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Lamentations 3:14-24

The above image is called “Lamentations: Send Your Rain” and was created by Steve Prince. It is from the book Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard and available from Square Halo Books.


14 My own people laugh at me.
    All day long they sing their mocking songs.
15 He has filled me with bitterness
    and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink.

16 He has made me chew on gravel.
    He has rolled me in the dust.
17 Peace has been stripped away,
    and I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 I cry out, “My splendor is gone!
    Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”

19 The thought of my suffering and homelessness
    is bitter beyond words.[a]
20 I will never forget this awful time,
    as I grieve over my loss.
21 Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![b]
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”

Lamentations 3:14-24

Dear God, I think I have journaled about this passage and its associated image before, but I ran across it today and it reminds me a bit of my attitude towards this Thanksgiving. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like we have much to be grateful for. Our health is a mess with the pandemic. I talked with a woman yesterday who has known 7 people who have died from COVID-19. I stopped counting a year ago at 10. Our politics are a mess. The new COVID-19 vaccine mandates are causing pain. Inflation is rising. People cannot find housing. Businesses and other employers cannot find enough employees. Other than a solid stock market that seems to be divorced from the reality on the ground, causing the rich to just get richer while the gap between the haves and have-nots grows, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of good news. Even in my personal life, there are some tragic circumstances for which I am not grateful.

Then I remembered earlier today the first U.S. Presidential Proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving. It was October 1863. Written by Secretary of State William Seward, Lincoln released this proclamation, establishing the last Thursday in November to be set aside for Thanksgiving:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

It’s really quite remarkable. The proclamation above and Prince’s depiction of the passage in Lamentations bear a striking resemblance. Of the image, Bustard writes:

This image shows a couple walking through a storm, which is symbolic of the suffering, pain, and destruction documented in the book of Lamentations. The husband clings to his wife as they move in faith through the storm. In the midst of the raindrops three elongated figural forms (alluding to the Trinity/Holy Spirit) create a covering over the couple. The woman clutching her abdomen is a symbol of hope and renewal as it represents the imminent arrival of a child. The presence of the Cross is created by the subtle placement of the woman’s finger overlapping the rod of the umbrella. It is by faith they walk, and the Holy Spirit amplifies their love through the storms of life.

Father, the passage in Lamentations ends with the words that have been made into a praise chorus. I sing them in my heart now, to you: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, never every morning. Great is thy faithfulness, oh Lord. Great is thy faithfulness.” Your faithfulness is great. Thank you for being my rock and my shelter. Thank you for everything you have given to me. Thank you for your mercy.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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“The Faithfulness of God” — Lamentations 3:14-24


The above image is from
Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “Lamentations: Send Your Rain” and was created by Steve Prince.

My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink. He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
Lamentations 3:14-24

Dear God, yesterday, over lunch with a friend, I talked about how I’ve been disappointed with you in the past. I felt like you let me down when I had done my best to be faithful to you. My path got harder and more painful than I thought I deserved. What a beautiful portrait of that kind of pain this passage from Lamentations is! It expresses exactly what I was describing to my friend yesterday. I was filled with bitterness and felt you had given me a bitter cup to swallow. My peace (which I treasure from my relationship with you more than anything) was gone. “Everything I had hoped for from the Lord [was] lost!” But you used that experience to help me enter into a completely new place. I haven’t arrived. I’m not perfect. And I still can revel in self-pity with the best of them. Yet you taught me through that time to still “dare to hope.” You taught me to turn loose of what I thought I deserved at every level. Marriage. Children. Work. Money. Okay, like I said, I still fall into the traps of feeling like I deserve those things, but I can feel the progress I’ve made, and I’m grateful.

As for this image by Steve Prince, let me spend some time with it and see what be noticed and put into it.

  • It appears to be a tribals-type woman who is not fully clothed.
  • There is something ominous behind her. I originally thought she held the umbrella, but it is the mysterious figure behind her that holds the umbrella for her.
  • She has her right hand around her abdomen. Is she pregnant?
  • The train is not only falling, but it is blowing in from an angle. This isn’t just a shower. It’s a storm that requires the umbrella to be held against it.
  • It looks like umbrella is made of some time of leaves or thatch.
  • The man holding the umbrella has his left hand (with pretty gnarled fingers) around the woman’s waist.
  • The man is under the umbrella with her.
  • The man’s clothes cover more of him than her clothes cover of her. He even has a head covering while she has none.
  • Her scarf is blowing in the wind to support the idea of a storm.
  • It looks like she is trying to help with the umbrella, but it’s obvious that he is the one with control over it.
  • Her eyes are closed and she looks like she is just surviving, while the man looks confident and sure. His left arm around her indicates care.
  • The more I look at the picture the less ominous the man looks. He is becoming more noble in my eyes.
  • The piece is titled “Send Your Rain.” Is this storm from you for my good? Is this a rain that actually nurtures while it challenges? I like that thought.

Here is what Bustard says about the image:

This print is from the same series as Exodus: Bread from Heaven and therefore is intended to be a look at an Old Testament passage through the lens of a love story. This image shows a couple walking through a storm, which is symbolic of the suffering, pain, and destruction documented in the book of Lamentations. The husband clings to his wife as they move in faith through the storm. In the midst of the raindrops three elongated figures forms (alluding to the Trinity/Holy Spirit) create a covering over the couple. The woman clutching her abdomen is a symbol of hope and renewal as it represents the imminent arrival of a child. The presence of the Cross is created by the subtle placement of the woman’s finger overlapping the rod of the umbrella. It is by faith they walk, and the Holy Spirit amplifies their love through the storms of life.

So, I never thought of them as being a couple. I was thinking more of the woman representing your people and the man representing you. We are your bride. But you are in the umbrella? Hmm. That’s interesting. I have to admit, I really like the idea of this depicting my wife and me going through this together. Over the last 10 years, we’ve really needed each other in ways we never imagined. And we’ve needed you.

Father, help me to hold on to you. You don’t have to take away the storm for me to have faith in you. I’m slowly learning that. And help me to really believe and have faith in the fact that your steadfast love never ceases and your mercies never come to an end. You renew me every morning through your faithfulness to me. Great is your faithfulness, oh Lord. You are my portion, and I will hope in you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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