Her comments came in response to an article I had previously written. The article was about how God can be a heavenly Father in the life of a Christian. She was skeptical of this belief and countered my article with the following statement.
“. . . While I rejoice in your love for Jesus Christ, that relationship is not the same as a relationship with your father…as it would not be the same as a relationship with your mother. Christ can never take the place of a real father in a child’s life . . .”
Although I understood her argument, I did not agree with her opinion and saw a few flaws. Embracing God as Father may seem like a far-fetched and ridiculous belief to many. I myself once doubted that an invisible God could be a heavenly Father to humanity. Yet, when I took my raw emotions, questions, and doubts to Him, he revealed to me what it truly means for Him to be my father, bringing healing I hadn’t believed possible.
In the commenter’s argument, the first flaw I recognized is that Christ never said he was our father. Christians believe God is a triune being consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each division of the Godhead serves a different role. It is not Jesus Christ who fulfills the role of heavenly Father in the life of a believer, but God.
The second flaw with her argument is that there is a lot at stake if God cannot be a heavenly Father to all mankind. The reality that 1 in 3 children grow up in father-absent homes cements the need for a personal relationship with God as Father. How else can hope be offered to men and women who have experienced an absent father due to divorce, abandonment, abuse, incarceration, death, addiction, or emotional absence?
If we embrace this perspective, we remove hope from a large segment of the world. Many men and women will have no solution—handcuffed to an ache for the love of a father throughout their lives.
If the idea of knowing God as a heavenly Father is a fantasy, people have to just “suck it up” or “get over it” as best they can on their own. Left to fend for themselves, they may look to heal their daddy wounds with insatiable success, unsatisfying relationships, and costly addictions.
I myself could not conceive of how this invisible God could be a heavenly Father to me, since I could not see, audibly hear, or touch God. Can He call or text when we need encouragement? Can He send flowers or spend time with us? These are the types of things a father would do in the life of a child.
This is why many people find it difficult to fathom God as a heavenly Father. Attempting to answer these and other questions, however, with our finite understanding only leads to increased doubt and despair.
We cannot conceive of God as Father by trying to figure it out with our intellect. This understanding only comes through faith.
I grew up hearing the paraphrased Scripture, “God is a father to the fatherless” in the small Baptist church of my youth. As a child in a single parent household, I was too little and naive to understand how this statement would impact me as an adult. I had no idea that one day, I would desperately need this phrase to be true and yet, simultaneously wrestle with its validity in my life.
As I grappled with the absence of my biological father, I questioned how God could make up for time that I had missed with my dad. It simply did not make sense and it left me feeling angry, confused, and disillusioned with the Christian faith.
Instead of refusing to talk to God, however, during this time, I took my raging emotions to Him in prayer. Every question, frustration, and disappointment I brought to God. No words or topics were off limits. There were no formalities for communicating with Him. I just gave God my raw and unfiltered words. To my surprise, my anger was met with unmerited kindness, unconditional love, and answered prayer.
God provided for a tremendous need in my life, and immediately, I was reminded of the passage in Matthew 7:9-11. It says,“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
When my prayers were answered, my skepticism came face-to-face with His abundant grace and mercy. I was overwhelmed that in spite of my doubt and bad attitude, I encountered His love for me. This experience settled the question of how to embrace Him as my heavenly Father.
What I have discovered is that our understanding of God as father comes by faith, just as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” We believe that God is our heavenly Father, not because it makes logical sense but because we choose to trust in the truth of God’s word that says He is a Father.
Saying that God is our heavenly Father does not mean forcibly fitting him into our understanding of the Word. We have innate expectations for the role of an earthly father. For girls, we may expect the father to interrogate our male suitors, tell us we look pretty, and be there to comfort and hold us when we cry.
A relationship with God as our heavenly Father will not look the same as the relationship with an earthly dad.
A relationship with God is cultivated by communing with Him through prayer. In prayer, we remove our barriers to talking with Him, thus deepening our faith and relationship. This is how we come to know Him as a heavenly Father: slowly, over time, as we intentionally connect with Him.
Reading God’s word also affirms our faith in God as heavenly Father:
Overwhelmingly, God communicates who He is in the life of a Christian. Our response is to simply believe.
Prayer and Bible reading solidify our faith in God as our heavenly Father. It is a daily, minute-by-minute walk with Him. And It requires a conscious choice to trust that God is exactly who He says He is in the face of doubt and skepticism. God does not replace earthly fathers; He offers us a relationship with Him as our perfect and unchanging heavenly Father.
Kia Stephens is a wife and homeschooling mama of two who is passionate about helping women know God as Father. For this reason, she created The Father Swap Blog to be a source of encouragement, healing, and practical wisdom for women dealing with the effects of a physically or emotionally absent father. Each week through practical and biblically sound teaching she encourages women to exchange father wounds for the love of God the Father. For more encouragement download Kia's free ebooks, Hope for the Woman With Father Wounds and Forgiveness Hacks: 5 Strategies to Help You Forgive. Additionally, you can connect with Kia on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Photo Credit: GettyImages/IBushuev