07 Jun How Do You Heal From a Father Wound? | Real Women
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
As we approach Father’s Day, it is almost inevitable to reflect on our own experiences with fathers and father figures in our lives. For some, this day is one of great memories and joy, while for others it can bring sadness and pain. No matter what your experience with your earthly father, Jesus offers some helpful words about our Heavenly Father and how to build a relationship with Him.
Last year, while writing a book with my dad called Pray Like Jesus: Learn to Pray to God as Father, we talked a lot about our relationship and what kind of father he has been to me. I look up to my dad immensely and have always had a great relationship with him, but he is not perfect, as no fathers are. In fact, he will readily admit this, and one of the most healing things for our relationship has been his openness and humility to own that he has not been a perfect reflection of God the Father, despite his best efforts.
When I see my dad as a child of God just like I am, I no longer expect Him to be perfect or blame him for all the struggles in my life, but rather see him being sanctified right along with me as we learn together. Throughout the writing process, we ended up talking a lot about the idea of a father wound, which explains the negative effects our earthly father has on us that leave an unhealed hurt, whether intentional or not. Below is an excerpt from our book that I hope will explain this concept for you in a way that provides wisdom for your own journey of faith in the Father:
Since we have three kinds of fathers, people can have three kinds of father wounds. These categories are not mutually exclusive, and someone can have multiple father wounds from multiple kinds of fathers.
First, we have physical fathers. We share genetic, physical connections with them and long to have a relationship with them and receive loving help from them.
Second, we have spiritual fathers. In addition to physical parents, the Bible teaches that we also have spiritual parents. This concept explains why we ought “not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father” and to treat “older women as mothers.”c Paul was a spiritual father himself, even though there is no indication that he had any biological children: “You do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”d Paul also refers to Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus as sons and calls the Christians in Galatia “my little children.”e Peter calls Mark “my son.”f Over and over in 1–2 John, John calls Christians God’s children, as well as “my children,” revealing the Father’s heart in his heart.
Third, we have father figures. These are people in our lives that can help us mature. Examples include coaches, teachers, stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, big brothers, mentors, counselors, and so on.
Since no father is perfect, we are bound to have some degree of hurt and disappointment in one or more of these areas. For a moment, think of the most influential man or men in your life, whether he loomed large in his presence or absence, and ask yourself what he was/is like? Do any of these kinds of men sound familiar?
- The missing-in-action man. This kind of man died or was so sick that he was unable to function in a normal, healthy way. His absence was not a personal rejection but created a personal loss.
- The deadbeat dad. This man has walked out on your life and does little to nothing to help you, love you, or bless you because he does not much care to know you.
- The addicted dad. This man self-medicates with such things as drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, gambling, and so on. Addiction takes up so much of his life that there’s no room left for anyone or anything else.
- The Mr. Nice Guy. This man is genuinely tender and kindhearted. He is loving, warm, and person- able. He’s not big on conflict or correction, which means he gets walked on a lot and has a hard time winning at work or defending his family from harm.
- The selfish dad. This man devotes his free time to his hobbies. He likes to hunt, fish, watch games, drink beer, golf, boat, off-road, or do something else with a buddy instead of his family. His time and money go to himself and his out-of- order priorities.
- The party hearty pop. This man is the nice guy who most everyone likes but hardly anyone respects. He is irresponsible, is unreliable, and loves to be the life of the party. You cannot count on him since he’s immature and refuses to grow up and consistently take on adult responsibilities.
- The domineering dad. This guy is overbearing, intimidating, and wins through bullying. Tactics include pushing you around physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. These dads gravitate toward the military, sports, and the business world, where they succeed at ruling but lose at relationships at home.
- The good dad. This guy is not perfect, but he is present. He does care and tries to be a burden lifter instead of a burden giver for his family. When he’s wrong, he apologizes, as he knows he is not perfect but wants to learn and grow to be a better dad.
Coming to terms with the fact that fathers influence our lives no matter what kind of father they are is crucial in understanding how we communicate with our heavenly Father and relate to those around us. When we don’t deal with the flaws in our relationships with our earthly fathers, we spend our whole lives trying to avoid making the same mistakes in our relationships. But in the process we become so fixated on the issues that we repeat them instead of finding healing from them in prayer.
To heal the father wound, we need to forgive the father on earth who hurt us and start spending time with our Father in heaven, who can heal us. A father wound allows a failed earthly father to stand between you and your heavenly Father. Although He is there for you, you cannot see Him because your bitterness blocks your view. In this way, a wound is the spiritual equivalent of an eclipse where an earthly father blocks the light that shines on you from your heavenly Father. Forgiveness is how you release that man, remove that eclipse, and receive a new relationship with God as Father.
In my own life and in advising others, I’ve found that the best way to learn how to view God as a perfect, loving, sovereign Father is to study how Jesus knew Him, communicated with Him, and communed with Him. This is what we do throughout the rest of Pray Like Jesus, by studying the prayers of Jesus to the Father.
Because God designed fathers to play such a crucial role in our lives, their absence and failures can affect us catastrophically, so it is crucial to begin to forgive and pursue healing so that our relationship with our Heavenly Father doesn’t simply mirror that of our earthly one.
As you reflect this Father’s Day, I would encourage you to ask yourself some questions, and bring them to God in prayer:
- What was your dad like? How does that affect your view of the Father?
- Has God revealed any father wounds in your life? If so, list them and begin to process them with the Father.
- What has Jesus taught you about prayer and seeing God as Father? How can you grow in these areas?
- Matthew 12:25
- 1 Timothy 5:1–2
- 1 Corinthians 4:15
- Galatians 4:19
- 1 Peter 5:13