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When Father's Day Hurts

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"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" —1 Corinthians 1:3-4

Tomorrow is Father’s Day, a day traditionally set aside to honor fathers, husbands, uncles, sons, step dads and grandpas. Many of us have been blessed with fathers who reflect(ed) Christ to us; image bearers speaking into our lives. We go all out for these dads in our family; showering them with gifts, affirmation, and affection. 

For some of us this is not the reality. There may be unseen hurts and scars inextricably linked to burdens carried; heart holes filled with pain or walled off and sealed against future injury. Women saddened by fatherless childhoods, single mothers trying to fill the void of an absentee dad, and those who lost their father too soon. 

As we gather, celebrating the importance of fathers and all they bring to our lives, remember those who may be struggling with unresolved feelings. Come alongside them, love them where they are, and remind them God is "father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5), able to provide needed tenderness, "healing the brokenhearted and binding their wounds" (Psalm 147:3). 

The following article by Heather Nelson explores the God who sees our burdens and grief:

Today may be painful because you’re grieving the father you never knew. The father you wish you had known, but whose absence leaves a hole in your heart and your life. A hole that you’ve tried to fill a thousand other ways.

Pain may show up in many different ways.

The Pain of Losing Your Father

Your pain may be the absence of a father you knew and loved dearly and who is now gone. Whose death you grieve today most keenly. I pray the God of all comfort will meet you in each avenue of sorrow you will walk through today as you know him as Father and the ever-present one.

The Pain of an Abusive Father

Or maybe the pain comes from a father who violated the protection and trust meant to be inherent in your relationship. Abuse of any sort—emotional, physical, or sexual—breaks boundaries established by God and leaves indelible pain, confusion, and deep wounds. Your journey feels long and hard and impossible and dark. You may not even be able to speak of what happened, and so you fake a “Happy Father’s Day” greeting to the man who did what should not be done.

I hurt for you and with you, and if you need a safe place to talk, find a trusted friend or counselor or pastor and begin to share this pain. Speaking about such things feels as if it will multiply shame, but that’s the kingdom of darkness trying to keep you from coming into the light. When light shines in the darkness, the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5).

The Pain of Longing to Be a Father

Then there are those of you who long to be fathers, and whether the delay is due to waiting for marriage or waiting through infertility, this day is a painful reminder of what you (or your spouse) are not yet. Celebrating this day can sometimes just deepen the shame or frustrations.

The Pain of Mixed Grief

Some of you endure a combination of what I’ve mentioned already, and so the hurt is multi-faceted and often complicated grief. Such as grieving the death of an abusive father. Or a feeling of fear and dread as you watch your husband becoming abusive in ways your own father was to you. Or celebrating a wonderful father while wondering whether you or your husband will ever become one.

And then there’s the frustration of waiting for your husband to step up and be the kind of father you had or that you pray he would be for your children. Perhaps you read the greeting cards and wished they were actually true. You feel disappointed, and you wonder if and when he’ll ever change...

Excerpted from: When Father's Day Hurts | The Gospel Coalition