Is God a good, good Father? We experience earthly parenting, some of which is good, and some is bad. I want to explore why the Bible talks about God as a parent and what that means for those who follow Jesus.
Father Knows Best
In my previous post on hope, I explained that our human language fails when discussing God. Our minds are just too small to understand God completely. So when analogies are used in the Bible to explain who God is, they all fall short. But, it is still helpful to use human examples to understand God.
In Matthew 7, Jesus uses the example of earthly parents to explain God as a Heavenly Father. Jesus argues that even parents, who are sinners, know how to care for their kids. So God, who is perfect, also knows the best way to care for His children. God is the good, good Father. The idea of God as a parent is ruined for some people with earthly parents who mistreat or abuse them. Humans, especially those we love, have the most significant capacity to hurt and let us down. We can trust that God is not like our earthly parents.
Good parents understand that for children to mature, they must face real choices. If a parent shields a child from making decisions, that child will never grow. Children must also learn to deal with their choices’ good and bad consequences. Similarly, God has given us freedom. So much freedom that we can choose to reject or ignore Him. God’s ultimate desire is to have a real relationship based on love. But you cannot have a real relationship without the freedom to choose.
Part of the reason why evil and suffering exist in this world is that humans have freedom. God is beyond and above our choices, weaving them into His masterpiece. But God often incorporates the consequences of choices to accomplish His purposes. In Genesis, Joseph is put in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, imprisoned, and eventually made second in command of all of Egypt. I am sure that if you could ask Joseph, he would have preferred a different career path. But in the end, he found acceptance as God took Joseph’s brothers’ bad choices to accomplish His Purpose. (Check out my podcast starting in episode six for a deeper dive into Joseph.)
Holy, Not Happy
Human parents often try their best to help their children be happy. Some parents go so far overboard that they spoil their children. God loves His children, but His goal is holiness and not happiness. God desires fully functioning citizens of the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells his closest friends that the path is narrow and they can expect to go through trials and tribulations. We only grow and mature when we are going through challenging times. Struggles may not make us happy, but they are part of the formula for developing holiness.
Humans are very confused about what will make them happy. We have difficulty differentiating between what we want (think we need) and what we need. In America, cultures and communities are built around owning the latest technology or trending items on Tik Tok. We seek comfort and avoid hardships. Humans are far better at practicing envy than gratitude. People often equate happiness with large bank accounts and treasures that rust and fade away. But we would be far better off if we first sought the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Apostle Paul reminds us to give thanks in all circumstances. Paul experienced hardships at almost every turn of his journeys, yet he calls us to more profound gratitude. He found himself beaten and chained in prison, and he determined that to be the best time to have a worship service. Paul understood that the current world was passing away, but he was living for an eternal reality.
Good, Good Father
We fall short when we try to define God in human terms. We see dimly now, but one day we will see clearly. To think of God as our good, heavenly Father during our most difficult times creates hope. There is a mystery that exists. God is sovereign (all-knowing, always directing) over the free acts of men. When life is difficult, we rest in the arms of our loving God. We serve a God who gives us freedom and wants to see us grow in holiness.