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The Picture of Despair

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. Psalm 107:6

During the Great Depression in the United States, photographer Dorothea Lange snapped a photo of Florence Owens Thompson and her children. This well-known photograph, Migrant Mother, is the picture of a mother’s despair in the aftermath of the failed pea harvest. Lange took it in Nipomo, California, while working for the Farm Security Administration, hoping to make them aware of the needs of the desperate seasonal farm laborers.

The book of Lamentations presents another snapshot of despair—that of Judah in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem. Before the army of Nebuchadnezzar swept in to destroy the city, the people had suffered from starvation thanks to a siege (2 Kings 24:10–11). Though their turmoil was the result of years of disobedience to God, the writer of Lamentations cried out to God on behalf of his people (Lamentations 2:11–12).

While the author of Psalm 107 also describes a desperate time in Israel’s history (during Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, vv. 4–5), the focus shifts to an action step to be taken in hard times: “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble” (v. 6). And what a wonderful result: “he delivered them from their distress.”

In despair? Don’t stay silent. Cry out to God. He hears and waits to restore your hope. Though He doesn’t always take us out of hard situations, He promises to be with us always. 

When have you experienced God’s help in a stressful time? How will you encourage someone this week who’s facing a crisis?
Heavenly Father, I’m grateful for Your comforting presence.


This psalm by an unknown author is considered a hymn of national thanksgiving believed to be sung at the laying of the foundation of the second temple. Bible commentator Derek Kidner writes regarding Psalm 107: “The center-piece of this striking psalm is the set of four word-pictures of human predicaments and divine interventions. In themselves the adventures are not characteristically Israelite situations; yet the fact that this is a piece to celebrate the return of exiles raises the possibility that these episodes are four different ways of depicting the plight from which the nation had been delivered.” Today’s passage describes how Israel was like someone lost in the desert, whom God rescued and led back home. These verses also describe our lostness before God rescued us.

Alyson Kieda

By |2020-03-20T14:56:34-04:00March 22nd, 2020|
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