I love Father’s Day, I get quality chocolate given to me by our kids and then I get to choose what activity we do that afternoon (usually a bushwalk). However, I feel like I’m surrounded by friends and family for whom Father’s Day is a painful time. My own Father-in-law died tragically 18 months ago so I’ve caught first-hand the dread that some people feel as Father’s Day approaches. Dads were intended to be important, our fathers can help shape us and teach us who we are. Of course, there are many people for whom their experiences of a father is filled with negative emotion due to Dad’s that were absent, abusive or who have died. Even if you are trying to live under a rock it is near impossible to escape all the cheery “Father’s Day” marketing and I’ve spoken with a number of people who find all of this difficult and triggering. What are they to do with this pain and complexity?
No matter what our experience of our paternal or earthly father has been, the creator God claims the title of Heavenly Father for us all. In fact, when Jesus taught us to pray in the Sermon on the Mount he invites us to address the almighty God of the universe with the intimate equivalent of saying “dear daddy”. So even if our earthly father was unable to show love to us, our Father in heaven loves us all the time and seeks to comfort us as we bring this heartbreak to him and work it through. In 1 John 3:1 it states “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.” This highlights to us that understanding our identity as a child of our perfect and loving heavenly Father genuinely shapes who we are. We may inherit physical or behavioural traits from our earthly fathers (some that we may not even want) but the fact that God chooses to call us His children is a very special thing that truly shapes us and can never be taken from us regardless of the genetics we inherited from our earthly father.
It is also a deep encouragement to know that God calls himself the “Father of the fatherless” in Psalm 68:5. So even if we have been entirely let down by the flaws of our earthly father our gracious and loving heavenly Father always loves us perfectly. By definition our earthly fathers are inherently flawed but we are blessed to be able to turn to our heavenly father who always loves us unconditionally and wants to draw the best out of us. Just like a human father may see a child’s worst behaviour and love them still, our heavenly Father knows even the darkness of our hearts and the worst of our thoughts yet he does not reject us or turn away. He will always be there for you and is just waiting for you to respond to His offer of love. Your Heavenly Father loves you more than you could ever hope to truly understand (Ephesian 3:18, 19) allow yourself to reflect on His great life transforming love for you. Our heavenly Father can actually make a difference in our daily life, he can intervene and bring us peace in the chaos of life. He walks with us through the times of pain and when we turn to Him and bring him our troubles he can support us and even bring change into our situation (1 Peter 5:7).