I had a good dad growing up. He was a little quirky, but he was a good dad. He often brought a smile to the mundane and laughter into hardship. One day, while in the middle of cancer treatments, dad called me into his room because he had something “really important” he wanted to tell me. My stomach turned; I didn’t want to have “the talk” that I felt like was inevitable when someone was facing a dire illness. I walked into his room with my shoulders stooped and sat down next to his recliner.

He leaned forward and said, “Guess what? I pulled the ‘cancer card’ for the first time. And it worked!” What my father simply could not wait to tell me was that he got out of a speeding ticket because he told the cop, in what I imagined was a dramatically strained voice, “I have cancer.”

Definitely a little quirky, but he was a good dad.

The Imperfect Love of Our Earthly Fathers

While I had a good father, he wasn’t perfect. No one single father is. And while I imagine many share my gratitude for having a loving dad, there are many who did not experience this kind of care. There are sons and daughters who did not feel loved because of a dad who was absent. There are grown children who are working through the emotional pain from abuse. There are others who never really knew their father because work took priority over family. I have wept with these friends, reflected with them, and mourned over their scars.

Father’s Day carries an array of emotions for children who grew up in all different circumstances. The temptation, no matter what the experience, is to compare our earthly father with our heavenly One. But believer in Christ, there is no comparison. Whether we celebrate good dads this Father’s Day, or mourn broken relationships, there is hope in a Father who loves perfectly and completely, and this heavenly Father calls you His child.

The Unconditional Love of Our Heavenly Father

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)

In this passage, John exhorts believers to see the amazing love the Father has for His children. For those who did not have a loving dad, know that your heavenly Father’s love is unconditional and immeasurable. The Psalmist echoes the profundity of this deep love when he writes, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (Psalm 36:5). It’s difficult to wrap our minds around it, but the love of God extends beyond time and space and does not have an ending. It’s poured out continually, like a well that never runs dry.

And His love is a gift. It’s not something that needs to be earned, and we can’t do anything to make Him love us more. God’s love is not hinged on our worthiness, and it is not dependent upon our behavior. His love is a gift so great that God sent His own son to die for those He deems heirs.

It can be difficult to accept this kind of love if you have been hurt by an earthly father, and in some cases, it’s difficult to even imagine how it can be that God loves so consistently and unabashedly. This difficulty often stems from the limitations we place on our heavenly Father because of our earthly experience. But God is not limited in any way, shape, or form. Our heavenly Father has none of the confines of our earthly one. John says to those who are God’s children: See! See in your reflection not the scars of a difficult relationship but the radiance of the glory of God reflected in and through you. If you belong to Jesus, your identity is child of God. No matter our stories, our upbringing, our current struggles, if you belong to Jesus, you are His child, and He is never ashamed to claim you as His own.

The Incomparable Love of our Heavenly Father

For those who grew up with good dads, there is still temptation to limit God to our earthly understanding of fatherly love. But God loves better. A thousand times better. Infinitely better. Even the best experience that you had as a child because of a father’s love does not even begin to compare with the magnificence of God’s love for you. As John Piper says, “The difference between a good earthly father and a bad earthly father is a millimeter, but the difference between God and the best earthly father is infinite.” [1] 

In the same way that we shade our eyes from the power of the sun as it rises, when we just begin to understand the depth of God’s love, it brings us to our knees in awe and humility and praise. And though it may seem at times too great to comprehend, John reminds us not to look away but to behold the Father’s love. Accept its magnitude, bask in its warmth, and allow its power to change you from the inside out.

I suspect that quirkiness is in the genes, at least according to my children, and yet it makes me smile when I’m compared to my dad. But what is greater is when someone recognizes the love I have for my heavenly Father which identifies me as child of the King. He is the greatest Father that ever was, is, or that ever will be.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/ask-your-father-in-heaven/excerpts/he-is-better-than-our-best-dads

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Katie Polski

Katie is a writer, teacher, and speaker. She is married to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in St. Louis, MO, and is a mother to three wonderful kids. Katie works as the Director of Music Ministries and Special Events at Trinity and writes for several Christian ministries and organizations. She received her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. More information can be found on her website at www.katiepolski.com.