Growing up, I had an uncle Bobby, and he was pretty much the coolest guy ever. He owned a go-cart, so I immediately loved hanging out with him. He also lifted weights and looked quite buff.
One day I noticed that the license plate on his big truck (also very cool) spelled out "S-T-R-E-S-S." My mom asked him about it.
The reason for Bobby's unusual choice in vanity plates? Well, because life, quite simply, can be very stressful.
During a study I lead with another Dan I know -- called "Lunch with the Dans" at noon Thursdays at Zeppelins in Bluffton -- we got to talking about stress recently. I was personally very stressed about whether my wife and I should get a dog. We finally decided to go all in and get a miniature schnauzer, and we found a beautiful 5-month-old named Bruce, but the adoption ended up falling through. Before we knew this, however, my wife had sent me a number of texts worrying about the cost and how we'd take care of Bruce while traveling. Who would check in on him during the day? How would we train him?
I suppose I was more "in" than my wife, but because of her questions I began to stress over her stress. It is funny how these decisions make you re-evaluate everything in your life.
In the Scriptures, the hero of faith, Abraham, had many times of horrible stress. Particularly in Genesis 14:8-15:1, in which the kings of Canaan lay waste to each other in war, and Abraham's nephew, Lot, is taken as a captive along with all his possessions. Abraham hears about this and has to decide what to do next. Does he run from this place and let Lot find his own fate? Or does he sit tight and wait until the war comes to him? He decides to go to the men of his household (318 of them who were able to fight) and in the night he plans a raid on the armies of the victorious kings.
The life of Abraham is fascinating. In fact, I'd love to see a movie about him -- showing imperfections and all. Abraham's men win the raid and in this amazing victory they bring Lot home. All the spoils of war are brought back to the lands. Abraham is a hero, and yet there is an interesting verse with God's voice to our hero immediately afterward: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward."
Without this voice of God, we would not have known that Abraham (here still Abram) was afraid. Only after the battles end and the mighty men have stepped into great dangers -- after Abraham has given away all the spoils to the people and has kept nothing for himself -- do we see how stressful this really was for him.
At this moment, God comforts him and reminds him that in the midst of all the evils surrounding him, especially this one, which was not of his own making, that God is in the middle of it all.
And God is the great reward.
What are you stressed about? Are you afraid and wondering about the future of your family or your own journey? God doesn't promise us a perfectly peaceful world, but he has promised he will be our peace in the midst of crisis.
In times of stress, remember Abraham and his family.
You, too, will make it through.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.