When It Hurts to Say “Father” (Galatians 4:1–7)

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ ” —Galatians 4:4–6 (ESV)

Here we have a double sending by the Father. First, He sends His Son, then He sends the Spirit of His Son. He not only sends His Son that we might be sons; He then sends the Spirit of the Son that we might know and enjoy our sonship. 

“Father,” we cannot say it too often, but surely we say it too frivolously. We must not forget what the Father gave, what the Son paid, and what the Sprit testifies of that we might address the Holy God of heaven as “Father.”

Unfortunately, for many in these fatherless times, the term causes them to cry not in joy but in pain. If so, know that the pain is so intense because “father” is meant to mean so much. Contrary to the philosophers of our age, God is not a construct of our father pain. Douglas Wilson writes, “We do not project our ideas of fatherhood up onto the big screen of the heavens. No, God’s ultimate idea of fatherhood is projected onto the little screens that each of us carries around.” Any pain we might associate with God the Father as Father is because we’ve turned the projector around so that it’s blinding our eyes. We’re not meant to project our earthly father’s image up, but our heavenly Father’s image down. In his work on the Lord’s prayer, R.C. Sproul wrote:

“I know people who struggle to address God as Father. People have said to me, ‘I can hardly bear to say it, because my earthly father was a cruel and insensitive person.’ People have told me of instances in which their fathers committed child abuse, and they have asked me: ‘After that experience, how could I possibly address God as Father? The word is repugnant to me.’ I can understand that reaction. I usually acknowledge that what makes the pain and torment they bear in their psyches so severe is the fact that these things didn’t happen at the hands of a next-door neighbor, an uncle, or someone else—it was from their father. Nature itself teaches that they rightfully should expect much more from their earthly fathers than they have received.”

Father pain does testify to our heavenly Father. The stinging void says something was meant to be that isn’t as hunger speaks to food. Saints, the one you cry out to as “Father,” is the one who sent His Son so that we might be adopted as sons. The one you cry out to as “Father,” is the one who sent the Spirit of His Son, that we might know and enjoy our sonship. Can we not then reason as Paul? “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Better Than We Deserve

C.J. Mahaney and Dave Ramsey oft reply to the social grace, “How are you?” with “Better than I deserve.” I like that. I thought about copying it, but I think it would come off as insincere because I would probably say it hypocritically most of the time. Some may be down on others saying such statements saying they are down on themselves. My response is twofold: 1. Don’t we have plenty to be down about (i.e. sin)? 2. They are not seeking to be down on themselves are much are they are seeking to be up on Christ.

It was a few weeks ago on a Saturday night. Bethany was cooking supper and I was upstairs trying to balance the checking account. Thirteen cents off! Isn’t amazing how such a minuscule figure can cause such disproportional stress? Any other time I would think thirteen cents insignificant. If something is on sale for thirteen cents off, big deal.  If something cost thirteen cents, no problem. Lose three pennies and a dime, oh well.  But thirteen cents when balancing the books is a major stressor. Then Bethany’s phone rang. A grenade was about to go off in my soul sending my emotions in a thousand different directions.

Our adoption caseworker called saying that they had two brothers, ages two and five, and wanted to know if we would be interested in adopting them. She then proceeded to tell us their story, a story that would melt your heart, but that’s their story. As she told us about the boys we were instantly in love. During the conversation it clicked, I had misdated the interest we had earned that month. How much was it? Yep, thirteen cents. We took some time for the emotional side to calm down and the rational side to process. We called family, consulted our pastor, and prayed to our heavenly Father. Later that evening the sewer backed up in our downstairs half-bath; so while Bethany was calling family, I was called the plumber.

Monday morning we let our caseworker know we were in. The emotional rollercoaster continued for a couple of weeks. Finally, yesterday we found out that it is final, the boys are ours. We will go get them next week. Our heavenly Father has blessed us with two beautiful boys.

We don’t deserve these two boys, they are a blessing. The Christian faith is not about desert, it is about grace. Again, I don’t deserve these two boys. I don’t deserve stress over thirteen cents or a backed up sewer either. I deserve worse. I deserve hell. I deserve wrath. I deserve judgment.

The reason I thankfully don’t get what I deserve is because God gave me something infinitely more valuable than these two sons. He gave me His Son. The Son who took my just deserts so that I might be justified.

So when we say “we don’t deserve this,” it’s not simply because we are down on self, but because we are rejoicing in the bountiful mercy of God to us in Jesus Christ. It’s not because we are negative, or pessimistic, labels I have issues with, but because we are full of joy and overwhelmed by grace. There is greater joy contemplating my Lord’s merits than in deluding myself into thinking I have any of my own.

So pray for these two sinners raising two younger sinners. Pray that the grace of God would be mighty upon us, not because we deserve it, but for His glory.