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When a Father’s Heart Gets Broken

Fathers are not necessarily any more or less flawed than any other member of the family.

A flawed son becomes a flawed father. And daughters, mothers. It comes naturally—we’re born into it.

So, as a flawed daughter and mother, I try to view other family members through a lens of grace—as those who struggle with things common to all humans. But that doesn’t come naturally, either.

In my last post, I mentioned that when I was a teenager, I moved from living with my father to live with my mother. After I did, my father refused to speak with me for years. He refused my calls, cards, gifts, and visits. I assumed a lot of different things over the years. At first, I thought it was because he was angry with me. Later, I thought he felt disappointed in me. Finally, I was convinced that he just flat out hated me. It wasn’t until I was an adult, years after we reconciled, that he told me it was because his heart was broken.

My assumptions were way off base.

If his heart was so crushed, I imagine how God’s heart aches when His children turn away from Him. And I believe there are passages in the Bible that infer such pain.

There are many of God’s narratives in the Old Testament prophets where we hear God’s lament over the sins of His people (like Hosea 11). But we especially see it visibly demonstrated when Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-44), when He wept at Lazarus’ tomb (Jn 11:35), and the “loud cries and tears” He shed regularly in prayer (Heb 5:7).

I recently read through Jeremiah. And as I read chapter 3 in particular, where He speaks so strongly as a Father who longs to bless His sons, these thoughts flooded my mind.

I thought, “How I long to make you my sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of all the nations.” I thought, “You will call me ‘My Father’ and never turn away from me.”

Return, you faithless children. I will heal your unfaithfulness. “Here we are, coming to you, for you are the Lord our God (Jer 3:19, 22 CSB).

Many hold a view that God is an angry and punitive God. But we must remember that He is God . . . and not a man (Hos 11:9). Where the Bible says, “God was angry,” we do well to remember that His anger is in no way comparable to human emotions. But even the Israelites failed to see His love for them as a Father. Moses addressed this error in their failure to trust Him as such in Deuteronomy 1:31.

Israel, often referred to by God as His firstborn son, continually rejected God (see Jer 8:5 and Mal 3:7 for just a couple examples).

God, the Father, calls for His children to come to Him. But wrong assumptions keep people distanced from Him. He has provided the means for reconciliation in that relationship and forgiveness through the atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. And it takes that reconciliation to the Father, through the Son, to be adopted into the family of God. A family He is using . . . and preparing for Glory.

Receiving the gift of salvation Jesus offers is to turn back to the One whose heart was broken because of sin.

Don’t misjudge Him as a punitive God. But see Him as loving Father whose heart longs after you.

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