When Father’s Day Isn’t Happy

Father's Day is right around the corner, but if your dad has checked out, walked out, or hurt you, it might not feel like an occasion worth celebrating. If your relationship with your dad is strained (or nonexistent) this Father's Day, here are three things to keep in mind.

1. All dads are sinners in need of grace.

There's only ever been one perfect parent, and He doesn't sit at your breakfast table. God the Father is the only dad capable of sinless, perfect love (more on that in a minute). All other dads are sinners in desperate need of God's grace.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).

As much as he might want to, your dad cannot parent perfectly. The reality of life in a fallen world is that our sin puts shrapnel in other people's hearts and their sin puts shrapnel in ours. Every member of your family, including your dad, needs grace and God's help to act more like Christ.

Every member of your family, including your dad, needs grace and God’s help to act more like Christ.

Instead of responding to sin with sin (bitterness, rebellion, contempt), respond with the same measure of grace you want extended to you when you miss the mark. Even if your dad does not have a relationship with you or with Jesus, pray for him often. Here are some specific prayers to pray:

  • Pray that he would know the height and depth of God's love for him (Eph. 3:18–19).
  • Pray that he would embrace his God-given design as spiritual leader of the home (Eph. 5:22–33).
  • Pray that he would flee from sin, especially sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18).
  • Pray that in his anger he would not sin (Eph. 4:26).
  • Pray that he would have an increase of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23).

(For more on how to pray when someone you love is stuck in sin, check out this post.)

2. No matter what, it is possible to honor your dad.

If you attend church on Father's Day (I hope you will!), you will likely hear this verse:

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Ex. 20:12).

God's clear commandment in Scripture is that we honor our dads. Here's what that doesn't mean:

  • It doesn't mean that you agree with everything your dad says and does.
  • It doesn't mean that you pretend your relationship with your dad is perfect if it isn't.
  • It doesn't mean that being in a family doesn't have challenges.

It does mean that you intentionally recognize that your dad played a vital role in your existence. You wouldn't be here without him! Honoring your dad also means that you give attention to the fact that fatherhood is a worthy position created by God. Here are some specific ideas for how you can honor your father:

  • Refuse to use your words to tear him down. Say things that build him up (Eph. 4:29).
  • Write down the things he's done that you are grateful for. If you are able, share that list with him.
  • Pray for him often.

3. All girls have a dad who loves them.

No matter what your earthly dad is like, you have reason to celebrate this Father's Day because you have a heavenly Father who loves you. You are the apple of His eye (Ps. 17:8).

No matter what your earthly dad is like, you have reason to celebrate this Father’s Day because you have a heavenly Father who loves you.

Though tarnished by sin, God's design for families can help us to understand a deeper, more eternal love—God's love for us. We are His girls, adopted into His family (Eph. 5:1) and heirs to His kingdom (Rom. 8:17). Much like DNA causes us to look like our parents, we bear the image of God the Father (Gen. 1:27). We are His!

This truth from God's Word is sweeter than any message stamped into a Hallmark card.

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matt. 7:7–11).

How do you plan to honor your dad this Father's Day? How can you celebrate your heavenly Father in this season as well?

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager for Revive Our Hearts, and a host of the Grounded videocast. You can hear her teach on The Deep Well with Erin Davis podcast.