I was about 11 years old when I realized my dad didn’t love me. I remember praying and telling God, “You need to be my Father. You need to be my dad. If I don’t have a dad, I’m going to have a lot of problems when I turn into a teenager.”
I still had a lot of problems when I “turned into a teenager.” In fact, I wrestled with my past and with God until I was well into my twenties. I talked to pastors, therapists, friends, and family. Nothing seemed to heal my brokenness. I’d feel better for a little while, but then all the pain would come flooding back. It was difficult to go to church because the sermons reminded me of all the promises of peace and love in the Bible that I didn’t see coming true in my life.
The holidays were especially rough. It was hard not to be angry about this gaping void in my life. It was hard not to imagine how things would have been if my dad were a loving and good person. It was hard not to replay in my mind over and over how I wished things could have been, but weren’t.
Father’s Day was particularly painful for many years. Every year, without fail, my Facebook feed floods with sentimental memes and photos of wonderful dads, happy childhoods, and memories of all the things I’ve never experienced, but yearned for so badly.
It was hard not to imagine how things would have been if my dad were a loving and good person.
And you know what else was crushing? The guilt. I had done nothing wrong—unless you count my anger and discontentment. Somehow though, I couldn’t help but feel guilty and dirty because of all the evil things I understood far too well. You see, I know what it’s like to be an abuse victim. I understand what it’s like to be terrified of someone you love. I understand how you can hate and fear someone, yet still feel a need for them. Those are heavy things no one should ever have to understand. It’s like knowing an evil secret and not being able to explain it to anyone else.
No pastor could guide me through it. No counselor had wise enough words. I needed answers from God Himself. And eventually, I got them. It took a lot of prayer, reading, introspection, and maturing, but I eventually grew past my pain and gained a God I could trust with any secret.
Below I have paraphrased a few of the questions I wrestled with for years, and the answers I discovered for each.
There are Bible references attached so you can look them up and read them word for word in their entirety:
My Heart: I am an orphan. I have no father.
God: Before the world was created, I chose you. Before the foundations of the universe were laid, I planned to sacrifice my own Son as the adoption price for you. (Psalm 139:13-16, Ephesians 1:3-6)
My Heart: But you are not here. I need a physical father; one who I can talk to, and hold onto, and see.
God: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:18-20). “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).
My Heart: Why did so many bad things have to happen to me? If you really loved me, why didn’t you do something to stop it?
God: I did do something. I got you through it. I was with you at all times. I was strengthening your soul so you didn’t give up. I was rekindling your faith so that the spark never died. I was witnessing the evil done against you so that someday I could give you justice. (Psalm 40:1-3, Luke 22:31-32, James 1:2-18, Psalm 37, Philippians 1:27-30)
My Heart: I have done so many stupid things and so many bad things. I’ve even worried at times that I hated you. You cannot possibly love me.
God: And what if you were unfaithful? Just because you were unfaithful, does that mean that I am going to be unfaithful too? Of course not! I am your Father. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of my goodness. My love for you is a free gift, not a prize you can win, or a trophy you must earn. I am faithful, even when you are not. (Psalm 136, Romans 3, Ephesians 2:8-9)
…I eventually grew past my pain and gained a God I could trust with any secret.
My Heart: But I am so damaged. I fail, and I fail again. All I see in myself is failure and imperfection, pain and anger. How can I possibly ever make you happy?
God: When I look at you, I see my Son in you. I see His righteousness and His perfection. But I am not blind to the wrongs done against you. Blessed are you when they revile you, persecute you, and say all kinds of false evil against you. Great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted Me. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Isaiah 60:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12)
My Heart: There are so many things working against me. So many people want to tear me down.
God: No power of hell, no scheme of man, no angel or human being—nothing in the past, present, or future—can ever separate you from my love. (Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 20:4-9, Lamentations 3:22-23)
My Heart: I feel so much pain. Just when I think I am getting better, something reopens my wounds, and I am heartbroken all over again. How can I ever be whole?
God: I am the healer of the brokenhearted. I will bind up your wounds. I am the great physician. When a baby sparrow falls from his nest, I see him, and I am with him. If I never forget the short life of one tiny bird, how can you worry that I’ll ever forget you, my own child? I know every bruise you’ve ever felt, every tear you’ve ever cried, every fear you’ve ever feared. I know every wrong ever done to you, and I love you. I love you. I will heal you. I will make you whole again. I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. There will be no more death, or sorrow, or suffering. All this pain will pass away—death itself will die—and I will make you new again. (Psalm 34:15-22, Psalm 147:3, Luke 12:4-7, Revelation 21:1-7)
This Father’s Day, if you don’t have a human father to celebrate, celebrate your Father in Heaven. He is faithful and true. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is gentle and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. You can tell Him absolutely any secret, any dark feeling burning deep in your heart. He really can—He really does—heal the brokenhearted.
Do you know what Jesus said in Matthew 12 when His earthly family interrupted His teaching? He said, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
No matter how broken your biological family may be, no matter how alone or orphaned you may feel, remember that Jesus Christ has claimed you as His sibling and friend. Find peace in that knowledge. You are the child of the Most High God.
He really can—He really does—heal the brokenhearted.
For more encouragement like this, check out:
Why I Share My Story of Healing After Domestic Abuse
Overcoming Shame in the Grit and Grace Life
Battered Faith: Holding on to Hope Even When You Struggle
When Your Daughter is Fatherless
One Woman’s Journey, Why Rebekah Lyons Wrote “You Are Free”
The Great Defender
Grieving What Should Have Been
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To hear more about God and who He is, listen to our podcast episode, Can You Really Leave Your Past Behind You? – 028