When You Don’t Have a Good Dad on Father’s Day

On Father’s Day, children of all ages hit the stores looking for cards that thank our dads for being loving and teaching us the important things in life. We look for ways to honor our dads. We express our affection and the debt we owe them.

But some of us struggle to know what we could thank our fathers for.

Some dads never made an appearance in our lives. Some are barely present physically, let alone emotionally. Others might be known for their destructive words and the bruises they leave behind. Maybe they love their beer more than their babies or make it hard for us to believe any man could be gentle and loving. They don’t just make us wonder if they love us; they make us wonder if anyone could love us.

We hate this day called Father’s Day, because it reminds us of the father we never had.

But on this day, we can still be encouraged. Though we may rightly lament the pain our earthly fathers caused (and seek help if we’re in an abusive situation), we can also find hope in our sonship before our heavenly Father. Though our earthly dads fathered us in sin, he fathers us in perfection and righteousness. We aren’t fatherless.

Here are six truths to remember about our flawless Father.

1. He Is Near When We’re Brokenhearted

Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Our dads may have made fun of our pain or ignored our cries. Perhaps they’ve continued to break our hearts over the course of years. But God is near to us when we’re crushed in spirit. He shows us compassion. When we don’t know how to pray, his Spirit helps us (Rom. 8:26–27). He doesn’t ridicule our pain but brings purpose to it (Rom. 8:28–30).

2. He Doesn’t Condemn Us

As believers we will never be condemned by God (Rom. 8:1). Our earthly fathers may have found every possible fault and mistake in us because we weren’t the perfect child they envisioned. But our heavenly Father placed all of our deserved punishment on Christ. We no longer have to walk in shame; our Father sees us justified because of the righteousness of Christ. Rather than wrath and condemnation, we experience God’s loving discipline that protects, grows, and sanctifies us (Heb. 12:4–11).

3. He Adopted Us

Some dads make it obvious they never wanted their children. We were a “mistake” and “unplanned,” and he would rather spend his life doing something other than caring for children. In contrast, our heavenly Father is not only involved; he’s adopted us as his own. Ephesians 1 tells us that God purposefully chose to adopt each of his children before the foundations of the world were laid, predestining them to be saved by Christ’s blood (Eph. 1:3–7). Though our self-sufficient God didn’t need us for anything, he gladly chose to set his love on us.

4. He Will Never Forsake Us

Earthly dads can abandon us. They can remove themselves from our lives or remain deliberately distant. But God promises that he will never forsake us. He remains faithful—even if we are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13). He promises to see us to completion, raised in newness (Phil. 1:6). Though our dads may give up on us, God will faithfully sanctify us.

5. He Will Train Us in Righteousness

We may wish our dads had invested more time in teaching us how to love God, how to choose a good spouse, how to respect authority, or how to lead with kindness. Instead, they modeled the complete opposite. But our good and perfect Father has changed our hearts to love his law:

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:26–27)

We’re unable to obey God in our own power, so he gave us both new hearts that desire to obey and his Spirit to enable us to love his law.

6. He Gave His Son for Us

Earthly dads can be selfish. They may do everything for their own good—even if it’s at our expense. But our heavenly Father gave his Son for us:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:4–6)

Rather than allowing us to continue our hell-bound course in sin, God crushed his Son on the cross. He poured out his wrath on the Son to bring us near and give us eternal life. By this sacrifice, our guilt is taken away, and we receive Christ’s righteousness if we trust him (Rom. 10:9–10).

The Father loves us more than even the best earthly dad could comprehend. He has showered us in grace. Because of this, we are freed from bitterness. We are freed from anger. We can find refuge and hope in knowing the greatest Father. This Father’s Day, when the memories of our earthly dads’ failures overwhelm us, we can turn our hearts to our heavenly Father, who loved us perfectly before we loved him.