Question from Anonymous:
I had a bad experience with my father when I was growing up. I know Jesus taught us to pray to God as "Our Father," but it's really hard for me when I have such negative images of a father. How do I love my heavenly Father when I never felt loved by my earthly father?
Answer from Pastor Bob:
My heart goes out to you. We have talked privately about this, and I thank you for giving me permission to post this answer so that others with a similar struggle could benefit.
Here is a key verse you may want to memorize: "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." (Psalm 27:10, NIV)
Perhaps it will help to read scripture about God as Father, and learn what a good father should be. Then focus on developing your relationship with your Heavenly Father, thanking Him for being there for you, even when your earthly father was not. Notice these qualities of God that make us love Him as our Father:
1) Because He takes care of us. Psalm 68:5, Luke 12:30, Matthew 7:9-11.
2) Because He disciplines us for our good. Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:7-8, 1 Peter 1:17.
"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son He delights in." (Proverbs 3:11-12, NIV)
3) Because He loves us. 1 John 4:7-10.
4) Because He forgives us. Read the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24.
5) Because He adopts us as His children. Romans 8:14-17. God adopts us and lets us call Him "Abba," which is Aramaic for "Daddy."
God is not an indulgent uncle, a doting grandfather, or an approving friend. He is a loving Father. He is there for us, to discipline us for our good, to guide us, provide for us, and never will He leave us. Get to know Him as your Heavenly Father, and let His love replace the rejection you felt from your earthly father.