By Anne Peterson, Crosswalk.com
People will be buying gifts for Father’s Day. Some will peruse the card aisle, hoping to find just the perfect card to honor the man who first held them in his arms. The one they’d run to every day.
But not everyone looks forward to Father’s Day.
There are some who will be hurting on that day. Some who no longer have a father to honor. Some who never even remember a father figure in their homes. And some like me, who had a father, but my memories are not good ones.
So how can this Father’s Day be different? Here are some words for those who hurt on Father’s Day.
If You’ve Lost Your Father
For those of you who have lost your fathers, and miss their strong arms around you, I’m very sorry for your loss. You had someone in your life who made you feel special. Someone who made you feel safe and important. Someone you could call whenever you needed help. You knew he’d be more than happy to lend you a hand, give you a ride, or whatever you needed.
I hope on Father’s Day, you will be warmed by the memories you have tucked away.
But perhaps you’ve lost your dad before you got a chance to say those things that needed to be said. You planned on telling him, but that didn’t happen. Maybe you didn’t even get to say goodbye.
To you, I’m also very sorry for your loss. And sorry that you felt as if he was snatched away too soon. God alone knows how many days we have on this earth (Psalm 139:16). Only God knows when we will pass into eternity. One thing I’ve heard suggested by a counselor is to write the words you wish you had told your loved one who is gone. Sit and let your words flow onto the paper. I did this a couple of times for my loved ones, and it did help me. I knew it was one-sided, but that didn’t matter. I got to write what was on my heart.
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If You’ve Lost Your Child
Maybe you have lost a child and Father’s Day is difficult because you are missing that precious gift you once had. When we grieve a loved one, our grief doesn’t take breaks for holidays or other events. Instead, our loss is magnified. We think back to when our loved one was still here. When they shared special days with us, face to face. And when they died, the void became unbearable.
If you are a father who had to bury your child, my heart breaks with you.
And I know that God is near those who have had to bury their children because he is near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). Children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). We often stand with pride, watching our children’s achievements. We stand up for them when they need us.
But we never expect to one day stand on their graves. God grieves with us, just as Jesus grieved when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35).
If You Don’t Remember a Father
There may be some who are accustomed to getting through Father’s Day with no celebration. You can’t celebrate someone you never knew. Some have no memory of a father figure. Perhaps other men did step in to help at times, but there was no one to call, “Dad.”
In some ways, those without fathers feel different from everyone else. Like something is terribly wrong. If this is you, I’m sorry you didn’t have a father in your life. So very sorry. But I do want you to know that God is your heavenly Father. He loves you more than you could ever fathom.
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If Your Father Was Abusive
Some of you have memories of your father, which you wish would fade away. Your father abused you and left you with scars inside that never seem to heal. When Father’s Day rolled around, instead of happy memories, painful ones taunted you. Images only God can heal. A long time ago, God showed me that hurting people hurt people.
I remember the day my sister, Peggy called me. “You need to come and see Dad. He’s got cancer.” I hadn’t seen my father in years. Not since he had blamed me for my mother’s death.
“I can’t go,” I stammered into the phone. Why in the world would she think I would go?
And then she said, “Anne, you regret not going to mom, don’t do it again.”
When our mom got sick, I came home from our family-owned business, spoke a few words to her, and hit the couch. When my brother, Gus, walked by, he told me mom had called me. Since he had a tendency to lie, I chose not to believe him, and fell back asleep. The next morning, I watched ambulance attendants wheel her out of our house. Two days later she died. It had been a stroke. One month later, Gus told my dad about that night. With steel cold eyes, my father pointed at me and said, “It’s your fault your mother is dead.”
But God worked in my heart and I did go to see my dad. And on that very day he apologized for not being a good father. It was the first apology he ever gave. Looking at my father, God softened my heart and I heard myself respond, “You did the best you could.”
I forgave my father, reached down and kissed his cheek, and the next day he died. We don’t get to choose a lot of the circumstances in our lives, but we do get to decide how we’ll respond.
If your father was abusive, I’m very sorry that happened to you. I pray that one day you can forgive him. Like Joseph, who forgave his brothers for their abuse (Genesis 50:15-21). Like Jesus, who forgave those who hung him on the cross (Luke 23:34).
When we forgive someone, it’s not because we condone what was done. We forgive because we were forgiven (Colossians 3:13).
God Heals Our Hurts
I’m so glad that even though my image of a Father was skewed, God showed me what a loving Father he is. God healed my hurts, and he has always treated me with tenderness. God gives me poetry, and yet, he calls us his masterpiece, and that word in Greek means poem (Ephesians 2:10). One of the most special verses God gave me was: when your father and mother forsake you, I will take you up (Psalm 27:10).
I know if Father’s Day is hard for you, God will help you through that day, just as he’s helped me. That’s the kind of father he is.
The Dad I Needed
He fashioned me from his mind:
with wide eyes to see,
willing hands to serve
and a heart to love.
He took me up
when my parents left,
and he never stepped back.
Accepting me as I am,
he replaced my distorted image
of a father,
little by little.
And he became the dad
I never knew
I always needed.
– Anne Peterson
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Digital Skillet
A Prayer for Father’s Day
Lord, I lift up those who are hurting this Father’s Day. If they have lost their earthly fathers, I pray your Holy Spirit would comfort them, for you are the God of all comfort (1 Corinthians 1:3-5). If they have lost a child, I pray you wrap your arms around them and hold them. And Lord, if they didn’t have a father, would you continue to work in their lives and fill that void? You watch over them and understand their loss.
You care about everything we care about (1Peter 5:7). Lord, if they have been abused by their father, I pray that you heal their hurts, for you are the God who heals. I also pray you help them so they don’t harbor bitterness. And that one day they can get to the place where they forgive their fathers. God, you are loving and kind and you promise you will work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
Thank you for being our Father. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/kieferpix
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 16 books, including her latest book, Always There: Finding God's Comfort Through Loss. Anne has also written and published another memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. Sign up for Anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.com and receive a free eBook by clicking the tab. Or connect with her on Facebook.