Do I Have Father Issues?
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” – Matthew 10:29 (NIV)
A girlfriend’s father abandoned her family when she was young. As a result, she struggled with relating to God as her Father. Another friend’s dad was harsh and critical. It took years for her to feel unconditionally loved by God.
As a young believer, I didn’t think I had issues with my father. Although my dad wasn’t a Christian, he allowed my mom to take me and my little sister to church. And though he never said, “I love you,” nor attended any of my school performances, I knew he loved me in his own way. My father was a good man, hard working and faithful to his family. However, he was an uninvolved presence in my life.
If I had a problem, I went to my mother. If I got into trouble, I called my mother. When I wanted advice, well, you can guess who I approached. This didn’t seem odd to me.
For years I congratulated myself for navigating my father’s distant personality with minimal negative impact. I was deeply aware that it could have been worse, and thanked God for a happy childhood. It wasn’t until 10 years ago that I pushed a little deeper into this topic of relating to God as my Heavenly Father based on my earthly experience.
Back then I heard that everyone (even those with great dads) has some kind of “father issue” with God because of his or her human (and inherently sinful) earthly fathers. While I wanted to dismiss it, I decided to revisit the topic. Could it be true for me? Was there something missing in my relationship with God?
As I dug deep, I discovered that although I was confident of God’s love, I didn’t really trust Him to be there in times of trouble. Would He step in if I had a problem? Did He even care?
Every question revealed the same disturbing truth: I didn’t really, truly, deep in my heart, trust God. Believe in? Yes. Love? Yes. But trust? The words were easy to mouth, but my heart wasn’t singing the same tune.
This realization shed light on so many issues that hadn’t seemed troublesome enough to address. Like why I had trouble praying for myself. And why I had so much fear for my children and for myself, and neglected to seek God’s wisdom in decision-making.
Seems I really did have “father issues” that were affecting my intimacy with God. I didn’t know what it was like to have a father to turn to in good or bad times. But I wanted to learn. I desperately wanted to know God as a perfect Father.
So as awkward as it felt, I made some changes. I intentionally got more personal in prayer, even addressing God as “Daddy” (Mark 14:36). Faced with decisions, even small ones, I asked God for advice (James 1:5). And when fear started to well
up, like when I was dealing with a fear of flying, I declared, “I don’t trust the pilot, I don’t trust the mechanic who tightened the bolts, I don’t trust the weather, I trust YOU!” (Psalm 91).
Little by little my faith and trust grew. I took doubtful thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and intentionally exchanged them with thoughts that affirmed God’s trustworthiness to help in times of trouble. It took years to rewire my thinking with the truth about God’s ability and willingness to be my Heavenly Father. And honestly, I’m still a work in progress.
When I slip back into my independent ways, I choose to believe what I know to be true: I have a Heavenly Daddy who wants to be my hero, champion, protector and confidant – if I’ll only let Him.
Dear Heavenly Father, You are perfect in all Your ways. Your Word says You are a loving Father, and I long to know You in that way. Only You know the gaps in our relationship based on my imperfect understanding of You. Please reveal them to me and help me work through them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.