Many of us approach Father’s Day with mixed emotions.
That is because even though some of us have hands-on fathers who are available and interested in our lives, others have somewhat distant, disinterested fathers, while even others still have been abandoned by their fathers altogether. There are some who don’t have fathers at all because they have died or were never in the picture to begin with.
I never knew my biological father. My mother was a beautiful lady and never experienced a shortage of men in her life. Unfortunately, she also loved to drink and party. As a result, a parade of men passed in and out of our home, and my home life consisted of a lot of fighting, screaming and hitting.
I know this story is not unique to me.
You can trace almost every social ill in our society today to the absence of strong fathers in the home.
One thing we all have in common, no matter what kind of father we have or don’t have, is if we are a Christian, we have a Father in heaven. And regardless of how our earthly fathers treat or treated us, our heavenly Father has always been there and will always be there for us.
The Bible says that God is a “father of the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5 NKJV). And David wrote, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10).
This concept of God as a father is the opening line of the most famous prayer in the world, the “Lord’s Prayer”:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:10-13 ESV)
Jesus deliberately referred to God as “our Father” to reshape the way we think of him. If your father was angry, absent or apathetic when you were growing up, you might think of God that way: disappointed, disconnected or disinterested in you and what is going on in your life. But Jesus wants us to see God in a different light, as a father who cares, is involved and takes joy in us.
In fact, not only does the Bible instruct us to call God “Father,” but we are to do so in an intimate way. The apostle Paul wrote, “Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15 NLT).
The word “Abba” speaks of intimacy, like a child might call their father “Daddy” or “Papa.” The idea is that of an affectionate relationship. For instance, my grandchildren call me “Papa.” When my granddaughter, Lucy, was just starting to talk, she would lift her hands up and say, “Uppy, Papa!” when she wanted to be picked up or get out of her highchair.
While some people — especially men who like to think they are tough — may mock the idea of God as a tender father, I believe many others are comforted by it.
I know I am. Father’s Day is especially poignant for me not only because I never knew my dad but because my son Christopher unexpectedly died in a car accident almost 13 years ago. This holiday could easily be the hardest day of the year for me.
Although I miss my son terribly and wish I had the chance to meet my father, I can still celebrate Father’s Day and even rejoice in it. I have a heavenly Father who knows and loves me, and I believe my son is in his presence. And because of that, I will see him again one day.
My prayer is that this Father’s Day we will celebrate our earthly fathers but also remember, we have a heavenly Father above.
To all of you fathers out there who have loved your wives and children and stood by them, I say, “Thank you,” and may you have the happiest Father’s Day ever!
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Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and of Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author, and movie producer. His new book Billy Graham: The Man I Knew (Salem Books) released April 13.