Father’s Day is a day that many people wish would go away and never return. Much like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day for many brings up feelings of deep hurt, pain, and insecurity. Furthermore, it also brings up many memories, perhaps even infertility, among men, wondering why they don’t have children and more. Men and women come from all over the place and spectrum when it comes to this day. The pain is real, but in this article, I also want to say, there is real hope and healing in Christ alone.
It was one day during my junior year in high school. I was sitting on the floor in my brother’s house in my room in Monroe, Washington at the time. As I sat with an open Bible reading Scripture in my room, I read from Matthew 6:12-15 where the Lord tells us that if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. And I was taken back as I read to memories from reading this passage and to feelings that I had towards my dad specifically. These feelings were bitterness, and resentment, feelings that had hindered my relationship with my dad up to this point in my life as a sixteen-year-old. Well, as I kept thinking about this, I also thought about how the gospel could bring reconciliation to my relationship with my dad.
The more, I kept thinking along these lines, the more I realized, I hadn’t forgiven my dad. Instead, I had held onto my feelings of bitterness and resentment. Those feelings had built up for years and had lead me to not have much of a relationship with my dad at all. Well, the Lord pierced me to the heart as I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:12-15. And as the Lord convicted me, I repented, confessed my sin to the Lord, and the Lord forgave me. The next day, my dad came over to where I was staying at my brother’s house, and we had a long walk. It wasn’t Father’s Day, but it was a day that I’ll forever remember. It was the day where I asked my dad to please forgive me because of my bitterness and resentment towards him. And he did forgive me, and he also asked me for forgiveness, and we were reconciled one to another before the Lord that very day.
Now, not all Father’s Day stories go as well as the one I just told. For many people, there is never any reconciliation. And there may seem never to be hope either. In this article, I want you to see that the pain of an absentee father (something I know well also) is no match for our Father in heaven.
The Fatherhood of God in Scripture
Psalm 68:5 declares that God is the “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” God said that He is the Father of the fatherless which means that God isn’t disinterested in those who are fatherless but profoundly interested in those who have experienced the pain of a father who has abandoned his family. The Lord longs to adopt all those who’ve experienced the pain of an absent father and does this through the gospel.
To understand the importance of what I just said in the previous paragraph consider the following truths that are grounded in Scripture about God the Father. God the Father, the first person of the Trinity who orders and disposes of all things according to His purpose and grace (Ps. 145:8, 9; 1 Cor. 8:6). He is the Creator of all things (Gen. 1:1-31; Eph. 3:9). As the only absolute and omnipotent ruler in the universe, He is sovereign in creation, providence, and redemption (Ps. 103:19; Rom. 11:36). His fatherhood involves both His designation within the Trinity and His relationship with mankind. As Creator, He is Father to all men (Eph. 4:6), but He is Spiritual Father only to believers (Rom. 8:14; 2 Cor. 6:18). He has decreed for His glory all things that come to pass (Eph. 1:11). He continually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and events (1 Chr. 29:11).
In His sovereignty He is neither author nor approver of sin (Hab. 1:13), nor does He abridge the accountability of moral, intelligent creatures (1 Pet. 1:17). He has graciously chosen from eternity past those whom He would have as His own (Eph. 1:4-6). He also saves from sin all those who come to Jesus; and He becomes, upon adoption, Father to His own (John 1:12; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Heb. 12:5-9).
Fast forward now from 1998 as a high school junior to a college student in 2004. My dad closed his business in the Greater Seattle area and moved to Eastern Washington. He would come back into my life in 2014 after being out of my life. During that time, when he first got back into my life, I found out he had dementia. My dad now lives in an assisted living facility in the Greater Seattle area.
Having an Absentee Father Is Hard
Even with all that said, you may have a father who has been hard on you. You may also long for children and a family. Perhaps also, you have had a father who abused you verbally, mentally, physically, or even sexually. The pain of an absentee father is very real, and this issue is only getting greater in our society.
The problem of absentee fathers is the result of living in a world that is experiencing the consequences of the Fall. The Bible doesn’t leave us hanging at the Fall. It continues to teach us about God sending forth His Son Jesus Christ, the God-Man to be virgin born, live a sinless life, die a brutal death by dying in our place for our sin, being buried, raised on the third day, and ascend to the right hand of our Father in heaven. The good news for those who’ve experienced an absentee father is that our heavenly Father, who is the Creator, sent forth His Son Jesus to deal with sin and now longs to adopt those who have experienced an absentee father by bringing hope and healing through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection to them.
Many people who’ve experienced the fall out from an absentee father struggle with viewing God as loving. Instead of seeing God as loving, kind, good and just, they see God as distant, unloving, unjust and not good. While this is understandable that people feel this way, and I have struggled with this at times, the Word of God teaches that God is the God of the fatherless. The Bible uses the word fatherless more than 40 times by more than ten different authors from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
Today, my dad and I have a great relationship. We talk each week on Saturday in the afternoon. We have lots of chats about the Bible, theology, and life. Several times each year, I get to visit him in the Greater Seattle area also. Even so, that may not be your story today, and I want to say, I know what that pain looks and feels like, even though, I’m also on the other side of that pain.
Gospel Hope for Those with an Absentee Father
The gospel is supreme over the fatherless because God tells us that we have a Father in heaven who genuinely cares for us and sent forth His Son to bring reconciliation between fathers and sons, along with daughters and fathers through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel is good news for those who’ve experienced the pain of an absentee father. It tells us that in Jesus, we have a Savior who genuinely cares for people and who longs to adopt them as His sons and daughters, to love them as the Beloved of God. Furthermore, Jesus not only saves but through the Holy Spirit, Christians are empowered to proclaim the glory of God’s of grace to people, including those who have absentee fathers.
The pain of life is no match for an infinite, all-knowing, loving God. The Father is indeed the Father of the fatherless. And today, you can stop running from the pain of life, face reality, and know the love of the Father through Christ the Son. Jesus alone brings salvation, satisfaction, and real meaning to life through the new birth, along with a new mission and purpose that brings hope and healing for people in the gospel, including those like me who have experienced the pain of an absentee father, and have found hope and healing in and through Christ alone.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to his wife, Sarah. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021), The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022), and Contentment: The Journey of a Lifetime (Theology for Life, 2024). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.