Have you got daddy issues? I’m sure you do. If we’re being honest, don’t we all? Our families were broken or healthy, or some mixture of the two. Some of us lost or never knew our fathers. Some of us had distant or absent fathers, or were mistreated by our fathers. Some of us had loving fathers who spent time with us, taught us and disciplined us. But whether they did their job badly or well or somewhere in between, the truth is that our fathers were sinners and we are sinners, and so our relationship with them was marred in some way. We carry this into adulthood, not always aware how deeply it affected us until the impact becomes too big to ignore.
This morning I was walking and musing on daddy issues. My father was, I guess you could say, one of the good ones: he was present, loving, supportive and caring. Being human, he was far from perfect. But my relationship with him as a child was that of the “good girl”—the daughter who meets expectations and receives praise—the one who obeys authority and doesn’t disappoint. My tendency is still to fulfil that role: I’m terrified of disappointing or failing to meet the expectations of those around me—most particularly those in authority over me. In the face of disapproval or threatened disapproval, I grow unsettled and afraid. Often it leads to a general feeling of insecurity, stress and fear. A few years ago, it led me deep into anxiety.
But as I walked and mused and prayed on this particular morning, the Holy Spirit helped me to preach the following truths to my heart, and I went home comforted and a little closer to peace. If you belong to Jesus, they are as true of you as they are of me, because they are straight out of God’s one-hundred-per-cent-reliable word. So I thought I’d share them with you:
- God is my Father. He set his love on me before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). That’s how much he loves me. That’s how far back it runs. That’s how unshakeable his love is for me.
- My Father paid the price in his only Son’s blood so that I could be adopted into his family (Eph 1:5; 1 Pet 1:18-19). That’s how precious I am to him. That’s how much he wanted me to be his child.
- My heavenly Father is slow to anger and abounding in grace and compassion (Ps 103:8). His heart overflows with kindness and mercy (Titus 3:4-5). He rejoices over me with singing (Zeph 3:17).
- I don’t have to earn my Father’s approval. It’s already mine, for he accepts me not on the basis of what I do, but on the basis of what Christ has done (Rom 3:20-26; Titus 3:5). I am valued by him—not because I do things that make me valuable, but simply because he loves me (Rom 5:8).
- My Father is taking me home. One day I will live with him forever. There will be no mourning or crying or tears (Rev 21:1-4; 22:1-5). There will be no room for these things. There will just be love.
As these truths expanded to fill me this morning, there wasn’t much room left for fear.
An Infinity of Fatherly Love
Of course, I know it’s not that simple: the wounds and unhelpful patterns of childhood run deep and take a lifetime to heal. They won’t be fully cured until heaven. And if that’s true for me, who was brought up by a loving father, then how much more is it true for those of us who had cruel or absent fathers. We may never be able to call God “Father” without our experiences of earthly fatherhood echoing in our minds. The ability to feel these great truths and not just know them might have been stolen from us—at least until we are healed of all hurts in eternity.
But in one sense it is that simple. If we belong to Jesus, all the clichés turn out to be true: we are loved to the moon and back—to infinity and beyond—from heaven to earth and back again (Ps 103:11; cf. Phil 2:5-11). And it’s not because we deserve it. It’s not because I’m a good girl, but because he is good. Which means we can’t change it and we don’t need to earn it. Nothing and no-one can change it—not even me, with all my failures, struggles and sins. We are loved with a love so big, you can’t measure it (Eph 3:18-19). We are loved with a love so big, it has no beginning and no end (Rev 22:13). We are loved with a love so big, it is wings over us, solid rock under our feet, strong arms surrounding us (Ps 61:1-4).
Take that, daddy issues. You can whisper all the fears you like into my heart and mind, but I’m not listening. You have no place here. My security and identity rest in this: I am loved by my heavenly Father. And nothing and no-one can take that from me.