Choosing to Find My Place in the Father’s Heart

I vividly remember the moment I became a dad. My daughter was a tiny thing, just over five pounds. Holding her, I couldn’t comprehend the strange feelings pulsing inside me. As I looked into her little face, I thought, “I don’t even know you, yet I’m sure I would die for you.”

That was my introduction to the emotions of being a father. I was surprised with the overwhelming affection I felt for this naked, helpless, yet demanding creature. It wasn’t long before another thought rocked my reality. If I, an imperfect human and dad, can feel this strongly about my child, then what does my Heavenly Father feel toward me? The thought brought tears. Can I be loved with such strong affection by a holy, all-powerful God? And just as I was getting lost in these reflections, something warm ran down my arm. My precious little girl had peed on me. But did that change how I felt about her? Not in the slightest!

The Unmoved Mover?

I enjoy theology. For me, it’s thinking about God, what He’s like, what His motivations and desires are and how we humans can possibly connect with Him. Unfortunately, some theological thought can lead people away from a relationship with God as they wander down paths that tarnish His character or drill into only one aspect of the infinite spectrum of His qualities. Thinkers of the past, like Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle, have been referenced to make a case for God as a being who does not experience emotion. It’s called the doctrine of Divine Impassibility. The basic (extremely simplified) idea is that God doesn’t change (which I agree with). Emotions are so changeable (which I also agree with). Therefore, God doesn’t experience emotions (not sure I agree with that one).

The logic makes some sense, but there are some additional matters that need to be considered. While human emotions can have us happy one moment and depressed the next as we respond to circumstances or brain chemicals, God is different with everything about Him stable and righteous. Nevertheless, the Bible presents the Almighty at various times as delighted, grieved, joyful, regretful, angry and tender. It’s always in the context, however, of His righteous character interacting with the imperfect, unrighteous ones He loves—never merely out-of-control, knee-jerk impulses. His goodness and holiness are constant throughout the scriptures. We could say that His emotions do not control Him, but at various times they highlight what He values. Overall, it appears to me that God has feelings and that He is rightly moved by them.

A Father’s Heart

The New Testament carries a strong theme of God as our Father. Does that mean He has the feelings of a dad toward His kids? I think so.

We read in Mark 1:11 that He experiences joy as a Father. Jesus tells us He’s a merciful Father (Luke 6:36) and that He’s a Father who is responsive to the needs of His children (Luke 11:13). In John 16:27, Jesus tells His disciples that their Heavenly Father loves them. But it’s in the story known as the “Prodigal Son” that we get the most poignant picture of the emotions our Heavenly Father is capable of. When the father (who represents God) sees His wayward son returning to him, he’s filled with compassion and runs to meet and embrace him, giving him undeserved gifts (Luke 15:20).

Of course, it’s primarily through the life of Jesus and His teachings that we learn about this aspect of God. When His disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father, He said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). If we want to know more about what God’s fatherly qualities and feelings are like, look at Jesus. He supported His disciples when they didn’t have enough to feed the crowd (Luke 9:10-17). He reached out and rescued Peter before he drowned (Matthew 14:29-31). He mourned over those who refused to believe in Him (Luke 13:34) as well as wept when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). The insight is endless. God wants us to see His heart. So, study Jesus to know what your Heavenly Father is truly like.

How Does this Affect Me?

What does it mean for us that God has the feelings of a father? Depending on your experiences with your earthly dad, your response will differ from others. Many do not have a positive reference point for visualizing what a “good father”is like (we’ll address that in another post). But I want to highlight three things we can be assured of about God’s heart, regardless the kind of dad we each had growing up.

  1. God enjoys and delights in His children. This is a tough one for many to believe. He is often viewed as a cantankerous old man who delights in punishing anyone who steps out of line. Yet, when I remember the joy of holding my baby daughter even with urine running down my arm, I can’t help but believe I was given a small taste of what my Father feels toward me. He knows me, watches me and thinks about me continuously. He’s aware of all my joys and sorrows, walking with me through them. He delights in the way He wove my personality together and eagerly observes how I use it. Dare to believe that you can bring a smile to your Heavenly Father’s face.
  • God experiences pain, disappointment and frustration. Some may disagree with me on this one, but the scriptures seem to reveal that God had big dreams for His creation that were dashed. The disobedience of His first son and daughter led Him to eventually say that He regretted ever creating them (Genesis 6:5-6). The Old Testament prophets give us a picture of God as a jilted lover lamenting the unfaithfulness of those He’s given Himself to. His heart is torn between the just punishment His children deserve and the compassion He wants to pour out upon them (Hosea 11:8). Just as there were multiple times my own children’s words and choices cut my heart, and I hated disciplining them, God can feel similar pain with conflicted emotions, only infinitely more. You and I have the capability of hurting our Heavenly Father or bringing Him joy. It’s our choice.
  • God is ambitious for His children’s growth, development and fulfillment. A good father carries dreams in his heart for his offspring. Just as I desire to release my kids to grow to be men and women who live out the values I’ve taught them, our Heavenly Father longs to find Himself reflected in all His children’s choices and pursuits. He wants to empower each of us to fulfill the destiny He had in mind when He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. It’s the only way to find that deep satisfaction we crave. He cares deeply about how we live our lives and the fruit we produce. And yet He lets us live according to our choices because He respects our will, even as He watches us stray from the way we were designed. He’s such a strong and yet gentle Father.

It’s one thing to know theoretically that God is a Heavenly Father. It’s a completely different thing to believe and embrace Him as your Heavenly Father. Every human on this earth longs for a father’s acceptance, approval and affection. Few of us feel that we ever got enough of what we need. The Good News is that regardless how the story of your relationship with your earthly dad has gone, there is a Heavenly one waiting to embrace you with His love, even though you’ve “peed” all over Him. And His affection for you is real—the kind that would die for you. Will you believe it?

Reach out to Him. He’s reaching out to you.

Response:

  • What do I imagine are God’s feelings toward me? Do they line up with what the Bible says He thinks and feels about me?
  • What do Jesus’ words and life tell me about what God the Father is like? How does that make a difference in how I view the Father?
  • What do I have difficulty believing about a Heavenly Father? That He delights in me? That I can hurt Him? That He has incredible dreams for my life? Which beliefs need to change?
  • Jesus, what do you want to show me about the Father’s heart for me?

One Comment on “Choosing to Find My Place in the Father’s Heart

  1. Pingback: Choosing to Remove Barriers Between Me and the Father – Choose This Day

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