What You Need to Know about Your Father

Have you considered how your earthly father has affected how you relate to your heavenly Father?

Fifteen months before the birth of Jesus, God sent the angel Gabriel to Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist. John’s ministry was to prepare the hearts of Israel for the coming Messiah. One line in his mission intrigued me.   

Fathers matter(10)“And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children…to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17 ESV).

I wondered how turning the hearts of the fathers to the children prepared the way for Jesus.

A counseling class taught by Jim Craddock, a pioneer in connecting the relationship we have with our fathers to the relationship we feel with the heavenly Father, showed the staggering impact a father plays in a child’s concept of God.

During the course, each of us took an inventory on how we perceived our heavenly Father in regard to a variety of issues. I zipped through the simple list checking the appropriate columns.

Later, we filled out the same inventory with respect to our earthly fathers. I whizzed down the columns until my pattern arrested me. I flipped back in my workbook to the first inventory. I was stunned. The pattern of my answers was identical. I’d projected the image of my earthly dad onto my heavenly Father.

Where Daddy had a sense of humor, God chuckled too. Where Daddy was strict, I saw my heavenly Father frown. The lesson startled and warned me. My relationship with my earthly father had direct impact on the way I experienced my heavenly Father.

A friend took a seminary class that echoed this finding. A survey found that every self-proclaimed atheist shared this common trait—a damaged relationship with his or her father. Their fathers had been absent, distant, or abusive.

John the Baptist’s mission now made sense to me. Turning the hearts of the fathers to their children opened Israel’s arms to welcome God’s Son. Loving, engaged fathers tenderize their children’s hearts towards the Father. Self-absorbed and emotionally disengaged fathers hinder their children from experiencing the unconditional love of our heavenly Father.

Two Modern Examples

Josh McDowell, Christian author and speaker, is a modern-day example of this. Josh grew up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. He entered college a hardened agnostic. But in his attempt to disprove the resurrection he discovered Christ and a heavenly Father. His heavenly Father healed his past wounds and transformed his life. Read his bio here. Josh McDowell has impacted millions of lives for Christ through his speaking and writing.

C. S. Lewis’s mother died when he was ten. Lewis was shipped off to school. The physically and emotionally distant relationship he had with his father no doubt played a role in his becoming an atheist. But the story doesn’t end there. Christ pursued Lewis. Experiencing the love of his heavenly Father transformed Lewis into the great Christian author and influencer we so deeply love.

If you struggle with trusting God, feeling close to Him, or believing He loves you, look at the relationship you had with your father. Perhaps there is a good reason for your feelings. But those feelings don’t reflect the truth about God or who you are to Him.

Jesus came to show us the Father. When we grow close to our Father by getting to know Jesus, His love transforms us just as it did Josh McDowell and C. S. Lewis.

“Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’” (Jn. 14:9 NIV).

Click here to comment.


Debbie W. Wilson

Sometimes I link to the following great sites:

#life giving link up, #Mondays@Soul Survival, Titus Tuesday, Reflect link up, #TestimonyTuesday, #IntentialTuesday, #TuesTalk, #Tell it to me Tuesdays, #w2wwordfilledwednesday, #Wedded Wednesday, #Women with Intention,  #LivefreeThursday, #WordswithWinter, #Grace and Truth

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  1. Melissa

    Thank you for your post, Debbie. I am very blessed to have had a Daddy who loved and cherished me. I know that some people do not have that situation. I have wonderful memories of my Daddy taking me to Sunday School and church. I remember standing beside him while he sang beautiful songs in church. I am thankful that my husband is a wonderful Daddy to our son. I am thankful to love and be loved by God.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Melissa, your recollection of you daddy brought back memories of my own. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sandi B

    Right on target Debbie. Having an abusive step-father marred my relationship with God. But, thankfully, God sent His people to help me work through this.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Sandi, isn’t good to see how God turned that pain in people like C. S. Lewis and Josh McDowell into a zeal to help others know the truth about our Father. We need the body of Christ. I’m thankful you came to know your heavenly Father’s love.

  3. Sue Donaldson

    So true – the good news is that God pursues us – damaged or otherwise, and we get to choose to respond to His perfect Fathering. Thanks for this! Next to you are soul survival – which is an apt name for all of us – surviving, no thriving bec of Jesus.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen, Sue. Thanks for visiting.

  4. Ann

    Debbie my dad was a hardworking and wonderful man. Not terribly affectionate and not “religious” at all. I remember when my husband and I moved back to NY and we had gone into a restaurant business with my brother that didn’t work out. My usually laid back, easy-going father was so stressed he was making himself sick! I tried to explain why I wasn’t worried this way: “the way I come to you when I need wisdom or advice because I trust you always want what’s best for me – well that’s how I feel about my Heavenly Father. I can go to Him and trust Him totally knowing He always has my best interests at heart.” I can see what you said is absolutely true – I definitely have viewed God through the lens of my dad. Thankfully he was a loving dad.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Ann, what a beautiful example! I know you miss him so much. But his legacy lives on in you!

  5. Brenda

    Debbie, what an interesting statistic that every atheist in the survey had a difficult relationship with their father. It’s taken me many years to work through seeing God through the lens of my father. So thankful for His patience with me, and His love for me. It’s a beautiful thing to begin to see Him through His own lens rather than that of a fallible human. 🙂 He’s the best. 🙂 ~ Thank you for sharing. 🙂 ((Merry Christmas))

    • Debbie Wilson

      Brenda, I take comfort in Paul’s words in 2 Cor. that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness—whatever that weakness is. The areas we have to work on may become our points of greatest strength and faith. God bless you.

  6. Sarah Koontz

    What a beautiful challenge to fathers, and an inspiration to anyone who has had an absent father. I didn’t know CS Lewis or Josh McDowell’s back stories on their dads. Thank you for your words of encouragement today, especially: “Fathers, the best gift you can give your children is your heart.”

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Sarah. It is inspiring to see how God brings beauty from ashes. And thanks for sharing it.

  7. Tammy Kennington

    Such a wonderful, honest post! So many of us struggle with knowing our Father’s true character as a result of perceptions we’ve developed based on our earthly father. Oh, will God show us mercy us as we parent our own children.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen, Tammy. We all fall short of reflecting His perfect image. But His grace is sufficient!
      Blessings to you.

  8. Kelly Johnson

    Beautiful post! And so true. I had a complicated relationship with my alcoholic, flawed but loving father and I had some work to do in my twenties in connecting the dots to the ways it impacted my view of God. God has brought healing in many ways, but I never forget in my teaching that many folks with complicated Daddy relationships struggle with the concept of God as Abba Father. Great work. Keep writing, sister! Stopping by from #LiveFreeThursday

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thanks, Kelly. And you bring out a good point. Our audience comes from different places. Bless you!

  9. Beth

    I love this, Debbie. Such great wisdom you share with us today! I have been grappling with this exact thing for many years (even writing about it on my blog), but lately Christ has brought it into sharper focus for me. I tend to think of and feel affection for Christ but am intimidated and less inspired by the thought of the Father. My relationship with my pastor dad was not very strong. I took measures late in his life to get to know him better and our relationship improved, but I still have nagging doubts about the extent of his love for me. He died several years ago and that sentiment still haunts me. I am being urged by Christ to come closer to the Father and your post is an inspiring reminder and challenge of that very important task. Thank you so much, my friend!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Daddy wounds run deep. I think it helps us not condemn ourselves for our feelings when we understand their root. Bless you, Beth. And thank you for sharing.

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