Do you sometimes feel that God is unapproachable or unavailable? Do feelings of guilt or shame make you feel fearful or unworthy of God? Where do these thoughts and feelings come from?
As we learned in the prodigal son parable, God longs for us to run to Him. He is passionately in love with us, and ready to restore intimacy with Him. Unfortunately, this intimacy is hindered by strongholds – destructive thinking patterns that developed in childhood through our relationship with our fathers. Today we’re going to look at the six types of fathers that Jack Frost describes in his book, Experiencing Father’s Embrace.
Six Kinds of Fathers
- The Good Father – Good fathers are providers –conscientiously meeting the needs of their children. They ensure their children live in a safe home, wear good clothes, and eat well. Good fathers invest quality time with their children, and they are warm, affectionate, dependable, supportive and encouraging. Essentially, they are everything one would want a father to be.
- The Performance-oriented Father –These fathers often proclaim they love their children, but love is actually only expressed when the children measure up to rigid expectations. They are more critical than affirming. They only praise their children when they’ve done something exceptional, and not for who they are. Whether sports or chores or grades or whatever, it’s all performance oriented.
- The Passive Father – This father isn’t very involved with his children. When he’s at home, he is focused elsewhere, hardly aware of what his children are doing. He doesn’t engage much with his children in activities or conversation. He has difficulty showing physical affection and tenderness. He holds his emotions in and fails to empathize with the needs and feelings of others.
Having ministered in Asia, I know that this is particularly cultural. There are many places where fathers just do not express emotion. One of the powerful things I saw in Korea was a man on our ministry team, who would find one of the Korean pastors, and give a father’s hug and hold them longer than they were usually comfortable with. He would whisper in their ear, “The Father loves you! You are a great son!” I saw these stoic pastors just break down and weep. These pastors began lining up, waiting to receive a hug from this man, longing for the physical affection they didn’t receive from their fathers.
- The Absentee Father – This father is actually not even in the home, and rarely or never available to the child – perhaps due to divorce, death, lengthy military deployment, imprisonment, or outright abandonment. This is the sad reality for almost one-third of children in America, who are being raised by single mothers with little or no interaction with their fathers.
- The Authoritarian Father – Highly legalistic, this father is impacted by the love of law rather than the law of love. He commands instant and full compliance with his strict rules. Rather than nurturing his children with empathy, forgiveness, and patience, he controls through intimidation, irritability, and displeasure. He expects the life of the family to revolve around his own needs.
- The Abusive Father –These fathers inflict verbal, emotional, physical or even sexual abuse on their children. Their homes are places of trauma, distrust and deep emotional pain. They demean their children with words that wound. They may physically hurt their children. They may abuse them sexually through inappropriate touch, sexually explicit language or exposing them to pornography.
How we see God the Father may be distorted by our relationship with our earthly fathers. We tend to project the characteristics of our earthly fathers unto our understanding of Father God, and this affects our relationship with Him.
- It seems that children of good fathers should have a healthy relationship with our Heavenly Father, but their reliance on their earthly fathers for security, comfort, and identity might supplant their dependency on God the Father.
- Children of performance-oriented fathers feel they must earn God’s love, so they do good works to try to please God. They minister not out of an overflow of love for God, but rather a sense of duty.
- Children of passive fathers and absentee fathers frequently have an orphan attitude – they may feel that God is far away and not involved in their lives. They probably have trouble embracing God’s love and ministering to others in love.
- Children of authoritarian fathers may view God as the great cop in the sky – they may focus on legalistically following God’s commands, without realizing that the greatest command is to love God and others.
- Those whose childhoods were damaged by abusive fathers probably have the hardest road to healing as the feelings of unworthiness and shame they have accumulated cause them great difficulty in approaching God.
Where does healing begin?
- We need to identify and destroy these strongholds of false thinking. We displace them with God’s Word – who does He say He is, and who does He say we are? “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
- We need to come into an understanding of how really good our Father is. When a circumstance comes up that makes us go, “Hmmm,” we’ve got to say, “No! Wait! I know my Father is a good Father, regardless of what kind of earthly fathering I may have had.” He’s a generous Father! He’s pleased to give us the kingdom!” (Luke 12:31-32)
- When we come to the Father like a small child reaching up for father’s embrace, He overwhelms us with an increasing revelation of His love, more powerful than any father issues that cloud our concept of Him. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).
- We need to realize that God can take all the painful experiences from our earthly fathers, and turn them around. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His” (Romans 8:28)
I want to encourage you as we minister out of the heart of the Father that we can only give away what we’ve got. The good news is that in Him, we have been made complete! (Colossians 2:10) Your past does not define you, but God defines you. We need to believe God — not just believe in Him, but to believe Him – that what He says is real and it’s true. And He says, “You’re mine! No one can snatch you out of My hand. And I get to declare who you are – a son or a daughter of the Living God. You will do great exploits in My Name!”
And so we want to make sure that we are walking out our sonship.
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19)
Creation is waiting for you to show up, and show off who your Daddy is!
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