God’s Fatherhood: Better than the Band-Aid of Self-Help

David Murray

God’s Fatherhood: Better than the Band-Aid of Self-Help

      Our theology drives our lives. What we know and understand about God impacts everything - everything we think, say, and do. It especially controls and directs spiritual activities such as preaching and counseling. It's the latter I wish to consider by asking: "How does the Fatherhood of God impact our counseling, our personal ministry of the Word to others in need?"

There are certain counseling problems that are especially helped by specific aspects of God's Fatherhood. But before looking at these, let me just make two qualifications. First, while the whole Trinity is involved in every counseling solution, in this article we are limiting ourselves to the role of the Father in counseling. Second, while the Fatherhood of God is involved in every counseling scenario, I'm picking the issues in which God's Fatherliness is especially helpful:

Bereavement: When counseling those who have lost loved ones, we are privileged to point people to the Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). In the midst of bereavement's emotional tsunami of fear, devastation, grief, He is the widow's stay and the orphan's shield (Psalms 68:5).

Single parenthood: According to the United States Census Bureau, over a quarter of all American children live in single parent households, with 23.1% of them living with their mother and only 3.4% with their father. 4% of American children live with neither their father nor their mother. What a mission field for the Fatherhood of God! What a message we can bring to lonely single parents and their often-lonely children.

Poverty: In a time of high long-term unemployment, we can help people remember that God the Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalms 50:10). He knows our needs before we ask (Matthew 6:8). He has promised to provide for His children's needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Our daily prayer for daily bread is directed to our daily Provider, our Father who is in heaven.

Abuse: Although it may seem counter-intuitive to point an abused child to another Father-figure, this is where theology and biblical teaching can serve to show how different their Heavenly Father is compared to all others. He is a perfect loving Father.

Chastisement: When Christians are being chastised, they need help to understand that it is the loving hand of their Father holding the rod of correction, rather than the punishing hand of a judge exacting retribution (Hebrews 12:6). That will help sustain the fainting, and quell a rebellious spirit.

Anxiety: We all know the Worry Timeline: School, grades, friends, college, marriage, mortgage, school fees, children, children's marriage, health, pension, inheritance. Worry after increasing worry. But at every stage of this all-pervasive worry, God enters and says, "Take no anxious thought" (Matthew 6:25).

But He doesn't just tell us to stop being anxious, as if anyone can simply stop that upon command. Through His Son, He reasons and argues us to peace by pointing to the birds and the wild flowers to demonstrate His Father's care for such little things and asks: "If your Father is like this towards such little things, will He not care even more for you, His child?"

Injustice: As the judge of all the earth, God the Father promises all victims of injustice that He will do right. He will cut down the wicked no matter how high they rise, and he will lift up His oppressed children no matter how low they fall (Psalms 37:1). What a comfort to all victims of crime, especially unpunished crime!

Prodigal children: Christians need to be reminded to show their prodigal sons the same prodigal love that God the Father showed them when they were rebels. What a pattern of unrelenting love and full forgiveness (Psalms 103:13)!

Bitterness: On the subject of forgiveness, we can help motivate people to forgive others by calling them to consider their Father's forgiveness of them. In fact, we can show them that our debts will only be forgiven by our heavenly Father if we forgive others their debts to us as well (Matthew 6:14).

Church disputes: Church difficulties turn churches into battlefields or sports fields. The Fatherhood of God reminds Christians in dispute that this is not about what army you're fighting for or what team you are on; rather, it's usually about learning to love and live with your brothers and sisters.

Growth/Maturity: While counseling is often viewed as problem-solving, part of our discipleship counseling should also be about positively helping people to grow and mature as Christians. God's is glorified as Father by fruitful Christian lives (John 15:8).

Perhaps it's especially in parenting that the positive truths of God's Fatherhood can be used to prepare parents for training children for the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

I hope you can see that God's Fatherhood is not an academic subject. It is a practical truth offering wide-ranging help with life's multiple problems. And it's far more effective than the latest Band-Aid of self-help. 

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He Blogs at headhearthand. and you can follow him on Twitter @davidpmurray.

Originally published September 03, 2012.

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