Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” –Isaiah 1:17
It was summer of 2020. My husband and I were newly married and on our honeymoon-turned-ministry-trip across the country. When God highlights certain areas or themes, I take note of them so I can further press into that area and clearly hear or understand what He is trying to speak to me. During a house church gathering the topic of God’s love was being discussed. The Holy Spirit was moving, and many hearts were tenderly being touched, my own included.
I had heard it said before that when choosing a spouse, as a little test to see whether or not they really love you, you should insert their name in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Being the romantic that I am, I did this with Jesus early on in my walk with Him. During that house church, I felt God say, “You’ve inserted ‘Jesus,’ but you’ve never put ‘My Heavenly Father.’” As I read it, tears rolled down my cheeks.
“My Heavenly Father is patient, My Heavenly Father is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. My Heavenly Father does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. My Heavenly Father never fails.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
My Heavenly Father keeps no record of wrongs and is not easily angered. These were two attributes that my earthly father failed in. Whether we like it or not, we often project our earthly father onto our Heavenly Father. I grew up in a divided home. My father left when I was 10 and neither of my parents were very good at keeping their word. Because of this, I struggled well into my adult years with issues of mistrust, abandonment, fear, performance based love, affirmation and approval seeking, feelings of inadequacy, and inability to obey God.
Inability to obey God.
No matter how much my head knew about God’s faithfulness and how trustworthy He is; and no matter how much I desired to obey God and was confident that I would, when it came down to the moment of reaching out to a stranger and opening my mouth to share with them about Jesus, I couldn’t do it. Something in my being wouldn’t let me. Fear would sweep over me and I just wanted to run and hide. There was a great desire and even determination to obey God, and yet, I was unable. It’s like I was handicapped. Caught in the tormentous cycle of feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit, wrestling inside against an unseen enemy, losing the battle and keeping my mouth shut, then coming under conviction and condemnation for not obeying, beating myself up over it and wondering what on earth had come over me and prevented me from doing the simplest of things—opening my mouth and handing someone a tract. It all seemed so simple after the fact. Yet, in the moment, it felt like I would die if I dared to share Jesus. I was paralyzed with fear. It made no sense to me.
Leading up to that day in house church, my newly married husband and I had been reading through Isaiah together and I couldn’t help but notice all the passages that mentioned the fatherless. The indictment against the people for not pleading the cause of the fatherless was right next to the widow, the oppressed, the poor, and the foreigner. These are all very weak, helpless, and vulnerable people groups. Once I noticed this pattern, I saw it all over the Bible.
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” –Psalm 82:3-4
“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” –Zechariah 7:10
“Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.” –Isaiah 1:23
“Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor.” –Jeremiah 5:28
Not only did I notice that God sees the fatherless as weak, helpless, and vulnerable and their cause similar to that of the widow, foreigner, poor, and oppressed, but also that God is very angry about the mistreatment of these weak and helpless people groups.
“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to Me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” –Exodus 22:22-24
“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” –Isaiah 10:1-2
“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.” –Deuteronomy 27:19
During that summer, I was personally spending a lot of time in John 14, 15, & 16. I noticed all the father language in these chapters. It was imagery of a Father who was loving, kind, and generous. In fact, the word “Father” in reference to God is used 44 times in these 3 chapters. I was beginning to get the message.
At that SAME TIME, David and I were reading a book called “Hinds Feet on High Places.” In it, the main character named Much-Afraid had part of her heart cut out—the part that craved human love and affirmation.
“[He] put forth a hand of steel, right into her heart. There was a sound of rending and tearing, and the human love, with all its myriad rootlets and fibers, came forth. He held it for a moment and then said, ‘Yes, it was ripe for removal, the time had come. There is not a rootlet torn or missing.’”
The very next day, after reading this part in the book, I was sitting outside reading John 14-16 again. John 16:20-27 especially was speaking to me.
“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask Me anything. Very truly I tell you, My Father will give you whatever you ask in My name. Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete… In that day you will ask in My name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.” –John 16:22-24, 26, 27
The Father Himself loves me. Something in my heart with fatherlessness was ripe for removal. It had always been so difficult for me to ask for anything from God as a Father. Like most, I grew up with a father who operated in the punishment/reward paradigm. His giving or withholding was based on my performance. I learned that when I do good, I get rewarded, when I do bad, I get punished. And since my father was the arbiter of good and bad, and his inclinations changed with his own sinful humanness, I never was on solid ground.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” –1 John 4:18
The same is not true with God. Our performance does not dictate His love for us. It is what we do with His Son that determines our relationship with God. God is the Father of all fatherhood and only He is perfect. A person can only find true acceptance and love when they are reconciled to God the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ.
“No, the Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16:27).
After reading this, I went into the house and asked my husband to pray for me. There were tears and forgiveness, healing and washing of wounds, the removal of something that had been buried deep in my heart for years. The need for approval from my own earthly father was dislodged and it was replaced by the love and acceptance of God, my Heavenly Father. I heard God say, “I accept you and I am proud of you, Tesia.” I wondered aloud if rebellion against my Heavenly Father had also changed. After this event, I noticed it was easier to obey God. I wasn’t as bound or hindered by fear. More precisely, the fear of rejection.
“Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us ACCEPTED in the Beloved.” –Ephesians 1:5-6
As we ministered that summer, I began to notice a trend. People who weren’t fathered properly weren’t able to obey God properly. No matter how much they tried or wanted to. This root ran deep in their being. The lack of affirmation led them to a performance based love mindset, which meant that the more they obeyed, the more God would love them; the less they obeyed, the less God would love them. Well, guess what that meant—more often than not, they repeatedly disobeyed God, and therefore, they thought God was displeased with them and didn’t love them, which led to greater fear and disobedience. There is something about love that builds and puts confidence into a person. Especially the love of a father. When you receive love you are able to do more. When you are lacking, you feel incapable or unmotivated.
God was, and is, so adamant about dealing with this area of fatherlessness because it permeates almost every area of our lives and dramatically affects our relationship with Him. He is the God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:6). God sees and knows the manifold ways fatherlessness affects not only an individual, but the lives of those around them—the effects on entire societies. Just google the statistics on the effects of fatherlessness. To name a few, there are higher rates of: poverty, teen pregnancy, violence and crime, drug and alcohol use, incarceration, and high school drop outs among those who come from homes without a father. And these are coming from resources with a secular world view. Imagine how God sees it…in detail. He knows the devastating effects fatherlessness has on a person, both internal and external, short-term and long-term.
Often, when we think of the fatherless, we think of orphans or those who don’t actually have a father. The truth is, fatherlessness comes in many different shapes and forms, and in varying degrees, but it all has the same effect on a life. Fatherlessness is not just the absence of a man from the home or family, but rather, the absence of a man fulfilling the role God would call a father to fill physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—a father who failed to be the father God called him to be. The roots of fatherlessness run much deeper in a heart than one would realize, and spring up in a life in many unexpected places.
The most prevalent and common ways people experience fatherlessness are:
—A lack of affirmation and love. They did not have a father who expressed “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” in word and in action on a consistent and continual basis.
—A lack of discipline or correction. They did not have a father who corrected them for their betterment (but rather out of the need to control); or they had a father who did not discipline or correct them at all.
Both of these forms of fatherlessness have long-term damaging effects on a life and will leave a person handicapped in their walk with God if not addressed and dealt with. The fruit of fatherlessness is often (but not limited to): fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of failure, feeling like they are not good enough or unlovable, starved for attention, doing reckless things to gain attention, not caring about their future or life, having an apathetic or passive attitude, lack of confidence, extreme over responsibility or irresponsibility, the need to be in control, lack of trust, uneducated, ill-equipped, unable to be self-sustaining and unprepared for life, experiencing condemnation when they do something wrong, thinking that correction is rejection, hiddenness, and independence. Fear. Fatherlessness leaves a person vulnerable, and in a place of fear; fear of man instead of fear of God. Fear causes them to feel the need to be in control, to mistrust God and others. Which results in isolation and independence; locked in a prison inside themselves.
Let’s go back to the beginning. I couldn’t step out and obey God because I was afraid. It all came down to something in my heart. Trust. If you don’t trust God, you won’t obey God. And no matter how much my head knew God was trustworthy, my heart had to believe it in order to experience it. And it still comes down to this. Whenever I am wrestling with something, it always comes down to this one question, “Do you trust Me?” And no matter how many times your mind says, ‘yes’, God knows the truth of your heart. He will put you in situations and circumstances that reveal truly where your heart lies. Our actions are evidence of what our hearts believe. So when God nudges or prompts us to do something and we disobey, it reveals that we don’t fully trust Him. Because He already knows all things, the revelation is for you.
So how do you overcome? If you are one of the fatherless, how do you overcome this handicap in your heart? God wants to get to the root. He prepared my heart and mind to receive what He wanted to do that day. He had been speaking to me, tilling the soil of my heart and softening the ground around this deathly plant that needed human affirmation more than His affirmation. He wanted to uproot it all, leaving no rootlets behind. He wanted to do something supernatural in my being. Change my nature and propensity to fear, heal my heart.
Your level of intimacy with God is directly related to the access you have to your heart, and your ability to live from your heart. Love happens in the heart. Trust happens in the heart. Belief happens in the heart. All of which are required in relationship with God. We tend to want to just rearrange the furniture in the rooms of our heart. Put the junk in one pile in the corner and live like it’s not there. But you see, the junk pile in the corner ends up growing and spreading. Before we know it, we are cramped in the corner, adjusted to dysfunction and living confined, restricted, and imprisoned in our own homes. God wants to remove the junk. You must let God come into your heart and do this. It requires being exposed, uncovered, and letting God reveal to you where you are wounded and how it got there. It requires forgiving the ones who failed you (as well as letting God show you the ways you’ve failed and receiving His forgiveness). It requires honesty, vulnerability, and transparency. Trust. It requires letting go of control and trusting God. He knows what He is doing. He is God; you are not.
Will you let go of control of these areas and let God come in and heal you? Let Him father you? Teach you? Correct you in love and for your own good? Will you let go of your sinful strategies to protect yourself and trust that the One who formed you knows how to heal and protect your heart much better than you do? Will you let Him transform you? Will you let Him love you? Or will you hold onto control out of fear and stubbornness, continuing down the path that keeps your heart locked away thinking you will never to be wounded again? The thing about locking your heart away in order to never experience pain means you lock out love as well. You lock out God Himself (1 John 4:8).
Relinquish control and let God come in and touch you. He is a good Father. Believe what He says, not what others have done.
“Your Heavenly Father is patient, Your Heavenly Father is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. Your Heavenly Father does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Your Heavenly Father never fails.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
“For in You, the fatherless find compassion.” –Hosea 14:3
“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” –Deuteronomy 10:18
“A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoner with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” –Psalm 68:5,6
“The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.” –Psalm 146:9