Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Overcoming the dad deficit

IT’S NOT BREAKING news to anyone that many people have some sort of “dad deficit” in their lives, a father-shaped hole that can leave them walking with a limp—perhaps never more so than in being able to experience God as their heavenly Father.

I’ve had to wrestle with my own disappointment in this area, wishing I’d been able to know my father better than I did. Thankfully, I’ve found a good measure of healing as I have discovered more of God.

But I was reminded of the scale of the problem recently via an email from a publisher; I subscribe to some of its digital magazines. It noted that Father’s Day “can be a very sensitive time for some people” and included a link allowing folks to opt out of receiving promotional email offers over the Father’s Day period. How sad that things have gotten so bad that such an option is considered necessary.

The reason this is so important is that the Fatherhood of God isn’t a side issue. It’s a fundamental reality of His nature and of His kingdom. And if we miss this dimension, we will struggle to experience all God has for us.

See, we may talk about ourselves as “Christians,” but that word is used in the Bible only once or twice. And even then, it’s not God’s description of us, but a record of how other people at the time identified Jesus followers (Acts 11:26: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”).

Actually, our scriptural identity is much more frequently presented as children (of the Father). John 1:12-13 notes that to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The same writer comes back to this truth in the first of his letters: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Echoing Old Testament passages in which God spoke of the Israelites as his children, 2 Corinthians 6:18 declares: “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

If you’re aware of a “dad deficit” in your life, let me encourage you that whatever your experience—abandonment, absence, abuse—God can redeem it. Allow Him to show Himself to you as the complete, true Father for whom you have always longed.

Some years ago, one of my kids shocked me by recalling their childhood and commenting how they had never been afraid when they knew I was near. I’d certainly aspired and tried to be a good father, but I knew that there were many times and ways in which I failed. So, hearing this affirmation felt so encouraging.

It also made me think, if that’s what an imperfect earthly father’s presence can bring, how much more is available to us through a perfect heavenly Father. Imagine how life might be if more of us went out into the world every day unafraid, because we knew our Father was near.

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