With it being close to Father’s Day, it’s important to consider the role that God holds in our lives as Father. I realize how difficult and even painful that might be for others, especially those who have grown up in homes without stable or loving fathers. As one who has grown up with a loving father, addressing God as Father is easy. My father, the one given to me by God to represent who He is as a Father, namely a protector, a provider, and one who loves, has embodied that in my life.
Fathers are to be protectors. They help us learn how to walk and ride our bikes, picking us up again when we fall. They keep us safe and promise protection. They shelter us and lock the doors to keep intruders and thieves from entering the house to hurt us. When placed in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation, they’re often the first ones we call because they make us feel safe.
As a protector, God tells us that He keeps us safe. In Psalm 91:4, He promises shelter under His figurative wings. All our lives, we’re taught in catechism and at school about the preservation of the saints. But, God does not preserve through an impersonal act. His providence is the hand of a loving Father, holding and sustaining. His hand holds us and guides us, like a father guiding a small child, helping him or her stay upright while learning how to walk.
Secondly, God depicts fathers as providers. 1 Timothy 5:8 states, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Fathers are to be providers for others, especially their own families. He works to support his family and put food on the table. He keeps the roof over their head. Not only is he a provider physically, but he is also a provider in his example. He pays the church budget, the school tuition, and provides for the poor. When his children see him, they not only know that they are cared for, but they also have an example in their lives of how they are to behave in love towards others. When he falls short, he’s not afraid to ask for help, knowing that God provides in times of wealth and times of famine.
Ultimately, God the Father is the provider. Though fathers work to put food on the table, it is God who provides them with a job. It is God who uses that means to provide daily bread. In a time of uncertainty, where more Americans are filing for unemployment each day, jobs are no longer an overlooked part of life, but a privilege. God the Father provides so much more than daily bread and a roof over our heads. Where earthly fathers make many sacrifices to provide for their children, God the Father made the largest sacrifice possible for His children: His Son. In order to supply our provision of salvation, God the Father sent His Son to die on the cross, to endure His wrath on our behalf. Because of His sacrifice, God the Father provides His children with eternal life. He’s built us a home more glorious than anything we can possess on this earth.
Finally, a father is one who loves. He leads his family, bringing them to church on Sunday (or making sure they all attend worship from home given the current circumstances). He leads spiritually in the home. He’s physically present in the lives of his children, co-parenting with his wife, attending the concerts, conferences, games, and graduations. He disciplines out of love when his children fall into sin. Though he may not be as openly affectionate as his wife, his children know that he loves them.
God the Father is more than just one who loves. He is love. 1 John 4:8 says, “He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.” Love is wholly embodied in who God is. Where earthly fathers make mistakes and fall into sin, disciplining not in love but anger, God always loves. He is without sin and perfectly just. Although we deserved hell and eternal damnation for our sins, God in love chose us and sent His Son to die for us. In love, He provides us with eternal life.
To fathers: you don’t represent yourself in the eyes of your children. You are a representative of God the Father Himself. When they pray “Our Father which art in heaven,” their picture of fatherhood is you. Let your actions reflect Him, for their sake.
To all the children and adults who struggle to call God your father because of painful experiences with your own fathers, my heart goes out to you. I know the privilege I have in belonging to a stable, loving family. I hope one day you find healing in Christ. God the Father is not like your father. He is Abba, intimate, loving, and close. He loves you, and He sees your hurt. Find fatherly love in Him.