Surviving Father’s Day when you have a broken relationship with your dad

Stephanie Long

Father’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of our amazing dads.

It’s about superhero dads who love us unconditionally, who are there no matter what. Dads who had tea parties or taught us to throw a ball. Dads who comforted us, built us up, and celebrated with us. Dads who pointed us to Jesus.

But, not all of us have superhero dads.

Maybe your father was abusive. Maybe your father wasn't around — choosing work, play, substances, or something else. Or, maybe you never even met your dad. Maybe your father cheated on your mom.

Or maybe, your dads is a pretender — putting on a great show, going to, even serving at church — but you know the man behind the curtain.

Whatever the reason, when our dads are more like the villains in our stories than the superheroes, Father’s Day can feel like ripping off a scab that’s never quite healed.

How do we handle Father’s Day when our dads are not sorry for creating deep wounds?

Three Truths to Remember When You Hate Father’s Day

1. You have a perfect Father who will never fail you.

All dads will fail — some more than others. But, we do have a Father who won’t.

That can be hard to believe because we often see God the way we see our father here on earth. If our father was harsh and angry, we see God as waiting to strike us. If he was distant or abandoned us, we see God as a far away God who doesn’t care about the details of our lives. If our father was permissive, we see God as a God who makes suggestions but isn’t concerned with the way we live.

The truth is, God is the perfect Father we’re all looking for. He loves us unconditionally (Psalm 136). He sees us in our pain (Genesis 16:13). He comforts us (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). He protects us (Psalm 91). He guides us and will never abandon us (Psalm 48:14). He cares so much He sent His Son to die to rescue us (John 3:16).

God wants to heal your hurt. Don’t be afraid to be honest with Him. He can handle all your hot, messy emotions. Pour it all out to Him, and ask Him for what you need. Ask Him to show you who He is as your perfect, loving Daddy.

2. Forgiveness is for you — not your dad.

Forgiving our fathers can be one of the hardest things we do. Our dads are supposed to protect us from those who hurt us. They’re supposed to speak life into us. And, when they don’t — when they not only fail to protect us but hurt us themselves, when they speak death over our lives — it’s like a rock hitting a windshield. Eventually, the cracks in our hearts spread to every area of our lives.

It’s hard to forgive our dads when we blame them for everything wrong in our lives.

It’s hard to forgive our dads when we blame them for everything wrong in our lives.

Why should I forgive him? He doesn’t even care. He doesn’t deserve forgiveness!

That’s probably true, but we didn’t deserve forgiveness either, and God forgave us. Because we are forgiven, Jesus commands us to forgive — even people who are not sorry, even our fathers (Matthew 6:15).

But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It doesn’t mean we always feel like forgiving. And, it doesn’t mean we’re letting him get away with it.

It means we’re choosing not to punish him anymore. We’re doing it so we can heal. We’re doing it to protect our hearts from bitterness (Romans 12:17-21, Ephesians 4:31-32).

Forgiving means we’re choosing to give ourselves the freedom to live our life. Our dad doesn’t get to say who we are anymore — only God does.

3. If you’re not dead, God’s not done.

And, if your dad’s not dead there’s still hope for a restored relationship. God is a God of miracles and reconciliation. He wants to heal your relationship with your dad.

Keep praying for your dad to meet Jesus. If he does, keep praying for him to take next steps. Only Jesus can bring your dad to repentance. Keep asking Him to work in your relationship.

And, whether your dad is dead or alive, God doesn’t waste pain.

God wants to do something amazing in you and through you to bring good out of your hurt. He wants to bring you healing, and then He wants to work through you to bring healing to others.

What if this Father’s Day we give ourselves a present? What if this Father’s Day becomes a celebration of the day we put down the bitterness, picked up forgiveness and hope, and stepped into the abundant life our perfect Father promises us?

If you want to talk and pray with someone about your relationship with your dad, stop by the Care Room at your campus on Sunday or connect with someone here.

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