Having worked as a counselor with victims of abuse and neglect I always cringe when preachers say something like, “Your earthly father would never …” <insert something awful here>, in an effort to demonstrate God’s paternal yearnings for His children. The message is, if your earthly father would do anything to take care of you, how much more would your heavenly Father?
Why do I cringe? Because I’ve known of too many earthly fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles and even supposed pillars of the church, who’ve done some pretty disgusting things to the little ones in their charge. That’s just a hazard of the mental health counseling field.
Yes, most of us have an innate desire to care for our young, but each of us are flawed sinners, and some of those sins have left some pretty horrific scars.
That’s why today, I want to talk about how God is NOT like an earthly parent.
But before I do, let me throw in a few disclaimers.
First, let me stress, God tells us to honor our father and mother, to treat them with respect. Though they are human and flawed, God has given this role to them for a reason. If we honor God’s call for us to honor them, He will see us through the sometimes difficult road of dealing with their sins.
Second, I am not only the child of a parent, but a parent myself. I’ve seen both sides of this coin now, and have learned to better respect the edicts I’d once spurned in my naiveté. Parents, though flawed, still tend to know more than the child so much younger than themselves—reason to listen to their advice.
However, God is our ultimate authority.
So how is God different from our parents?
First, He is ALL-knowing.
Where our parent’s wisdom comes from greater time inhabiting this earth and living life, God’s comes from creating every minute detail of what we inhabit. He doesn’t just know one life, but all. He doesn’t just know your actions, but your thoughts, your emotions, your motivations. He knows what is truly good and what is truly bad.
Second, He is ALL-loving.
Yes, most parents really love their children. I don’t think anyone can understand the depths of this kind of love (not to mention our human frailties surrounding it) until they’ve become a parent themselves. I know I didn’t.
But God’s love is greater, more complete. He’s not putting on a show so the world can give Him kudos. He’s not hoping His kids will return the favor and care for him in His old age. He needs none of that. He’s not loving us because He’s supposed to. He created us to love us. In fact, He came from His lofty, protected, regal perch, became one of us, and suffered a horrible, violent death so we could live in eternity in His Glory—with Him.
Third, He is ALL-powerful.
I don’t mean He can withhold our allowance or put us in time out if we misbehave. He can strike us with lightning if He wants, reducing us to dust. But instead He gives us free will and when we choose not to listen to Him, and fall on our faces from the ramifications of our own choices, He picks us up, brushes us off, reminds us of His love, then sends us back to try again.
Why did I feel it necessary to draw this ALL-consuming picture of God? Because too often we treat God like we treat an earthly parent—like He doesn’t know what He’s talking about, or He has no idea how we feel, or He doesn’t understand who we truly are. An earthly parent may be missing some of these things (though maybe not as much as we believe) ...
But God is not.
He formed you for a purpose. He’s numbered the hairs on your head. He knows how you were made, and what you were made for. And He knows that in following His will—no matter how crazy it may seem—you will find Joy like you’ve never had before.
Trust Him. Believe in Him. Follow Him.
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