a pandemic only to have everything go back to the way it was?

I’m not praying for recovery, because recovery only takes us back to where we once were before the crisis. I’m praying for healing. Healing ushers us into a new and better place. We don’t need recovery, we need healing.

Fortunately, healing is what Jesus is all about.

We are now deep into a season of profound disorientation. Our lives have been disrupted; our assumptions about how life is supposed to be have been rearranged. Our jobs, our income, our schedules, our plans, even, unfortunately, some of our relationships—it’s all been tossed up in the air and it hasn’t landed on anything solid yet. The chaos—we can feel it in our core. And with a future that is accompanied by uncertainty like we’ve never known before, there is considerable anxiety and fear that wants to move in, to feed off the chaos. That’s to be expected. But I urge you to allow this season of disorientation to do its work of rearranging our hearts, our minds, our lifestyles.

Reorientation takes time; don’t rush it.

God does some of His very best work in the midst of chaos. From the beginning until now, God is the author of life, speaking with renewed, re-creative energies. Jesus is God’s Word in the flesh, and He is still speaking words that rattle the powers of darkness and that startle the world with resurrection. When the valley is full of dry bones, when the stinking body has been in the tomb four days—in other words, when it looks altogether bleak and dire to our eyes—Jesus can’t even muster a modicum of panic.

Because He’s the Word of God. He’s got the words. He uses the words. And remember, whenever God speaks it results in something good. As I’ve been listening for those words these days, they sound something like this:
Come out!
Fear not.
Be still.
I love you.
I’ll never leave you.

And then I also hear this penetrating question:

Do you believe this?

If you say yes, then live like you believe it.

From a sermon delivered March 29th, 2020 by Eric E. Peterson, Pastor at Colbert Presbyterian, Colbert, WA and author of the upcoming NavPress title, Letters to a Young Congregation (June 2020).


  1. Yes. It would be a pity to go through the pandemic and political shrillness without growth and reorientation. Healing. It would be like going through adolescence but being no closer to adulthood. Let’s not waste our suffering but let God make it a means of growth. Let God teach us new ways to love Him and one another.

  2. Thank you Pastor Eric E. Peterson for allowing God to bring home this profound truth through you. God, in His sovereignty, works through every situation to bring about change and growth in us who love Him so that we can fulfil His purposes (Matt 28:18-20). Yes, His Word brings healing and transformation. I have been thinking and praying about the specifics of the impact of COVID-19 on my walk with God and ministry. The comforting assurance is that He is with us to the very end!

  3. Look at II Chronicles 7:13 before the often quoted (v 14). 1. NATIONAL JUDGMENTS are here supposed (v. 13), famine, and pestilence, and perhaps war, for by the locusts devouring the land meant enemies as greedy as locusts, and laying all waste. 2. NATIONAL REPENTANCE, prayer, and reformation, are required, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 3. .NATIONAL MERCY is then promised, that God will forgive their sin, which brought the judgment upon them, and then heal their land, redress all their grievances. Psalms 103:3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. – Matthew Henry

  4. Thank-you for sharing that. I too have been thinking something along that line in my own life and praying,”Father, you are doing something new in us and redirecting our thoughts away from ourselves. Lord I ask that you will make plain the new path in which you want me o walk to you abounding glory.”

  5. Thank you so much for these “profound words of wisdom and truth”. Every evening, I close with Deut 31:8 for comfort. I donate $50.00 each month to the Navigators.

  6. Your words echo and reverberate through my mind and heart. That is exactly what needed to be said. We do not need a recovery and go back to our old ways and habits. We need Holy Ghost Revival to wake up our sleeping spirits and minds and call others to salvation. Thank you for these profound words of wisdom and truth.

    1. Yes, the Lord is saying, “Let’s don’t talk about recovery anymore, let’s speak healing.” I am glad we are being propelled forward now, and may we be renewed in our focus and desire to share about our God’s salvation to others.

  7. Thank you for the truth about healing, not recovery. I hope, and pray that this will be the
    results: personal salvation, and a turning to God, for you have said it best. May God do
    His work in the hearts of all of us, and draw many to Himself.

  8. Thank you so much for a timely message of redirection- this just lines up with where my spirit is being led in Him of late!! Bless you for the writing & the sharing!

  9. Now these words are actually what God has brought me to in my thinking in the new man (the only safe place we can think from).. Thank you for sharing! Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good. 1 Thessalonians. 5.21

  10. \o/ Praise God for His message that He has given us through you, Pastor Peterson, – I really appreciated reading this and will share this as I want others to be encouraged as well. This was just such an encouragement to me today, thank you. I don’t read a lot of my daily devotions due to time, but today I did! \o/ praise God!

    1. To God be the glory in Jesus Christ. All credit belongs to HIM and not to us because what we have done or doing.

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