I was sitting in on the Sunday school class for high school students at my church Sunday. It was Father’s Day and the teacher was telling his students that they needed to take the opportunity to thank their dads.
He said, “your dads love you, they take good care of you.”
My heart sunk. I certainly think that Father’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to show our appreciation to our dads but I’ve had the opportunity to get to know most of the kids in that Sunday school class. I know that many of them carry heavy burdens as a result of their relationships with their fathers’. Many of them are from broken homes where they see their fathers rarely or never. Some of them have never known their dads at all. A few of them have been abused at the hands of their father. The hard truth is that not all of them have been loved or well taken care of by their dads.
We interviewed hundreds of young women during the research phase of Lies Young Women Believe. Sadly, we found that many, many young women have been deeply hurt by the actions or abandonment of their fathers. Our hearts broke as we listened to young women share the emotional stories of their strained relationships with their dad.
The girls we talked to told us stories like these:
“My father did unspeakable things to my sister. All the while, he completely ignored me. She was his pet. I was his burden. Eventually he died, and my mom didn’t want us. We were passed from foster home to foster home until we were adopted. The social workers label me as having an attachment disorder. I’d say I just had a really lousy dad, and that takes some time to heal from.”
“My relationship with my dad hasn’t been so good for the past few years. I used to be ‘his girl,’ but now he’s distant and I don’t know what I’ve done wrong.”
“My dad left when I was a baby. I never saw him until I was a teenager, and then he let it be known that he didn’t really know me and didn’t really want to know me.”
Our research confirmed that many in your generation have faced hardship as a result of the choices your fathers have made. That didn’t necessarily surprise us. But what we didn’t realize was the specific way that Satan twists that pain into a destructive lie. The more we talked about your dads the more we realized that many of you struggle to relate to God as a father because of your experiences with your earthly dads.
We heard things like:
“I cannot relate to God the way I relate to my dad, or we wouldn’t relate at all.”
“If my friends looked at God like their natural father, then they would hate God”
“For me, I cannot relate to God the way that I relate to my dad. My relationship with my dad hasn’t been good for the past few years. I think of God as completely separate from my dad.”
It seems that many of you have fallen for the lie that God is just like your father. Believing this line of deception can have terrible consequences. Misunderstanding who God is and how he feels about you will impact many areas of your life. In fact, it can make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to seek a relationship with God altogether.
The truth is that God is a father. In fact, when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6: 7-15, he began his prayer by saying “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” 1 Corinthians 8: 6a says, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live.”
In fact God is referred to as “the Father” or “our Father” over and over in the Bible (check out John 4:23, John 6:27, John 8:41, Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 1:2 for a sampling of such references). But if your experience with your earthly dad has been strained or painful, you might be asking “just what kind of father is God?”
Let’s dig into the Word for some answers.
1. God is a caring father.
Nahum 1:7 says, “the Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”
1 Peter 5:7 says, “cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
John 16: 27 says, “No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
You may have reason to doubt your earthly father’s love for you. And even if your dad is good, he isn’t perfect and as a result he won’t love you perfectly. But you can trust God ‘s love for you.
Choosing to believe this one truth can radically transform your life. There will be seasons in each of our lives when it seems like no one cares. But God does care. In Jeremiah 31:3 the Lord declares that his love for you is “everlasting.” That means it will endure through all time. He truly is the source of unconditional love.
2. God is a consistent father.
Some of you may feel like your dad’s behavior is hard to predict. In fact, several of you have told us something like “I never know what to expect from my dad. One day he’s loving and attentive, the next day he’s cranky and distant.” It seems that teenage girls aren’t the only ones subject to mood swings!
But God is not moody. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that He is the same “yesterday, today and forever.”
James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
Malachi 3:6a says, “I the Lord do not change.”
I am a parent. I try to be consistent, but I make mistakes. There are days when I am tired and irritable. And there are days when I find it easier to be gracious and loving. I am sure that the same is true for your parents. But our Heavenly Father is not fazed by tiredness or circumstances. He does not ask one thing of you one moment and something entirely different in the next. He loves you. That love does not change.
3. God is a giving father.
He is willing and able to provide all that we need.
Matthew 6:31-33 says, “So do not worry saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 7: 9-11 says, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
I cannot communicate to you how radically it has changed my life to realize that God is good. That sounds simple right? But there is power in knowing that God is not waiting for an opportunity to zap me or punish me. He is looking for opportunities to love me and show compassion toward me and his provisions are enough to take care of my needs.
4. God is a father who disciplines.
Groan! We don’t like discipline do we? I can’t say that I’ve ever been thrilled about the discipline enforced by my earthly dad and I can’t claim to love the Lord’s discipline either. But there is wisdom in realizing that discipline is for our good (as much as I hate to admit it!).
Deuteronomy 8:5 says, “know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.”
Job 5:17 says, “blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”
Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
Proverbs 6: 23 says, “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.”
Hebrews 12: 7-11 says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they though best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and pace for those who have been trained by it.”
Because God is a good father, he does not give us the freedom to do whatever we want. His guidelines for our lives are for our good and protection. When necessary, He disciplines us out of love.
No matter what your experience with your earthly dad has been, you can trust that God is a good Father. In Lies, Dannah writes, “God is a father, but He is not like any many you have ever known. The wisest, kindest earthly father is only a pale reflection of our heavenly Father. The God of the Bible is infinitely more wonderful and pure and loving than even the most wonderful father. God our Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) and unchanging (James 1:17). Our earthly fathers cannot be those things (Matthew 7:11). Regardless of how you may think or feel, God is a good Father who dearly loves His children—including you. He can be trusted.”
So, how does knowing what kind of father God is change the way that you relate to Him? How does it impact your relationship with your own dad?
We’d love to hear about it! Leave us your comments right here on this post!