How do you love someone you’re supposed to love, but don’t really know how to love?
I lost my father when I was 12 years old. We buried him, as I’ve written on before, on September 11, 2001–the day “we will never forget.”
As transparently as I know how to write these words, I want to write about a personal struggle I have faced for a long time. I don’t have all of the answers, and to be sure, the answers I share here are not fully satisfying for me and I doubt they will be for you.
Nevertheless, I suspect many will read this that can identify with my heart. The Bible teaches that God is our Father (see Matthew 23:9, for just one example). In this verse, the Bible actually implores us to call no man our father on earth.
Of course, this is not to be taken in a strictly literal sense; in context, Jesus is trading on His classic paradoxical principle, viz., “whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (v. 12).
I take His purpose in this passage to mean that while you may have a father on earth, none is to be regarded higher than He.
Nevertheless, now having two sons of my own, I often wonder: Just how does one love a father, anyway? While I had my dad until I was 12 years old, and can certainly remember experiences with him, I would be lying to say that I can clearly remember what it felt like to love him.
Part of this is because of my family situation; my parents were not together long after I was born, and accordingly, I did not spend as much time with my dad and his side of the family as I did my mom and her side.
But he was your dad!?
I know. And, I can only pray that my sons will not have to endure the pain of not remembering what it truly felt like to love dad. Of course, I don’t mean to imply for a moment that I didn’t love him! Part of the experience I have of him is the pain and emotion I felt when he passed! I could never forget that.
I am referring to the day-to-day “love” and “companionship” that a son should get to feel for his father. My thought here is that, in a sense, I am missing that, and this leads to a lack of context at times when considering my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Of course–there is a reason why your Heavenly Father is in a different category. It’s a different kind of love–a different kind of relationship.
That said and all things considered, I want us to consider three divine characteristics of the Father which will help us–no matter our relational circumstances–to place our love for Him in a meaningful context and more importantly, to understand His love for us.
1. The Sufficiency of the Father
I mentioned that, unfortunately, much of my childhood was spent away from dad. And his passing came right before a crucial point in any child’s life–transitioning into teenage years.
This of course means that he missed many crucial events in my life, he was not at arms length when I needed someone to reach out to–someone to just be “dad”, and there are many things I could have learned from him, and did not really have the chance to.
How does God relate to us in this capacity? Can we expect God to meet our needs?
The case made in Philippians 4:19 is clear–“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
How easy it is to lose sight of the fact that our Father is the Creator, Sustainer, and Owner of everything! Thanks to the sacrifice wrought by Jesus Christ, we now have direct access to the Father–including His riches. Does that mean we are rich with material blessings? No, not in most cases.
But it does mean that every need will be supplied!
In fact, Jesus admonishes us to “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25).
The case is built even further for the sufficiency of God in Matthew 7. Verse 11 records, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” This is common sense talk–something tangible I can grasp.
Of course, I love my sons! I want to give them good gifts–things they need, but also things which make them particularly happy. How much more, then, should I take comfort in knowing my Father thinks the same toward me!
My earthly father never had the chance to teach me how to work on cars (just ask my wife!). My earthly father never taught me how to talk to girls (yeah…my wife could probably tell you about that too :D).
But my Heavenly Father has taught me patience and meekness. He has taught me wisdom, character, and how to love my wife, lead my family, and live for Him. He has directed my steps, showed me when I was wrong, when I was right, and when my heart was not in the right place.
And He has promised that He would never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), and He has assured (and often reassured) me that He is MY shepherd, and I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).
I can love my Heavenly Father because, for me, He has been all-sufficient.
2. The Consistency of the Father
Not much in our lives is constant. Every day, people–including you and I–change. In fact, in just seven to ten years time, you’re a whole new you! All of the cells in your body will have been replaced by new ones.
It can be hard to stay grounded when life rears its ugly head. Even those closest to you–your spouse, kids, parents, etc.–will change.
In Malachi 3:6, we are reassured: “I am the Lord, I change not.”
Revelation 1:8 expands this notion even further: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
We find in various parts of the Scripture that God is eternal, self-existing, unchanging, omnipresent, unvarying, etc. But what does this mean, practically speaking?
In a classic apologetics text, the Apostle Paul defends his faith on Mars Hill (recorded in Acts 17). He is declaring to them “the unknown God,” to which the “superstitious” had created an altar. In a nutshell, Paul uses their own poets to demonstrate that it is in God the Father “we live, and move, and have our being.”
Of course, the Grecians were quoting the false god Zeus; but Paul was declaring the One True God. In fact, he teaches in Colossians 1:17 that “[Christ] is before all things, and by Him all things consist.”
Colossians 2:3 teaches that “In [Christ] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” God promises Noah in Genesis 8:22 that “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”
You see, God not only created our universe–He is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).
We can take heart today and thank God that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
You see, “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Even the very “name of the Lord is a strong tower” (Proverbs 18:10).
What I’m trying to say is this: When uncertainly shows up, when we’re not sure if we can make it another day, when burdens become too hard to bear, when we begin to feel alone, He is always there. He “will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). And thank God, I will spent eternity with my Father, “for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
God is consistent. And He is my Father.
3. The Proficiency of the Father
Not only is God sufficient to supply every need. Not only is He consistent, and guiding my every step, but He is also proficient–powerful–a spiritual force to be reckoned with.
In Kindergarten, everyone argues that their dad is cooler than everyone else’s. I hope my kids get in that argument one day as well!
Can I tell you–I want to get in that argument for God. I love my Dad. I have an awesome Heavenly Father.
For one, “by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
I serve the God who created the universe!
Interestingly, there is a scientific principle in play that whenever [something] is caused, whatever caused it, contains more power than the [thing] itself. Since God caused the universe, and the universe contains everything physical (“all things”–see above), it would follow scientifically that the cause of the universe–God–must have been all-powerful!
It only makes sense, then, that God would rhetorically ask: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
It comes as no surprise that John records in his revelation, “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
God’s power can certainly be seen in nature (Romans 1:20). But what about in our lives? It turns out that probably the greatest display of His power is the change He makes in the life of a sinner. For in so doing, the dead become alive.
Mark 2 records Jesus healing a paralytic man “that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” What a remarkable statement.
You see, “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). But “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).
And even though “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
I received that forgiveness at the age of four years old. I have been walking with my Heavenly Father ever since. And now, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Paul closes out the third chapter of Ephesians with a remarkable exhortation: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
What a promise from Christ that “if ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14).
I thank my God that He is all powerful, and able to do so much more than I could ever ask or think. God gives us the power, daily, to overcome those who desire to stand in our way–those who want to cause fear, doubt, and frustration in our lives.
Of course, it must not be lost on us that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:6-7).
God loves us–not with a love that enables us, but one that empowers us–to choose the good, to do right when everyone else wants you to go wrong, and keep far from the grasp that sin has on our lives.
Of course, “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).
I thank God for His power to save us, preserve us, and to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
So much more could be said. I loved my earthly father. I still do love him!
I miss him tremendously, but I’m thankful that in His absence, I can still glory in the fact that my Heavenly Father is sufficient, consistent, and proficient in my daily walk.
I want to leave you with the lyrics of a song; it’s a well-known song that speaks of the deep, deep love the Father has for us. Below the lyrics, you’ll find a video which is simply the audio of a man singing it with some soft music.
Give it a listen, really take in the lyrics, and be encouraged this week. You have a Heavenly Father that loves you, and is crazy about you–rejoice in that wonderful truth right now.
How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the man upon His cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
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