Proverbs 18:17 There are two sides to every story. The first one to speak sounds true until you hear the other side and they set the record straight.
In the fall of 1998, I was trying to understand the war between the Serbs and Croats, and like most ethnic wars, the roots of the conflict went way back before I was born, therefore, learning the truth of the whole matter would depend on who was telling the story. Prov. 18:17 There are two sides to every story. The first one to speak sounds true until you hear the other side and they set the record straight. The sad thing is, it does not matter who started the whole thing, the result is always the same – the civilians suffer the most.
The news coverage recorded the migration of people who had just been bombed out of their town and were making their way through muddy wet fields with light snow falling. The weather looked dismal and cold. There was a family of four young men carrying their grandfather on a sheet of plywood because he had been hit with some shrapnel and was now paralyzed. The newsman asked the man what he needed, and all he said was, “Just a blanket would be nice because I feel the cold.”
I said, “Oh God! Give the man a blanket!” Something hit me hard in my soul, and I broke down and started weeping uncontrollably for this man and his family. Of all the things he could have asked for, a blanket was it. I could think of a lot of things he could use right then and there. The first and most important thing he needed was for the fools waging war to stop bombing his home, and for the invaders to go back to where they came from. Prov. 24:12 God holds you accountable to deliver any innocent person from a wrongful death. I thought, even a cart pulled by a horse so his family didn’t have to shoulder him through the boggy fields of carnage. There were so many other things that this family and the refugees needed.
Was the man so discouraged that he had no more will to live in a world where killing people just over the border was a viable option to take? Had the old man seen so many unjust things throughout his life that the only hope he had left was the warmth of a blanket? Maybe, being paralyzed and jostled around on a makeshift plywood stretcher, he had resigned himself to the fact that any mercy in the world was a rare commodity and throwing up a flare prayer for a blanket was the most he could hope for.
This man’s plight put such a spotlight on all the complaining and whining we do for the smallest inconveniences we encounter daily. I was convicted to the bone and kept asking God to forgive me for all the ungratefulness I had been expressing. I had all the blankets I could use and then some. I had a home that was not being bombed and neighbours who were not being murdered in the name of someone’s so-called righteous cause. I was living in relative peace while these people were running for their lives with whatever and whoever they could carry. Yes, the conviction of the word was felt. James 2:16 If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?
In the winter months when I grab a blanket just to be warmed, I often think of the man on the plywood stretcher. We need to be grateful for everything we have and all the blessings we walk in every day. Do you have a blanket? Then say “Thank you, Lord!” Have you kicked an addiction or overcome a great trial? Then you need to be doubly thankful. Are you still sensitive to the needs of others? Then be grateful that you are still a soul whom God can touch and use to be His hand extended when the needs of a broken world show up right in front of you. James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Don’t become polluted by the coldness in this world. Stay warm in your heart. Who knows, you might be the warm blanket a cold soul needs just for a moment in time. God’s face shine on us all.
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I remember my parents pulling names off the “giving trees” at Christmas time and shopping for children and families. They were always moved by little ones who asked for a pair of warm boots or a coat, and mothers who asked for gas cards. It is a reminder to be grateful, for sure. Our “needs” always seemed pretty shallow compared to the ones we’d see on those cards.