One of the mysteries of life is that we all, intuitively, learn about God from our earthly fathers. It is no mistake that God calls Himself our Father. He modeled the concept of earthly fathers on His own relationship with us.
Fathers are our protectors and teachers. They teach their sons how to throw a baseball, repair a car, and tie a necktie. They screen their daughters’ dates, explore strange midnight noises in the backyard, and impress all the neighborhood children with their goofy jokes and physical stunts. In the midst of all this, they teach boys what it means to be a man and teach girls what it means to be cared for and loved by a man.
When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, He taught them to begin with the words “Our Father.” For those with fathers who modeled God’s loving care, strong protection, and constant presence, this is comforting language. Too often, however, our earthly fathers fall short of that ideal, and when that happens, the biblical language of God as father can sound confusing and troubling. Elizabeth Marquardt, in her book Between Two Worlds, tells the story of a young woman who felt that a God who she couldn’t touch, hear, or see was too much like a father who was never there physically or relationally.
But Marquardt also found that those of us from divorced homes are more likely than others to think of God as the father we never had. This is the amazing grace of God—that He can make His fatherly character known through our earthly fathers and through our yearning for them when they are absent.
For those who grew up without a father or with a father who fell woefully short, our Father God is always there to comfort, protect, and teach. Need comfort? Psalm 6:8, 9 says, “…the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” Need protection? Psalm 4:8 says, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Need instruction? Psalm 16:7 says, “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Whether your father was a stellar example, a horrible flop, or simply not there, God does not change. The concept of an earthly father is modeled on Him, not the other way around.