Christian consciousness begins in the painful realization that what we had assumed was the truth is in fact a lie,” Eugene Peterson wrote in his powerful reflections on Psalm 120. Psalm 120 is the first of the “psalms of ascent” (Psalms 120–134) sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. And as Peterson explored inA Long Obedience in the Same Direction(InterVarsity Press, 2000)[1],these psalms also offer us a picture of the spiritual journey toward God.

That journey can only begin with profound awareness of our need for something different. As Peterson puts it, “A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. . . [One] has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace.”

It’s easy to become discouraged by the brokenness and despair we see in the world around us—the pervasive ways our culture often shows callous disregard for the harm being done to others. Psalm 120 laments this honestly: “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (v. 7).

But there’s healing and freedom in realizing that our pain can also awaken us to a new beginning through our only help (121:2)—the Savior who can guide us from destructive lies into paths of peace and wholeness. As we enter this new year, may we seek Him and His ways.