A Valentine From Your Father

A few years ago a valentine was discovered in a British library. What’s remarkable about this valentine is its date–1477. The lady who wrote it testified to her sweetheart of her love and hopes of marriage. The valentine evidently helped; the couple later married and had a family.

Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday for those who are happily married or en route, but for those who are prone to loneliness, it seems more like a campaign for greeting cards.

The Bible contains a valentine for every believer in Christ. It is older than the note discovered in Britain. The LORD said through His prophet, “The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you'” (Jer. 31:3). Think of that! How long has God been loving you? –long before you were born! Because of this compassion He has drawn you with lovingkindness.

Evan Hopkins wrote of this text, “The believer sees it as an unchanging love, ‘everlasting.’ He may rely on this, that whatever circumstances of trial, of suffering, or of perplexity he may be called to pass through, that love remains the same.” [1]

Jesus said to those who were skeptical of His claims, ” … Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:43,44). Our wayward heart–darkened by the spiritual deadness we inherited from Adam–would not seek God naturally. Yet God has taken the initiative by providing the ultimate expression of love: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).

Do you remember receiving a valentine from your earthly father? Perhaps not. If this question triggers some inner pain, prayerfully consider whether this aspect of your childhood may be blocking out expressions of God’s love to you.

For instance, when you hear the familiar words of Christ’s model prayer, “Our Father, Who is in heaven,” what impression comes to mind?

Tim Hansel’s son has a positive impression of fatherhood. Hansel recalled, “One day, while my son Zac and I were out in the country, climbing around in some cliffs, I heard a voice from above me yell, ‘Hey Dad! Catch me!’ I turned around to see Zac joyfully jumping off a rock straight at me… I became an instant circus act, catching him. We both fell to the ground… When I found my voice again I gasped in exasperation: ‘Zac! Can you give me one good reason why you did that???’ He responded with remarkable calmness: ‘Sure … because you’re my Dad.'” Hansel noted that his son’s faith was based in the assurance that his father was trustworthy. [2]

My life has been enriched by great relationships with my dad and both grandfathers. Admittedly, this has encouraged my faith in the biblical disclosure of God as Father. However, through pastoral counseling ministry I have discovered that many have not benefited from such relationships.

Norman Wright commented, “One psychologist found that this spiritual development of the God image is more of an emotional process than an intellectual one. She brings out the importance of family and other relationships to the development of what she calls one’s ‘private God.’ She says that, ‘No child arrives at the “house of God” without his pet God under his arm.’ And for some of us the ‘pet God’ we have tied on a leash to our hearts is not very nice, nor is it biblically accurate. This is because our negative images of God are often rooted in our emotional hurts and destructive patterns of relating to people that we carry with us from our past.”

For better or for worse, one’s view of fatherhood affects one’s natural view of God.

In his book, Faith of the Fatherless, psychology professor Paul Vitz responded to the prevalent view of secular psychiatry which considers religious belief as arising from psychological factors instead of from spiritual reality. After Vitz became a Christian, however, he began to wonder if psychological factors influenced some to reject God.

Vitz studied the childhoods of more than a dozen prominent atheists, including Freud, Nietzsche, and Sartre. He became convinced that their rejection of God was linked directly to a negative relationship with their earthly fathers. He discovered repeatedly that they suffered from fathers who abused them, abandoned them, or died prematurely. [4]

If your relationship with God is hindered by a negative attitude toward fatherhood, some remedial steps are necessary.

First, make sure that God is not only your Creator, but your Father. All things were made by Him (Gen 1:1-28), yet not all people are members of His spiritual family. To become a member of His “forever family” we are required to repent of our waywardness and place true faith in Jesus Christ as King and deliverer. As the Scripture declares, “But as many as received Him [Christ], to them He [God] gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”(John 1:12; 3:16-18; cf. Gal 3:26).

Secondly, face any bitterness you have due to rejection from your father. Recognize this bitterness as a sign of unforgiveness. This condition afflicts your inner life and grieves the Holy Spirit Who indwells you (Eph 1:13;4:30; Heb 12:15). God’s grace will equip you to let go of this grievance. Give it to God Who is the judge of everyone (Rom 12:17-21) and imitate His divine ministry of forgiveness. As Ephesians 4:32 instructs us, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”

Forgiveness tears down the strongholds of unresolved conflicts and distorted beliefs (2 Cor 10:3-5). Our past can’t be changed, but through forgiveness, our present and future can be free from any additional burden of bitterness.

Finally, as you read the New Testament, consider Jesus as the expression of God’s true character. Hebrews 1:1-3 declares: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

In other words, Jesus Christ is the clearest expression to us of God’s nature. So when you read the Gospels and see Christ’s virtue, compassion, and love, realize that this is what your heavenly Father is like! (cf John 14:9,10 Col 2:9; Isa 9:6)

So open up this valentine from “the Father of your spirit” (Heb 12:9). Everything an earthly father should be, God is–AND MORE–to those who belong to Him! “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).


Notes:

[1] Evan Hopkins, Broken Bread, Aug 23

[2] Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, Page 46-47.

[3] H. Norman Wright, Always Daddy’s Girl, Page 193.

[4] (I am not stating, however, that all who chose to believe that God does not exist do so for such reasons.) Dr. Vitz’s book is discussd in this blog entry: http://apologetics315.blogspot.com/2010/02/book-review-faith-of-fatherless.html

Also related to this topic: A Testimony: My Father’s Shirt: https://gracenotebook.com/a-testimony-my-fathers-shirt/


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Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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