I tightened my grip on my cell phone as the elderly woman from my Bible study recounted the painful details of her estrangement from her children. While all three children lived in the same state, none of them visited her. Her Christian faith, she said, offended them. She and I were only acquaintances, but the anguish in her voice saddened me. I prayed with her before I hung up the phone.
Too often, a parent-child relationship can crumble, leaving both sides heartbroken. But it might surprise us to know our Heavenly Father can also be hurt by us.
In Hosea, God describes Himself as a tender, loving Father to Israel:
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. Hosea 11:1-4 NIV.
God’s heart aches when His children walk away from Him. By using the imagery of a loving and involved human parent, Hosea emphasizes that our Father’s love is real and true.
If you have known the love of a human father who told you jokes and tickled you till you cried, taught you how to ride a bike, helped with homework, read bedtime stories, or wrote a check when you were broke in college, you have experienced an iota of God’s fatherly love.
But even the best of human fathers are imperfect models of our heavenly Father. Because God is the Creator, sovereign over the universe, all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent, His fatherhood is superior to that of humans in all aspects.
Maybe you’ve never experienced the love of a good father. Maybe your father was unkind or even abusive. Maybe you’ve recently lost your father. I hope you know that even in the absence of a good human father, you are not fatherless.
God loves and takes great delight in His children. We don’t have to strive for His approval or praise. God wants us to be in an intimate relationship with Him. When we wander away from Him or reject His love, He relentlessly pursues us. When we return to Him, He forgives us with great rejoicing. His faithfulness is not conditional upon our faithfulness.
God does more than fill the shoes of an earthly father. He redefines fatherhood itself, loving us unto eternity without conditions and boundaries. He promises to never abandon us or remove His favor from us. He comforts us when we’re heartbroken and counsels and guides us when we need direction. He also knows how and when to supply our needs. We can depend on Him to help and deliver us.
God proved His great love by sending His Son to die for us, making it t possible for us to become His children. By faith, we receive our adoption as God’s children and now claim God as our Father. We are called to walk in childlike faith, relying on Him for provision and protection, and making every effort to draw closer to Him.
In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1: 5-6 NIV
(This article was published in Arise Daily)