There’s a difference between knowing of someone and knowing someone. As a young child, I knew of God. I knew He existed and made the world. I listened to the stories of His mighty heroes in Sunday School, but I didn’t know Him. I hadn’t met Him. I hadn’t built a relationship with Him, which was a problem. Jesus says in Matthew 7:23 to those who had claimed to minister in the name of Jesus, “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Here our omniscient God differentiates between knowledge of Him and relationship with Him.
Without a relationship with God, there isn’t true faith. Therefore, at the age of thirteen, when my life came crashing down, I felt there was no one I could turn to. Most teenagers feel at some point that their life is falling apart, but what pushed me to depression and self-harm was the fact that I never had a dad. My biological father walked out on my mother and I when I was an infant. The step-father my mother married when I was about 4 was negligent and abusive, and we left him when I was eight. I was about twelve years old when my mother began dating again, and I was terrified.
Why wasn’t I good enough for my biological father? It was my fault that my step-father was abusive. If I was better, he wouldn’t have left us. All these other men will just leave me, too. I don’t need to repeat other lies that the enemy placed in my mind. I did have people who cared for me. I had my mom, my sisters, friends, and my heavenly Dad. Victims, of which I was at the time, are deceived to darkness.
As I was grappling with those questions, I had a mentor from our church meet with me individually. She explained the Creator of the world wanted to know me personally. I learned that “Our heavenly Father,” (Matthew 6:9) was, in fact, my true dad. I claimed allegiance to Jesus Christ so that this promise from Galatians 3:26 would become my identity: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God by believing in Christ.” He called me His child. I, in turn, called Him my Dad.
Learning that lesson changed how I prayed by addressing Him from “Dear God” to “Daddy”. I found verses like Psalm 68:5 where David says that God is, “A father to the fatherless…” God takes the fatherless under His special care, commanding the Israelites in Deuteronomy 14:29, “And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” Holding these truths in my heart, I began to trust God to be able to hold my heart.
I have friends who struggle with this concept because they have had an earthly father who demands respect, and/or has been cruel. They translate that behavior to our heavenly Father to a greater degree. If they don’t measure up, they feel like God wants nothing to do with them. By calling God Dad, they can release their past and find peace as they follow Jesus’ example. While He was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying before being delivered to the Roman authorities in Mark 14:36, it is recorded, “And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” The Hebrew word, Abba, is an intimate term from child to father.
By initiating this closeness, God fulfilled the promise made in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Perhaps you struggle to know how to approach God, but He desires to meet you. Maybe like me, you just really need to plop down on your Dad’s lap and share your heart with Him. Pray, and be comforted by His love for His children who unashamedly call Him their Dad.