Ministering the Love of the Father to the Fatherless
Summer has been hard for my boys since their father died six and a half years ago.
First comes Father’s Day. Watching my kids over the years, I have realized that it’s very easy to dismiss Father’s Day as an irrelevant Hallmark marketing ploy when your own dad is still around. But for my boys, Father’s Day is a big deal. Then comes June 30th which would mark my husband’s 49th birthday, if he were still here for us to celebrate. July 4th used to be a big family occasion for us, and seven years later, we still have not settled on a new tradition to replace the old.
I remember in particular one rainy Fourth. We were stuck indoors, and one son was glued to ESPN. Late that night he came to me crying because all day, ESPN had run patriotic stories about military service persons returning home and being reunited with their families. Over and over he saw husbands and wives surprising their families, and he watched their tears of joy and relief after months and sometimes years of painful separation. My son cried because he knew he would never have that joyful reunion this side of heaven, and he cried because he wanted to be happy for those families, but he felt so sad for himself.
There are many ways a child can become fatherless. Death, abandonment, abuse, and incarceration remove the dad from a child’s life completely, and divorce can (but does not always) have a similar effect. The loss of a father, no matter how it happens, has profound and lifelong impact.
God takes the plight of the fatherless very seriously, making their welfare an urgent priority for His church.
James 1:27 in the Amplified version reads: “External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and the widows in their affliction and need…”
In other words, God is saying, “If you really love Me, take care of the kids who don’t have a dad.”
God declares Himself “a Father to the fatherless,” (Psalm 68:5), and one of the primary ways he expresses this Fatherhood is through His church, the body of Christ whose hands and feet He uses to accomplish His purposes.
Here’s where to start: build a relationship with a child who doesn’t have his or her dad. This takes time, effort, consistency and patience, but if you want to show a fatherless child the love of their heavenly Father, there’s no other way to do it. Demonstrate commitment and dependability. When you place yourself in God’s hands and ask for His love to flow through you to a hurting child, He will answer that prayer and show you what to do.
One of my husband’s best friends has taken my youngest son out for breakfast on Fridays for nearly seven years now. This man isn’t trying to replace his dad or rescue my son; he just wants to love him. He sometimes gives advice, or attends a school event, or takes my boy jet-skiing, but mostly this friend just listens. He spends time with him, and tells him God loves him. Another of my husband’s closest friends has walked through the college process with my two older sons, taking them on tours and helping them make decisions. Just this past week, yet another friend took my fifteen-year-old out to practice driving, and when my son expressed interest in his job, he took my boy to work with him for the day.
All these years later, these godly men (and others) are still investing time and attention in my fatherless sons. Together, they have formed a community that loves, protects, and provides for my boys. They have become God’s gracious provision to our family.
Some things to keep in mind as you show love to the fatherless:
- Know what the milestone days are. Dad’s birthday, or the anniversary of his leaving – these dates matter, and the grief can be fresh and raw years later. On my husband’s birthday every year, my brother-in-law comes over and we eat a meal of all my husband’s favorite foods. It’s a way to acknowledge the loss and remember the fun stuff.
- Help the child do very practical dad things. One time my son angrily kicked a hole in the wall. A friend of my husband’s came to the house and very calmly, without judgment or lecturing, taught him to repair the sheetrock damage. He made my son do the actual work himself, and came back to supervise the repainting a few days later. This friend led my son to take responsibility for his childish behavior, and encouraged him to act with greater maturity in the future, exactly as his father would have done.
- Don’t try to fix the fatherlessness. You can’t. Losing a parent is a great grief and a deep sadness and nothing anyone does will change or compensate for that fact. You cannot heal a brokenhearted child; that is God’s job. What you CAN do is “comfort those who are in any tribulation with the comfort with which [you yourself] are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). A child may be fatherless, but he or she does not have to be a spiritual orphan too.
Finally, whatever you do, don’t give up on a fatherless kid. Children who lose their fathers are often angry and wounded, and this can lead to some long-lasting, unloveable behavior. Don’t quit loving them. Wait on that front porch for the prodigal, and pray for him continually. He desperately needs to know that the love of the Father “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
God in his grace must instill in you His love that never fails, because you can’t do it in your own strength.
Though an earthly father may leave or abandon or die, our fatherless children can hear from His body the promise of our perfect heavenly Father: “I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake nor let you down, relax my hold on you. Assuredly not!” (Hebrews 13:5 AMP)