Knowing Father’s Love

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:14-16).

A little girl walked to and from school every day. The weather one morning indicated an approaching storm. By afternoon, the wind was strong and lightning flashed. The girl’s mother thought her daughter might be frightened as she walked home, and she feared the electrical storm might harm her. Concerned, she quickly got into her car and drove toward the school. Soon, she saw her little girl walking along. At each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up, and smile. As she drew up beside the girl, she lowered the window of the car and asked, “What are you doing?” The girl answered, “I am trying to look pretty because God keeps taking my picture!”

Perception is Critical

Theologian and author A. W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” Our concept of God influences every area of our lives. It determines how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the situations we encounter. Everything that defines us is influenced by our perception of Him.

Why is it possible to hold a wrong image of God in our hearts despite the clear teaching of Scripture about Him? Because the negative things we learn and experience in our early relationships with those close to us are so deep and powerful that they reduce the teaching of Scripture to mere head knowledge.

To uncover the root of how we perceive God, it is important to look at our relationships with our parents or guardians. We who have healthy relationships with our fathers or male guardians usually relate positively to God as Father. However, we who struggle and are disappointed in our primary relationships often find connecting with God difficult.

Our faulty views of God can cause us to fear intimacy with Him, and inspire us to labor for Him out of duty or fear rather than out of love. If we see God as a loving Father, we will draw near to Him; if He seems to be a harsh judge, we will withdraw from Him. If we do not believe God cares about us, we will be overly focused on caring for ourselves. If we feel insignificant or ignored by Him, we will weary ourselves seeking significance from people.

Distorted images of God affect how we worship Him. We may question if He is worthy of our worship. Our witness will also be affected; the more we admire and love Him, the more we want others to know Him like we do. We can rise no higher in our spiritual life than our view or concept of God.

Many people judge God to be unapproachable, passive, hard to please, or angry. They expect Him to be just like their earthly fathers or guardians. But God is perfect and wonderful; He is sovereign, loving, and wise. We cannot press the Creator of the universe into the finite shape of a man.

In the earthly realm, it is the father that gives a child self-worth, value, security, and an identity as masculine or feminine. He is largely responsible for the child’s self-image. The same is true in the spiritual realm: the Heavenly Father gives us value, worth, and security. He gives us our identity as His children. He shows us who we are through Scripture. It is through an intimate relationship with Him that we are made whole. Even if our parents (or significant others) have failed us, we can be restored in our souls through knowing the love of the Father. What we missed in our important primary relationships, God can provide.

Jesus came to earth to reveal His Father to us, to redeem us, and to reconcile us to God. We attain salvation through Jesus, and we find our worth and security in knowing the Father’s love. Once we meet Jesus at salvation, we need to develop an intimate relationship with the Father. He is our ultimate destination!

Most of us need some degree of healing in our souls to correct our distortions of God’s Fatherhood and to mend the wounds of the past. We need a revelation of the Father’s love! It is through the blood of Jesus that we come into salvation, and it is through the love of the Father that we find wholeness.

Steps toward Healing
1. We separate our concept of God from our concept of authority figures. In the areas where our guardians failed us, we expect God to fail us also. In our hearts, we judge them as inadequate, and we transfer that judgment onto God. We expect to receive from God the same injustices we received from them. In our minds, we put on Him their limitations and personality traits. We perceive God through glasses colored by the mannerisms of our guardians.

We need to see God as He really is, not as we perceive Him to be according to our education, culture, early experiences, and representation by authorities. We must accept what the Bible says about God as being absolutely true—that He is wise, loving, and almighty.

Jesus revealed the Father while He was on earth. He operated out of the Father’s love. In John 14:9b-10, Jesus said, “…He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.”

2. We forgive those who hurt us. When we forgive our parents and/or other authorities, we also release the anger, injustice, or hurt. As we forgive, we cancel the debt we feel they owe us. We entrust them to God, refusing to hold bitterness or animosity against them.

It is vital that we ask God to forgive us for judging Him wrongly. We must embrace the truth of Who God is as revealed in His Word.

3. We repent of our wrong reactions to hurt. While needing God’s love to heal the wounds we sustained from authorities, we also need to repent of our reactions to that pain—what we have become as a result. Most people become bitter, fearful, and angry because of inner wounds. Psalm 41:4 says, “…Lord, be merciful to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.” Isaiah 59:2 says, “…your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you.” We need to repent of our sin and receive God’s forgiveness.

4. We receive God’s love. When we face our past pain, we realize how desperately we need to believe in God’s unconditional love. Human love alone cannot heal us. We need God’s love, which far outweighs the hurts in our inner man. We have all been wounded; we all have a love deficit that only His love can fill. We must believe in our hearts that God loves us unconditionally, as well as know it in our minds. If we welcome His love deep into our souls, it can set us free and heal us from the power of hurtful words or wounds.

If we only focus on God’s mercy and love, we cheapen His grace. We also need to realize that He is holy and requires us to be holy. “… we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Heb. 12:9-10).

We must perceive the Lord as He actually is, with the proper balance of mercy and truth, grace and justice.

When we worship God as the holy, just and merciful One, we will find that we become more whole and holy ourselves. We become like that which we worship.

5. We let God parent us. We feel secure in knowing we are loved and cherished by God. Psalm 27:10 says, “When my mother and my father forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.”

The Lord can give us what our parents failed to give us. As a good Father, He is committed to us, loves us unconditionally, disciplines and blesses us, and affirms us by giving us His undivided attention.
Psalm 27:11 says, “Teach me Your way, O Lord…” In Hebrew, David begins the prayer with “Horeni.” Another form of this word “to teach,” comes from the Hebrew root horim, meaning “parents”. David was asking God to parent him! Parents are responsible to teach their children the ways of God, but too often they fail. David experienced that, so he cried to the Lord, “Teach me as a parent” or “Parent me!” “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God...” (1 John 3:1a). The Father’s love transmits value and safety to us.

6. We cultivate our intimacy with God as Father. As we grow in our experience with and knowledge of God, we are secured in His love and the pains of rejection will heal. We must choose to believe that everything God says in His Word is absolutely true, and counter the lies we formerly believed with the Scriptures. Isaiah 43:4a speaks of His love for us: “Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you…”

Suggested Prayer

“Father, thank You for loving me. When I look at the cross, I believe that You love me as much as You say You do! I forgive all of the people who misrepresented You to me. I forgive them for the pain and disappointment they caused me. I confess my sin of judging authorities; please forgive me. I’m sorry for the ways I reacted selfishly in my hurt and anger. I release my expectations of others to you, and I place all my hope and expectations on You. Please parent me! Give me Your parental blessing of affirmation, commitment, discipline, and unconditional love. I repent for believing lies about You and for judging and accusing You. Forgive me and cleanse me from these sins. Give me a revelation of Who You are, especially as my Father. Fill the empty places in my heart with Your love. Heal the wounds in my soul. Help me grow in my relationship with You; I want to know You intimately. In Jesus’ name, amen.”