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Father Issues

Some of us have a hard time relating to God the Father.

We sing to the Son, pray to the Son, and ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” But when Jesus talks about His Father, He touches issues that may be affecting us more than we realize.

Maybe our problem is that His Father doesn’t answer our prayers as we want Him to. Or we think of Him in terms of the human fathers we have known. Many of us have never even heard our biological father say, “I love you.” Some have inherited a legacy of abandonment, addiction, and even abuse.

Even the best of fathers fail us in life and leave us in death. In one way or another, all of us have been affected by what the Bible calls “the sins of the fathers.”

Sins of the Fathers

The same Bible that tells us to honor our fathers also documents the moral failures of patriarchs like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon.

Even the New Testament acknowledges the tendency of fathers to provoke their children to anger (Ephesians 6:4). Another passage makes a distinction between the fathers who discipline us as they see best and the Father in heaven who always knows how to correct us for our own good (Hebrews 12:9-10).

In a day when so many of us long for a return to family values, it is disappointing to discover that a good dad is hard to find in the Bible.

But maybe this is a disappointment that can work in our favor.

A Different Kind of Father

A woman I know told me that she turned to the Father in heaven looking for a parent who was different from her biological father. She echoed the hope of the songwriter David, who wrote, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10).

David repeated the idea that God is a “Father to the fatherless” in another song (Psalm 68:5), but it was Jesus who gave us the most personal understanding of the Father in heaven.

The Father of Jesus

Scripture doesn’t tell us much about the relationship between Jesus and Joseph, the man who married Jesus’ mother and raised Jesus as his son.

Instead, even at the age of 12, Jesus is found relating to His eternal Father. After staying behind in Jerusalem following the Feast of the Passover, Jesus said to Mary and Joseph, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).

Years later when Jesus went public at about the age of 30, He talked a lot about the Father. He told His disciples that He had come to bring them to His Father who was speaking and working through Him (John 14:8-11). When one of them asked Him to show them the Father, He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (v.9). Then, as He was about to complete the work that He said His Father had given Him to do, Jesus told His friends that He was leaving to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house (John 14:2). He said, “I am going to the Father, for My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).

From all that Jesus says about His Father, it’s clear that He wants us to love and trust His Father as He does. 

A Father of Biblical Proportions

Many of us, however, have not found the help we are looking for in an invisible Father. We are troubled when our Father in heaven doesn’t answer our prayers in the time and ways we hoped He would. We’re quite sure that if our own dads, imperfect as they are, had 10,000 angels to help them, they would give us help that our Father in heaven has withheld. Too often we find ourselves echoing the familiar words of the psalmist and Jesus, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46).

But where did we get the idea that our Father in heaven should follow the script we write for Him? If Jesus was like His Father, then both are as unpredictable in action as They are unchanging in character. Jesus didn’t tell His disciples what they wanted to hear. He didn’t use His strength to do everything they wanted Him to do. He had plans they couldn’t understand. Yet, in the end, in spite of all of this unpredictability, Jesus revealed a Father who gave them more than they could have hoped for.

In hindsight, Jesus’ friends could see how faithful He had been to them. When they thought they were going to die in a storm (Mark 4:37-38), when it seemed as if He didn’t care (John 11:1-6, 32), and when all hope seemed lost, Jesus had surprised them by showing them His Father’s ability to still a storm, raise the dead, and replace despair with hope.

This Father who revealed Himself through Jesus is not like the dads who let us feel their biceps, lifted us to their shoulders, and showed up to support us at school events. But He is also not the problem and mystery some of us think He is. Jesus is just like Him, and He is just like Jesus.

In heart and personality, Jesus is exactly like the Father, who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” for us (John 3:16).

This is different than thinking that Jesus came to protect us from His Father. When we see Jesus dying for us, interceding for us, and allowing us to use His name to approach the Father, it’s not because the Son is more merciful than the Father. It is because the Father and Son are in perfect agreement about Their love for us. 

And so we pray:  Father in heaven, we need to get past the issues with our own fathers that have clouded our trust in You. While there is so much about You that we don’tunderstand, please help us to see all that You want us to see about Yourself in the walk and in the words of Your Son. —Mart De Haan

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