By Dr. Audrey Davidheiser, Crosswalk.com
The calendar marks June 20th as Father’s Day—or, as some would say, any other day.
If you agree with this sentiment, I have a question.
Why do you breeze through Father’s Day?
Perhaps, like me, you had a great guy for a dad, but death or divorce stole him from you. Or could it be you didn’t grow up with a good father—or any father, for that matter? Whatever your circumstance is, if you’ve fully mourned the absence of your father or the junk he’s put you through, wonderful. I understand why you’d skip Father’s Day.
My father’s untimely death thrust me into a fatherless state. I can sense more griefwork awaits, which is one reason I’m observing the significance of June 20. If you, too, feel as though your heart bears some negativity against your father, I’d like to share why it benefits people like us, the fatherless, to observe Father’s Day.
The Lord created fathers to play a formidable role. He charges them with the hefty responsibility to raise their children in the Lord—correctly, not by angering them (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21). Fathering done right transforms boys into servant-hearted gentlemen and girls into confident women who know their worth.
When fathers fail to accomplish their divine design, the effects stain our souls for the long haul.
Fatherless children tend to underachieve at school. They become sexually promiscuous and more prone to substance addiction, as well as other acting out behaviors. And if fathers behave in malicious ways—such as by abusing their kids—psychological trauma will scar their souls.
Trauma, in turn, demands intentional efforts to undo.
You may have never been abused by your father. But if you harbor unfavorable feelings against the father figure in your life—for whatever reason—and if you ignore Father’s Day as a way to stick it to him, you’re only ignoring signposts to areas of your soul that need help. But when you ignore their presence, you’re also denying them the chance to get better.
Matthew 11:28-29 states, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Read these verses carefully and you’ll see how the burdens Jesus referred to are carried by our souls. But He can’t transform our weary souls if we deny the existence of those burdened down parts.
Would you reconsider your stance against Father’s Day? I’ll show you 3 ways that might help.
1. Process the Hurt
Acknowledging feelings you may have harbored against your father is the first, but not the final, step. Equally important is seeking healing for these hurt parts.
There are many safe ways to let hurt feelings surface:
- Sob. Tears flush out stress hormones, which is why crying can feel like a release.
- Scribble your emotions about Dad in a journal. Or, if you plan on burning it (which may create closure), consider writing them in a letter first.
- Spend time at his gravesite, the last place you saw him, or any other place which can help you get in touch with your hurt part.
- Schedule an appointment with a counselor, pastor, or therapist.
If the man who fathered you has provided you anything but protection or affirmation, sometimes it’s helpful to see another side of him that’s not as hurtful. There’s a technique from the Internal Family Systems model which can help you do so, whether the father who bothers you is currently in your life or not. Seeing your father in a more positive light can help you forgive—perhaps the best way to release your mental burdens. Check out my book, Surviving Difficult People: When Your Faith and Feelings Clash, if you’re interested in this exercise.
2. Seek Solace in Jesus
When Jesus walked on the earth, whom did he love the most? This is somewhat of a trick question, so let me walk you through it. The New Testament makes it clear the Son of God loved everyone (Still does). But when it comes to the One whom he lavished his love the most, the heavenly Father had no competition (Still doesn’t).
This is why, for instance, all four gospels record multiple occasions of him talking to his Father:
- Matthew 14:23, 26:36, 26:39, 26:42, 26:44;
- Mark 1:35, 6:46, 7:31-37; 14:32-42;
- Luke 3:21-22, 5:16, 6:12-13, 9:18, 9:28-29, 10:21, 11:1, 23: 34, 23:46;
- John 11:41-42, 12:27-28, 17.
Imagine Jesus’ feelings as he roamed the earth for over three decades without communing with his Father in the close way he used to. He must’ve missed His Father acutely.
But that’s not all. Have you noticed how Joseph is missing from a huge chunk of Jesus’ life? The Bible features Jesus’ step-father around his birth, but Joseph never showed up again after losing the 12-year-old Jesus at a religious festival (Luke 2:42-51). By the time Jesus’ public ministry began and ended, the Bible only mentions Mary, her sister, and Jesus’ half-brothers (Matthew 12:46-47, Luke 8:19-20, John 7:5, John 19:25, Acts 1:14)—but not Joseph.
A simple explanation can account for this devoted father’s glaring absence: he had passed on.
Indeed, Joseph seemed to serve as a good father figure for Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew outlines Joseph’s faith and humility. Joseph remained with Mary despite her miraculous pregnancy and the likely ensuing gossip (Matthew 1:18-25), moved the young family to Egypt to escape the impending infanticide (Matthew 2:13-15), and back home to Israel after Herod passed (Matthew 2:19-23)—all in obedience to the supernatural instructions he received.
This means Jesus endured not just one, but two losses: first, a prolonged time of separation from the Father he’s known from all eternity, and second, the grief of his earthly father’s death.
We can always take our father-wounds to Jesus. He understands.
3. Draw Comfort from the Father
God promised to give us double for our trouble (Isaiah 61:7). As such, we can expect not just Jesus’ support but also the Father’s. Sure, anyone can petition God for help; however, multiple passages in Scripture emphasize His relentless love for us, the fatherless. Notice His fierce protection:
"Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” (Exodus 22:22-24)
I quake for the fool who dare to pick a fight with God this way.
You can rely on your heavenly Father to compensate for whatever your earthly father failed to supply. Even those with loving dads can have issues with the way they were fathered, and they, too, can look to the Father to make up the difference. But as a fatherless individual, you can approach the Father with the assurance that His table features an RSVP with your name on it.
Putting it all together, the following is how I plan on observing Father’s Day. Feel free to adapt it to suit your specific situation if you find it helpful.
I plan on giving myself permission to hug a Kleenex box as the day approaches. I’ll gaze at childhood pictures of Papa’s handsome face and my chubby one, whispering to that little girl, “You’re so blessed to blossom under his kind influence. Look, your eyes are carbon copies of his. I know you miss him terribly, but you’re not alone. I’m there with you, and guess what? Both Jesus and the Father are here for you, too.” I’ll welcome sweet memories of our family vacation trips, favorite noodle places, my graduation and wedding days, and other major milestones Papa was around to celebrate. I’ll eat those fish crackers we both enjoyed. I’ll sing worship songs and thank the Father for entrusting me into the hands of godly parents, for carrying me through the tumultuous times following my dad’s demise, and for loving me unconditionally. No matter how emotional the day gets, I can count on His close presence—given the promise of Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Fellow fatherless, the ache of not having a good earthly father may never fully vanish this side of heaven. His absence means we only have one Father. Oh, but what a good, good One He is!
I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Father’s Day this year.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez
Audrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems therapist, and author of Surviving Difficult People: When Your Faith and Feelings Clash. She founded and directed a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, supervised graduate students, and has treated close to 2,200 clients. Dr. Audrey devotes her California practice to survivors of psychological trauma. Visit her on www.aimforbreakthrough.com and Instagram @DrAudreyD.