Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Praise To The Lord The Almighty"1 (Lyrics)
Matthew 24:6a – You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. (NIV)
An unusual piece of art hangs on my downstairs hall wall. It's an Afghan War Rug designed with army tanks, AK-47s, explosions, grenades, helicopters, and a map of Afghanistan.
Understandably, most people prefer not to display such violent images. That's what I felt, too, when a friend passed me the mat to drop at the thrift store. But I couldn't let it go — not yet. Its quality was too remarkable. I did an Internet search and discovered that I possessed a valuable work of art. It became something more for me.
My mat belongs to a rug tradition that arose during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979. Previously, Afghan rug-makers wove peaceful symbols into their wool rugs, like flowers and birds. Now they wove the violence that they encountered in their daily lives. It was the only existence that they knew.
My particular rug features the Soviet exodus with a column of tanks heading north out of Afghanistan. Tragically, the exodus was not the end of suffering. The Taliban rose up and inflicted more violence and oppression. Ousting them did not end the misery.
Now, when I pass by this rug, I think of those suffering the atrocities of war. I pray for them; I face my addiction to comfort. My Afghan War Rug has become my Prayer Rug. It links me between God and broken humanity, including my own brokenness. Furthermore, the rug reinforces Scripture's truthfulness — like Daniel's prophecy, repeated by Jesus:
Daniel 9:26 – War will continue until the end. (NIV)
Mark 13:7 – When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (NIV)
This prophecy has been remarkably accurate so far. If humans had put in their word, they would have promised a better world: peace through conquest and revolution, through human achievement. Isn't that what revolutionaries promise, still today? People still believe it and support the cause, even though war has killed untold millions under the illusion of a new society where all will experience blissful equality. It's a lie!
Our only hope is God. The psalmists, who were often victims of war, expressed this faith:
Psalm 27:1-3 – The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. (NIV)
My Afghan War Rug has become my Prayer Rug — by drawing me toward God.
Prayer: Mighty God, may the psalmist's hope echo in the hearts of believers suffering through war today. Be their comfort and stronghold. Empower them to be witnesses of hope among fellow sufferers. Amen.