The Stunning Way a Father Impacts Our View of God

Father’s Day, like many holidays, taps a variety of emotions. Gratitude for the faithful fathers in our midst, longing for the ones who are gone, and confusion over the ones who abandoned their roles. Let’s look at the impact human fathers have on our view of our heavenly Father and God’s provision for healing the wounds broken fathers leave behind.

A Father’s Influence

God sent John the Baptist before the coming of His Son “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children…to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17 ESV). How would turning the hearts of the fathers to the children prepare the way for Jesus? A counseling course helped me understand the important influence fathers have in their children’s relationship with God.

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

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

I pictured God chuckling over situations I knew Daddy would find funny. Where Daddy was strict, I saw my heavenly Father frown. The survey stunned me. I unconsciously expected God to respond to me in the same way my earthly father had.

A friend took a seminary class that showed similar results from a survey taken by self-proclaimed atheists. Each of the atheists’ fathers had either been absent, abusive, or emotionally distant.

Nurturing fathers soften their children’s hearts toward the Father. Disengaged fathers erect barriers their children must scale to experience their heavenly Father’s unconditional love.

Two Who Overcame Distant Fathers

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 cynical 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 deeply love. His great lion Aslan, in The Chronicles of Narnia, has helped me and countless others fall deeper in love with Jesus.

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 about who you are to Him.

Jesus came to show us the Father. We transform our experience with the Father by getting to know Jesus better. Look what it did for Josh McDowell and C. S. Lewis.

Jesus came to show us the Father. We transform our experience with the #Father by getting to know Jesus better. #RefreshingFaith Share on X

Two Songs for Fathers 

If you are a father, your engagement with your child matters more than you can imagine. I’ve included two songs I hope you’ll enjoy that show the impact of a dad and/or a stepdad: Rodney Atkins’ “Watching You” and Brad Paisley’s “He Didn’t Have to Be.”

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).


You can listen to the recording of Larry’s talk on How to Help Your Prodigal here.

Little Faith, Big God

Let the ordinary people from Hebrews 11 show you how to live strong and finish well.

“I highly recommend Little Faith, Big God …” –Josh McDowell, Christian apologist and best-selling author of Evidence That Demands a Verdict

Learn more here.

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  1. Ann J Musico

    There is so much truth here. I had a good, but complicated relationship with my dad and it took years to realize my heavenly Father isn’t just like him in certain ways. Fathers are SO important to their children’s lives. I see the impact my sons and my son in law have on their children and I am so proud of them all.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Ann, it is wonderful that your guys are good fathers. What a gift to their children and to you!

  2. Earle Finley

    Dear Debbie, thank you and Larry
    for your all of your love, Godly wisdom and counsel you have invested in our family over the year!
    Much love and praise the Lord for your
    Godly husband and father of your two
    wonderful children!!!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen! We are blessed. Sending love to you and Sara.

  3. J.D. Wininger

    A relationship with our loving Father helps to make us better dads. Enjoyed your post as always!

    • Debbie Wilson

      J.D., you are so right! Knowing God makes us better in every way!

  4. Jeanne Takenaka

    Debbie, such wise words about and for fathers. I have heard about the types of surveys you mentioned. It is always stunning to realize the impact a father has on his child when it comes to their formation of understanding God’s love for them. I am blessed to have a father who loves well, imperfectly, but well. But I still had to come to terms with how much deeper God’s love is for His children.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Jeanne, you are right. No matter how wonderful an earthly father is, he can’t compare to our heavenly. But isn’t it startling how much influence they have on us.?

  5. Mariel Davenport

    beautiful post, Debbie. Fathers matter so much! Grateful my husband is a great dad for our boys. Mourning the loss of my own dad who went Home to Jesus 3 years ago but grateful for my ever present Father. God bless.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Mariel, our society has tried to diminish their importance, but their influence is huge. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Katherine Pasour

    Your message brings back both sad and happy memories for me. My relationship with my earthly father was mostly one of fear and I don’t picture my heavenly father in that way. But my husband was a much more loving and nurturing father to our daughter and that brings me much comfort. I’ve always loved the Brad Paisley song, “He Didn’t Have to Be.” Thank you for sharing.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Katherine, we can learn what God is not like from our experiences too. Thankful for you good husband!

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