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Three of the Most Powerful Forces in Life

May 30, 2019

Long ago, I was told the three most powerful forces in nature are Wind, Water and Fire.  Growing up in Tornado Alley, I can tell you first-hand of the power of wind.  In fact, as I write this, people in my home state of Oklahoma are trying to dig themselves out of the debris of a series of deadly tornadoes.

I also know some about the power of water.  Right now, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Arkansas River, usually a shallow and muddy, slow-running river, is farther over its banks than old-timers can remember it ever being.  The dam at Lake Keystone, from which the Arkansas flows downstream to Tulsa, is now releasing water at a rate faster than the water coming over Niagara Falls.  Everything downstream is now in jeopardy.

Fire?  Well, you don’t need much background to figure that one out.  It seems like every summer wildfires rage in California, devastating hundreds of thousands of acres of land and destroying everything in their path.

I think the most powerful force in life (the spiritual and emotional kind of force) is love.  I’ll write about this later.  If a guy in my line of work can’t write a pretty extensive blog about love, he needs to turn in his keyboard and find another line of work.

The three next most powerful forces after love, in my opinion, are Fear, Anger and Control.  I see these three things at work virtually every day in my own life.  I’ve never counseled or advised anyone who doesn’t have these things at play in their lives, as well.  If you’re human, you’re going to deal with fear, anger and control.  I suspect there is no good way to totally eliminate them.  In fact, I don’t think I really want to eliminate them.  But when they dominate my life, they create incredible destruction, much like wind, water and fire.  Any one of the three is a power of almost immeasurable scope.  When they show up in any combination, they’re like a tornado of fire in a tsunami.

But as destructive as they can be, all three of these things are actually a gift from God to us.  Without fear, we wouldn’t have made it past Adam and Eve.  Something they should have been afraid of would have taken out one or both of them, and that would have been the end of humankind.

Anger can move us to action.  If it moves us to the right action, amazing things happen.  William Wilberforce was made so angry by slave trade in England that he spent his entire adult life fighting to eliminate it.  When Candy Lightner’s 13 year old daughter was killed by a drunk driver, her heartbroken anger was the catalyst for starting M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).  Sometimes, until a person’s good and mad, they put up with things that should be changed.  But once they’re good and mad, they act.  If their anger is truly good, good things come of it.

Control can organize chaos and bring order and security.  It doesn’t always, but it can.  A cool head in a tight spot can mean the difference between life and death.

The problem with these three gifts from God is that ever since the Fall we’ve had this proclivity to misuse them in our brokenness.  Every strength becomes a weakness when it is pushed out of balance.  This often happens with these three powerful things.

We fear what we don’t understand – often things we shouldn’t be afraid of – and we don’t fear things that are actual serious threats.  You don’t need to be afraid of the stick on the path, but you’d be pretty stupid to not be afraid of it if it was a rattle snake.  You should be afraid of getting Montezuma’s Revenge by drinking tap water in Juarez, but you shouldn’t be afraid of drinking it out of your tap at home (unless you’re in Flint, Michigan…).  You get what I’m saying.

Sometimes, we let fear hold us back from doing things that will bring us the greatest satisfaction and development in all of the important areas of our lives – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.  There are lots of reasons we’re afraid of stepping out into new territory.  Some of them are even legitimate.  I’ve got a sack full of my own.  We’ve all got a line that we’re fearful to cross.  Even that friend of yours who’s an adrenaline  junkie.  The one who bungee jumps and parachutes.  Even they have a line.

One fear that I most often see getting in the way of healthy relationships is the fear of disappointing expectations.  Many people suffer from the fear that they will disappoint the people that matter to them.  This is a form of fear of failure.

There are basically three ways we deal with this fear.  The one I see most is to over-try.  We break our necks trying to be good enough that we won’t disappoint these other people.  It’s blood, sweat and tears (not the 70’s group…) and lots of hours of life burned up on what is often a futile attempt to not disappoint lease someone else.  Been there.  Done that.

A second way I see is to plan to fail.  If I’m convinced I won’t be able to pull this thing off, I’ll just fail early and quickly and get it over with.  In its worst form, I’ll fail and blame you for it.  In families, this sometimes shows up as rebellion.

Or the third way is to pretend I didn’t know what you wanted.  What?  You wanted that?  Well, I’ll be.  But before we have this embarrassed conversation, I’ll run and hide from you for as long as I can.

There’s a fourth way people act on their fear in a broken way.  They power up to duke it out.  They get angry.  Often not good and angry, just angry.  They accuse and counter-accuse.  They do and say things they’d give last year’s tax refund to take back.  But you can’t take it back.  There are no “kicks overs.”  It’s like toothpaste.  Once you’ve squeezed it out, you’re not getting it back in the tube.  When anger gets behind the wheel of your life, it almost always ends up driving you into a ditch or over a cliff.  I’ll write about this next time.

Kids do this to parents.  Parents do it to kids.  Husbands and wives do it to each other.  Bosses do it to employees.  Employees to bosses.  It happens on teams, in churches, in government.  It happens everywhere.

I once read that only about 20% of what we fear actually comes to pass.  I don’t know how you’d calculate that statistic, but it seems about right in my experience.  The actuality of a threat or the likelihood that it will happen isn’t the thing that makes fear powerful.  It’s my unfiltered belief in the presence of the threat that makes it powerful.

I’m already at 1151 words, so I’ll just leave that there for now and try to wrap it up.  Many books have been written about the psychology (and physiology) of fear, so I have no illusion that I’ll be able to nail it in a blog post.

But here’s where I want to land the plane: How much of your life is being hijacked by fear?  In your home, how big is the fear thing?  How much of your and your family’s behavior is motivated or even dictated by fear?  If you’re married, how big a place does fear have in your marriage?

There’s no switch to flip to turn fear off.  Looking into your life and relationships to objectively see it where it exists is the first essential step in dealing with it.  Some fears just go away when they get brought out into the light of day.  But not all of them.  Some fears are tenacious and cantankerous, and they won’t give up and turn lose without a fight.

Once you’ve identified your fears, then you have to objectively decide the level of threat that’s actually involved.  Is it likely that the thing you fear will come to pass?  And if it does, will it be as life altering as your limbic  system says it will be?  If it’s that big, what could you do to mitigate the damage or loss?  Ask God to help you see it for what it really is, not just what you fear it is.  If it’s fear of a person in your life, answering these questions will be difficult.  But ask and answer the questions.

The Apostle John wrote, “Perfect love casts out fear.”  For many years of my life, this verse was a brick bat banging away at my forehead.  I have struggled with fear for a very long time.  The message I always heard in my head was, “If I had more perfect love, I wouldn’t be afraid.  I’m such a loser.”  I had the “flip the switch” mentality.  I thought perfect love casting out fear was an event.  It’s not.  It’s a process.  It’s not a switch flip, it’s a dial turn – one that may take a very long time and have to be done many times.  God is more than OK with this.  He’s your Partner in it.  So lean into the partnership, and trust Him to love you with His perfect love.  Engage in the process.

From → Marriage

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