What comes to mind when you hear the word, “father?” What one word would you use to describe your father? Hopefully your thoughts of your father are positive but for almost half of all Americans the word Father brings with it negative connotations.
Over the last one hundred years there has been a tremendous decline in the traditional family. At the turn of the twentieth century divorce was almost unheard of. Now over half of all marriages end in divorce. Fathers are not fulfilling their essential roles in the family. A survey found that only about 37.5 percent of Christians say that they had a good relationship with their fathers. We are now seeing the results. Violence and crime are skyrocketing along with drug abuse, suicide, and immorality. Without the stabilization of good fathers our society is threatening to fall apart.
Sexual abuse was considered to be very rare at the turn of the last century. Now one in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach adulthood. The majority of physical, sexual, emotional, and religious abuse against children comes from fathers or other male authority figures. This has created a tremendous upheaval in the hearts and minds of the children who are suppose to look up to these men.
If you had a bad relationship with your dad you will likely have a distorted view of fathers in general and that will negatively influence your other relationships. Age gender, income, and social status are irrelevant, a poor relationship with your father will influence your thinking, your behavior, your emotions, and most importantly your relationship with your Heavenly Father. A poor relationship with your father will distort the way you view everything in your life. It will affect the way you view authority figures, the way you view all men, and it will affect your marriage. A father either works to build his child up or he tears his child down. There is no such thing as a neutral relationship with a father.
It would be impossible to list all the needs in a child’s life that a father meets consciously and unconsciously. God has given him the role of providing security and stability for the family. He is suppose to demonstrate to his sons how a man should behave. His daughters should know what to look for in a husband by observing their father. He should be the first one to tell his little girl that she is pretty. If he doesn’t, she may doubt her beauty all her life and feel that she must continually prove herself. God has put within every child the deep desire to be loved, accepted, and protected by their father.
When children do not have a loving protective father figure, they develop inferior means to meet their needs. They develop fears, dissociations, and controlling behaviors. Part of God’s design for a family is that it would serve as a model to teach young people about their relationship with God. Children who come out of good secure families generally do not have trouble placing their faith in God to protect them. They see themselves as having worth so they do not have a hard time receiving God’s love. They have learned to trust their father’s protection so it is an easy transition to allow their Heavenly Father to take over the control.
There is a direct correlation between the relationship you had with your father and the relationship you had with your Heavenly Father. If you found your father to be negative, distant, uninterested in you, unavailable for your emotional needs, you will tend to perceive your Heavenly Father the same way. As long as you continue to see your Heavenly Father in a distorted way you will not be able to be all that God has designed for you to be. You limit yourself and your relationship with God by your incorrect perceptions.
The enemy seeks to use your false perceptions of your Heavenly Father to persuade you to give up on God. He tried to do that with Kendra. It looked like she had the ideal Christian family. They were members of a good church, they were involved in many of the church’s programs. Many children probably wished they lived in a happy family like hers.
Reality was different though. When Kendra was two years old her father started coming into her room at night to sexually abuse her. The abuse was so bad that while she was still a child she had to have colon reconstruction surgery. Her abuse continued until she left home as a teenager.
Her exposure to Christianity at church gave her a thirst to know God. But she began to wonder if she really wanted a relationship with a God who would allow her to suffer such horrible abuse. Could she trust Him when He did not seem to help her when she needed Him the most?
She wondered: “Would God even want a relationship with me? Just look at how dirty and disgusting and repulsive I am. Certainly I deserved everything I got when I was growing up. I’m filthy inside. Why would a pure and powerful God desire to have me as His daughter?”3 Those are precisely the thoughts the enemy wanted her to have. He wanted her to view a relationship with God as hopeless because of her past. Fortunately, in time, Kendra came to know what her Heavenly Father really was like. She learned to let Him fill the void and heal the pain in her heart that resulted from her father’s abuse.
Many adults are blocked in their relationships with God the Father because they superimpose the attributes of their absent or abusive earthly fathers onto God. As one young woman who was sexually abused by her father was reading Psalm 27:10, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up,” she was amazed by the realization that God literally wanted to be the Father she never had. He wanted to be her comforter and protector.
As she was going to sleep that night she pictured herself sitting on her Heavenly Father’s lap, snuggling close to Him. Then a panic hit her, she instinctively thought that if she stayed close to Him she would be, “leading Him on” and that would cause Him to abuse her like her earthly father did. Then her panic turned to horror when she realized that she had assumed that because God was a man, He would abuse her.
This led her to reevaluate the way she perceived God. Even though it seemed foolish, she asked God if she could trust Him. He assured her in her spirit that He truly loved her with a pure love and that he would never hurt her the way her earthly father had. That He would be the Father that she had always dreamed of.
It is not an easy task to correct your view of your Heavenly Father. It requires that you face the pain of your past. Once you acknowledge what you did not have you can allow your Heavenly Father to begin to meet those needs. Begin by writing out a description of the ideal father, the one you have always dreamed of. This will probably be a difficult thing to do because it will bring to mind many of the short comings of your own father. After your description is complete, in every area where your earthly father was not what he should have been to you, ask your Heavenly Father to meet that need. It may not be instant. Psalm 27:14 encourages us to, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
Glenda Revell, in her book, With Love from a Mother's Heart summarized several passages that tell us of the relationship our Heavenly father desires to have with us. She wrote it in the form of a letter from your Heavenly Father to you.4 I placed it in the appendix of this paper. Read it over and over until the truth of God’s love and protection trickle down from your head to your heart.
You must earnestly desire and seek after a relationship with your Heavenly Father. Isaiah 55:6-7 implores, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
In Luke fifteen, Jesus tells about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost boy. Someone went searching for the lost sheep and the lost coin until they were found but no one went looking for the lost boy. It is likely that the reason for this is that the lost boy did not want to be found. When he came to his senses and returned to his father, he was welcomed back.5 The same principle is true for our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He never forces himself on anyone. He never inflicts His will on us like some earthly fathers do.
If you broke your leg and it was not set correctly, you would face two choices. You could leave the leg as it is and remain a cripple or you could choose to have the leg rebroken, enduring intense pain for a time so that you can walk freely. Unless you choose to face the pain of your past and work through it, you will never have the freedom God desires for you. You must also immerse yourself in God’s Word. That is where you will learn about who He is and your relationship with Him.6
The key to getting to know who your Heavenly Father really is can be found in John 14:9 “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” If we want to get to know our Heavenly Father, we need to get to know Jesus.
When you consider the ideal fathers on television, ones like Jim on “Father Knows Best,” Ozzie on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” Ward on “Leave it to Beaver,” Charles Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie,” and Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show there are several qualities that they all have in common. They are strong, loving, secure, patient, understanding, and accepting.7
The Bible is full of examples of these qualities. It starts at creation. John chapter 1 tells us that it was Jesus who created us. With His hands He formed man from the dust of the ground, knowing that soon He, the Creator of the universe, would choose to die for the sins of humans He was creating. What incredible love. A few thousand years later Jesus, the all powerful Creator, humbled Himself to become a helpless baby, then He further humbled Himself to take the sins of the whole world on Himself. God the Father was forced to choose between His perfect sinless Son and us. He chose us. It doesn’t make sense but love rarely makes sense.
When they brought the woman taken in adultery to Jesus, they thought they had Him cornered. They figured that His only choice would be to condemn the woman to death because that was Jewish law. Instead, Jesus wrote something in the sand. Then He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Every man there convicted, hung their heads and walked away. Jesus knew they would.
Then Jesus asked the woman, “Where are your accusers? Hasn’t anybody condemned you?” “I don’t condemn you either,” Jesus said. “Go and sin no more.” This woman was guilty, Jesus knew she was guilty, but instead of condemning her, He accepted her and encouraged her to change her ways. (John 8)
When Jesus went to Jericho His priority was not to go to the house of some well respected follower of God. Instead, He chose to dine with the well known thief, Zacchaeus. To eat with a lowlife like a tax collector simply was not done. But Jesus was more interested in Zacchaeus’ soul than in what others would think. In fact, He wanted to show us by His example that He does not reach out to people because they have it all together. He reaches out to them because they need Him. He accepted Zacchaeus as he was. (Luke 19)
Luke chapter eight tells the story of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She was considered to be unclean and impure. She would have been ostracized by everyone because of her sickness. No one could help her till Jesus came. She knew He could heal her but she was to ashamed to ask for help. She touched the hem of His garment, an act that would have made Jesus ceremonially unclean but instead He healed her and made her clean.
He did a similar thing with a man who had leprosy in Mark chapter one. Those with leprosy had to call out unclean, unclean, whenever they were anywhere near another person. No one wanted to even breathe the same air that they breathed. Talk about self-esteem being zero, these people were constantly reminded that they were reviled.
This leper had the boldness to cry out to Jesus for help. Jesus didn’t just speak a word to heal this repulsive creature. He reached out and touched him. At the same time, Jesus cured his leprosy and displayed tenderness that showed this man that he was not rejected.
John chapter four tells about a blind man who was crying out to Jesus for help. The crowd told him to be quiet, he was being a bother. He was not worthy to disturb Jesus. That is not how Jesus felt though. He heard the blind man’s cries for help, came to the man, and healed him.8
Your Heavenly Father desires to meet every one of your physical needs and every need of your heart. He wants to guide you, protect you, provide for you. He wants to build you up. He is eager to listen and encourage you. In her book, With Love from a Mother’s Heart, Glenda Revell explains how your Heavenly Father wants to be involved in every area of your life.9 He longs to have us invite Him to be a part even of the ordinary and boring parts of our lives. You can read the Parlor Treatment portion of Glenda’s book in the appendix of this paper.
In order to develop a relationship with someone you need to get to know them. Not only should we spend time reading God’s Word every day, but we should also work to develop a constant awareness of His presence like Glenda advocates. If your earthly father has your heart what he likes you to wear and what he likes to do with you will influence your decisions because you want to please him. When you are conscious of your Heavenly Father’s presence you will begin to think about how your behavior and deportment affect Him.
Your Heavenly Father will also correct you because He loves you but only because it is necessary and He is never any harder on you than what is absolutely necessary. Hebrews 12:5b-6a reminds us, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” Unfortunately, many parents discipline in anger. They try to manipulate the child’s behavior based on their own desires. Connie Kondos in an article entitled “One Small Step”10 does an outstanding job of illustrating God’s patience with us when we fall. I’ve included the article in the appendix.
In her book, Taking Every Thought Captive, Alaine Pakkala cites several truths about God and His relationship with us. They are a good way to discover some of the lies the enemy has fostered in our hearts about God and His character.11 The Truths About God list is in the appendix. Read over the list of truths and take note of the ones that you have a hard time with. Then pray, based on Matthew 12:29, “Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house.” Ask God to bind the enemy and keep the enemy from influencing your thoughts as you are seeking to have the enemy’s lies exposed.
Then go through each of the statements on the list that you had a hard time believing one by one and ask God if they are true. He may confirm some of them right away but rest assured that He will show them to you. He wants you to walk in truth. Even if you forget about asking Him about them, He will not forget. James 1:4 reminds us, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Often it is Scripture that your Heavenly Father will use to confirm these things in your heart. Psalm 119:9 says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” Try to find at least one verse to support each of these truths about God. You may want to start by reading through the book of Psalms. When you find a verse that helps confirm a truth in your heart, spend some time meditating on it. Ask God to change your thinking until it lines up with His thinking.
Insecurity is the result of placing my confidence or trust in people or things that can be taken away from me."12 There is not much that is guaranteed in this life but one thing is for sure, people will let you down. Some do it intentionally and some hurt others unintentionally. Reality is that people will let you down. The only one you can safely put your trust in is your Heavenly Father. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.