When I lost my father in 1997, I thought my little world might crash around me. Even as I think about it now, my heart begins to pound and my eyes well up with tears. I was nineteen years old, and I don’t know if there’s anything more precious to a little girl (or a young woman in my case) than her father. It was a great loss. I wasn’t a Christian at the time of his death, so I couldn’t have predicted how much the Lord would use my father’s death to reveal His great love for me.
When I became a Christian at age twenty-two, one of the first things I began to understand was that I was no longer fatherless. God is indeed the Father to the fatherless (Ps. 68:5). When God saves us, we are not only justified but also adopted. We are brought into a new family. We are given the right to call the Holy One “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). And He looks at us as His children (Gal. 3:26). For someone who no longer had an earthly father, this sweet doctrine affected everything about how I related to and continue to relate to God.
There are three truths that have profoundly affected me as I have reflected on how we can relate to God as our Father. First, we are rightly to fear our heavenly Father. When my dad walked into the room, all eyes were drawn to him. He had a gentleness that could be sensed and yet a command that couldn’t be ignored. When he spoke, I looked him in his eyes and listened. In many ways, I revered him. The honor I showed my dad falls woefully short in comparison to the reverence, honor, and worship that we should reserve for our heavenly Father. He is to be feared and worshiped. We must recognize that He, our Holy Father, alone is God.
Second, we are to receive His grace. I remember when I had to share some grievous sin with my earthly father. Even as a non-Christian, it was difficult for me to confess. But I went to him, he thanked me for sharing, and he forgave me. I couldn’t believe his graciousness. As believers, it can be difficult to imagine that we are fully forgiven for all of our sin (Ps. 130:8; Isa. 43: 25–26; Eph 1:7; 1 John 2:2). Jesus paid it all. God tells us in His Word that if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). We can come freely as His children and receive mercy and grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:16).
Third, we are to receive His discipline. As a mother, I know that my desire to discipline my children stems from a heart that loves them and hopes to protect them, but my attempts also fall short. God’s discipline is not like ours (Heb. 12:9–10). He does not want us to grow weary or fainthearted in our fight for faith (v. 3). We will be trained, tested, and strained, but as we walk by faith and not by sight, we walk in the knowledge that God is treating us like His children (vv. 7–8). And His discipline yields sweet rewards (v. 11). We can rest assured that there is a great purpose in all He does. He acts for our good (v. 10).
Let’s join Paul in praising our Father who chose us to be His (Eph. 1:3–6).