“My dad wasn’t always available because he drank a lot,” Toby shared.
“Who did you go to when you needed something?” I asked. “Who taught you how to do things?”
“I had uncles and cousins who I could count on but it was mainly my mom. She was always there for me. Whenever I wanted to know something I could just go ask her. But I sure wish that I could have asked my dad.”
The Bible speaks to the fatherless many times, using a word rooted in the concept of loneliness and often translated as “orphan” (E.g. Isa.1:17; Jer.5:28; 22:3). Those who had no father were grouped together with widows, foreigners or refugees because they were considered weak and had low social status. God wants His people to extend compassion towards them, and the church has done a great job of reflecting His heart. Ministries have been created to care for orphans and meet real needs. Families have made huge sacrifices to invest in children within the foster care system.
I’d like us to expand that vision to include another group of fatherless children. According to the most recent U.S. Census, more than one in four children live without a father in the home. They have fathers–because everyone does–but these fathers aren’t present in their day-to-day lives. As a result, these children are far more likely to live in poverty, experience social and emotional problems, be incarcerated, drop out of school and become pregnant as a teenager. They too are trapped by overwhelming circumstances that contribute to low social and economic status.
I see a lot of men who are fatherless. These men inherit a unique problem when they become fathers themselves. The question they wrestle with is “Can I be a good father?” The Bible gives us an answer when it says that God is the “father of the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5). He chooses to associate with children who have no fathers. He protects and defends them, coming to their aid.
Those growing up without a father have been rejected by the most influential man in their life. That kind of rejection carries consequences and leaves scars that the victim will bear the rest of their life. I know – because I have them. When my mom learned she was pregnant my biological father left—never to be seen nor heard from again. My mother has vivid memories of the day I found out. I laid in her lap, crying and asking again and again, “Why doesn’t he want me?” And that’s a question that haunts fatherless children far beyond childhood.
By God’s grace, I was spared many of the consequences of growing up without a father because a man who loved me and my mom adopted me. And so my mom was able to tell me, “But you have someone who does want you to be his son.”
This is the remarkable message of the Gospel: you have someone who wants you to be His son or daughter. The fatherless may have been rejected by their biological father, but they are loved by a greater Father. There is hope for all of us because we do have a good Father. We can help men become good dads by pointing them to the example set by a perfect Father. Thanks for joining me as we help ease the burden of the fatherless.