a christian perspective on the world today

My Heavenly Dad

Thinking about God can be difficult. He is not a one-dimensional being, nor should our understanding of Him be built on a simplistic image of God as a father, failing to capture His complexity and multi-dimensional nature. God interacts with us in a diverse, complex and sometimes confusing way.

Many religious denominations recognise a “trinitarian” God—that is, God as “three coeternal Persons”—unified, yet each with their own distinct characteristics and personality.1 For me personally, the image of God as a father has been challenging. A challenge that, even now, brings up conflicting emotions. 

While worshipping God brings profound depth to my life—particularly when contrasted with the façade of worldly, external gratification—the idea of God as a father is blurred by recollections of my own dad.

My earthly father did not always demonstrate character associated with a loving God. This, in turn, muddied my ability to see God as a loving dad. The challenging relationship I had with my father meant that, for many years, my experience with God was limited to what I understood a “father” to be. Over time, I learned how punitive discipline and behaviour-based affection from an earthly dad did, in turn, disrupt my connection with God. This distorted view of God has taken many years to recover from. I don’t believe I’m alone in this.

Fundamentally, I understand who God is. “He is the Creator, Source and Sustainer of all creation. He is the ultimate expression of love, grace, mercy, patience, holiness, faithfulness and justice.”¹ But relating these attributes to the concept of a “father figure” can be difficult.

Reflected through the Son
Jesus, on the other hand, is Someone to whom many can relate. Representing the visible embodiment of an invisible God (Colossians 1:15-17), it was Jesus who came to earth and mingled with ordinary people. It was Jesus who elevated women, children, foreigners and the marginalised. It is Jesus who offers us eternal life through His sacrifice. Jesus is my Messiah, Saviour and Friend and when He left, He gave us Holy Spirit as a comforter and a guide.

Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are distinct from God the Father, yet paradoxically, they are all equally “God”. Jesus told us in Matthew 11:27 that He came to earth to reveal the heart of His Father. If we want to know what God is like, we only need to look at Jesus and His life. Jesus did this in three ways:

1. What He said. Jesus was a teacher of the Father’s will, plan and kingdom (John 6:38). He called God “Abba” (Mark 14:36), meaning “Daddy” and taught His disciples to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9–13).

2. What He did. Christ did more healing than preaching. His miracles reflected His divinity, power and calling (Acts 2:22 and 10:38). His work shows us how to be true followers of God. Christ also fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures that predicted the Messiah (Isaiah 61:1–3; Jeremiah 23:5; Isaiah 53:10).

3. Who He was. In the beginning was the “Word” (John 1:2, Colossians 2:9). As part of the Godhead, Jesus became flesh-and-blood, a living  representation of God the Father. When you looked upon Jesus, as He claimed, you saw the Father.

It is through Jesus’ life that we can see and know the Father. Therefore by inference, according to the evidence of Jesus’ life, the Father must be full of compassion, mercy, steadfastness, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, truth and unconditional love. This is the kind of heavenly Father we all want. This is the kind of heavenly Father we all need.

Parent to the parentless
The plan of salvation for humanity was established long before humans were created and was fulfilled when Jesus came to earth (1 Peter 1:19,20). Therefore, our heavenly Father has been in existence long before earthly fathers were created. Our earthly fathers—while important to our lives—do not last forever. God our heavenly Father will. God is eternal. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the example of what an earthly parent could be and should be. God as Father can be relied upon. He will always be there for us to call on when we need Him (Isaiah 41:10). In fact, our heavenly Father can be a parent to those who have none (Psalm 68:5).

Friend to the friendless
Making friends requires work on both sides. Long-lasting friendship is one of life’s greatest treasures, and our heavenly Father is someone we can call a true friend. Thankfully, God has already extended the hand of friendship to us. He has connected with us through sending His Son and the Holy Spirit. We are linked to God when we connect to any member of the Godhead. Father God is our Creator (Genesis 1:1, John 1:3) but He is also our Redeemer and Comforter. Our only task is to accept the gift God has offered and become His follower and friend. We enter into friendship with the Father in the following ways:

Prayer. When we pray to God, we invite Him into our life. He becomes another source of wisdom and comfort to call on. Through prayer, we set aside all other worries and rest our minds as we focus on Him. He understands our fears and challenges and accepts us. When we pray in gratitude, we improve our outlook and build resilience.

Scripture. Through reading the Bible, we gain a greater understanding of who the Father is. The verses are plentiful, however some important attributes we can learn are:

God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9).
God is righteous (Psalm 50:6).
God is our refuge (Psalm 18:30).
God is love (John 4: 7-9).

Worship. We can worship God in a traditional sense—by attending a service, singing songs of praise or reading the Bible. We can also worship God in other ways:

Helping others. When we volunteer our time, we increase our awareness of others, connect with them in a meaningful way and demonstrate what it means to be part of God’s family.

Working through the pain
The quality of my connection with God the Father was severely tainted by my experience as the daughter of a flawed earthly father. By embracing the connection between Jesus the Son and God the Father, I have begun to understand that God is Someone I can trust and put my faith in.

Our earthly fathers should not be the image on which to base our understanding of God. It should be the other way around. God the Father is the ultimate Parent and can be so even for those without a father.

Prayer, study, worship and service have given me a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the beautiful, multi-faceted nature of God. As a parent and grandparent, I now know the pain of separation and the yearning for connection. More than ever, I appreciate the unselfish, unconditional love of the Father.

Adrielle Carrasco is the health ministries leader and liaison for women’s ministry for the Seventh-day Adventist Church New Zealand Pacific. She lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

1. cdn.disciple.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/10105628/5.017-Seventh-day-Adventists-Believe-cover-and-internal.pdf

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