The Four Emotions of Father’s Day

From the time that we are young, something within each of us longs for a father. 

His steady hand. 
His gentle, instructive word. 
His secure embrace. 
His unconditional love. 
A picture of God the Father Himself, in our own home. 

Fathers are an indispensable part of God’s perfect plan for the family. It’s only right that we have a day set aside to honor the fathers (and father figures) in our lives that demonstrate servant leadership, Christlike love, and biblical sacrifice.

You may have a father who is a righteous man of God, seeking to honor the Lord in every area of his life. Or you may have experienced the curse of sin in a deep and real way at the hand of your dad. From absence and abuse to sickness and death, sin sometimes sinks its sharp teeth into God’s plan for fatherhood at every turn.

Perhaps that’s why there are few days that evoke the intensity of emotions that Father’s Day does. Gratitude . . . mourning . . . longing . . . confusion . . . or all of these (and more) mixed together. As the emotions of Father’s Day roll in like the tide, cling tightly to God’s Word and remember these timely truths. 

If You’re Mourning This Father’s Day

Perhaps this Father’s Day is a bittersweet occasion for you. If you find yourself in the depths of grief, mourning the loss of a father figure, consider these things:

1. Mourning is biblical. 

Genesis 50 describes Joseph mourning over the death of his father, and Scripture records his mourning as loud and bitter (v.10). This Father’s Day, don’t feel like you need to wear a mask at church (or wherever else you might go). Instead, be open about your emotions to those who ask, giving them the opportunity to bear the burden with you. Take your mourning to the Lord, trusting Him to keep His promise to heal the brokenhearted and bind up your wounds (Psalm 147:3).

2. Your father is a gift from the Lord. 

Even though he may not be with you this Father’s Day, take some time to thank the Lord for your father, for the time that you were able to spend with him, and for the impact he had on your life. If your father was a believer, praise God that you will one day see him again. 

3. Honor your dad with happy memories. 

Sometimes in the throes of grief we avoid talking about the thing that’s grieving us, but often this just causes us to bottle up our grief even more. What better time than on Father’s Day to talk with others about your father, his impact on your life, and his impact on the world around you? Give yourself the space to reminisce and experience the joy of remembering the good times and the waves of emotion that may come with remembering. Just because your father is no longer with you does not mean that he cannot be a part of your Father’s Day this year.

Today, as you mourn, know that the Lord is near. He understands feelings of deep grief and has not called you to walk through the valley of mourning alone. 

If You Find Yourself Longing on Father’s Day

Maybe this Father's Day your heart aches with longing. You long for a father that stayed or one who didn’t lift the heavy hand of abuse. You ache for a father who actively shows affection, who doesn’t play favorites, and models the example of our heavenly Father. Perhaps you long for any kind of father but the one that you have. Or maybe you find yourself praying for your father to come to know Christ as his Savior. Whatever you’re yearning for this Father’s Day, here are a few things to reflect on:

1. Let your longings point you to Jesus. 

Your yearnings are a (sometimes harsh) reminder that the world is not our home. Whatever it is that you find yourself longing for today, remember that that thing cannot ultimately satisfy. Only Jesus can do that. 

2. Remember that you have a good Father. 

While it sounds cliché, it couldn’t be more true—you have a heavenly Father who loves you infinitely more than your earthly father ever could. In His Word, He describes Himself as the “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5). Even if you do not have an earthly father who loves you well, remember that your heavenly Father will never leave you or forsake you (Deut. 31:6). He provides everything you need (2 Pet. 1:3). He loves you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).

3. Be honest with the Lord. 

When we’re longing for something, it’s easy to bottle our desires up and become bitter. Instead, take these longings to the Lord. He cares. He listens. He understands. Pour out your heart before Him. While He may not change your circumstances, He will give you peace and joy in the midst of them. 

If you feel overwhelmed by longing, know that the Lord can satisfy you with His steadfast love (Psalm 90:14). Ask Him to. 

If You’re Feeling Conflicted on Father’s Day

Father's Day stirs up a complex mixture of emotions since it can be a poignant reminder of both cherished memories and unresolved conflicts. Perhaps your relationship with your father is complicated. As you wade through a sea of knotted emotions today, remember these three things:

1. Give yourself grace. 

Because we live in a sin-cursed world, our interpersonal relationships can often be messy and difficult. Just because it’s Father’s Day doesn’t mean that you have to know where every piece of the puzzle fits in your relationship with your father. God is able to make grace abound to you (2 Cor. 9:8). Rest in that. 

2. Choose forgiveness. 

If your father has wronged you in some way, take some practical steps to work toward forgiveness. Use Matthew 18:15–35 as a guide. 

It’s important to note here that forgiveness does not always result in reconciliation. Sometimes you will follow the Lord’s plan for forgiveness and not be reconciled to the other person. That is okay. The Lord’s plan for forgiveness is still good and He is still sovereign over that relationship. You can rest in knowing that you have done what the Lord has required of you.1

3. Pray for your father. 

No matter the situation, take a moment to pray for your father. This may be extremely difficult, but the Lord tells us in Scripture that we are even supposed to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:43–45). Prayer is powerful and one way you can express that you trust God to work in your relationship with your dad. 

If You’re Feeling Grateful This Father’s Day

This Father’s Day, you may be reflecting on the blessing that your dad has been to you and your family. When you think of your father, good memories and godly advice flood your mind. Like David, whose parting words to Solomon were full of godly wisdom and admonition for the future (1 Kings 2:1–4), your father is leaving a legacy that you are grateful to the Lord for. 

If gratitude is your primary emotion this Father’s Day:

1. Thank the Lord for your father. 

James 1:17 reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from our heavenly Father—that includes the good gift of our families! Take some time to thank the Lord for your father and the example he is to you and to those around him. 

2. Thank your dad. 

When was the last time you thanked your father, really thanked him for his steadfast love and godly character? Not for the physical things that he gives to you or does for you, but for living like the man the Lord created him to be. Take some time this Father’s Day to thank him in person, with a note, or over a phone call. He will appreciate it more than any gift you could give him.

3. Pray for your father. 

It’s a common thing for parents to pray for their children, but when was the last time you stopped to pray for your parents? Pray that the Lord would be the first priority in his life. Pray that he will continue to lead and care for his family well. Pray that the Lord strengthens him to withstand the battle that rages against biblical fatherhood in our culture.

Today, as you feel grateful for your father, remember that your heavenly Father has graciously given him to you and to your family. Rejoice in this good and precious gift knowing that he is a picture of your heavenly Father, the giver of good gifts. 

No matter what you find yourself feeling this Father’s Day, know that Your heavenly Father meets you right where you are. He sees you and hears you. He is merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love—the giver of every good gift. Because of God’s generosity toward you, no matter what emotions you are facing, you have a reason to rejoice.

It’s no secret that Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s father, Arthur DeMoss, had an enormous impact on her life. Now you can learn from his godly wisdom too! Tune in to this week’s Revive Our Hearts podcast series “The Instruction of a Father” to hear from Nancy how her “good father” mirrored the Good Father in her life. 

Additionally, there are some situations where seeking reconciliation may not be safe. In these cases, exercise wisdom and ask the Lord to help you forgive your father in your heart.

About the Author

Ashley Gibson

Ashley Gibson

Ashley Gibson is a native of the mountains of Maryland, lover of flowers, and an ardent believer in writing letters. She always has a song in her heart—and usually one on her lips. Ashley loves encouraging others to know and … read more …

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