Father Wound #1: The Never-Satisfied Dad

This is the second in a five-part series on “father wounds” and the way that Jesus came to heal those wounds. Be sure to go back and read yesterday’s introduction, “Your Father Isn’t God the Father.

The “Never-satisfied Dad” is the one who, no matter what you did, never seemed to be proud of you. This dad may not have been unkind or abusive. He was probably around and a decent provider. But he never uttered the words “I am proud of you” or “I love you.” It’s tragically sad how common this experience is.

I know, for instance, a pastor’s wife who said her dad was this way. She was the first person in her family to ever go to college. Not only did she go, she she also got a 4.0 and received all kinds of academic honors. As her graduation approached, she confessed to her husband,

You know what I was dreaming about on graduation day? It wasn’t about walking across the stage and seeing everyone cheering. It wasn’t seeing my name in the program with the words “summa cum laude” next to them. No, I was dreaming about walking down from the stage and imagining my dad pushing through the crowd, in front of everyone, to say, “I’m so proud of you, and I love you!”

When that moment actually came, it was just like in her dream. Her dad really was pushing through the crowd to get to her. And for a fleeting moment, she thought, “This is it!” But the moment he finally got to her, he simply said, “Well, it’s getting late. It’s a long drive home, so we’d better get going.”

She was crushed. Absolutely crushed. And years later, she recognized that this still affected how she approached her job, what she needed from her husband, and how she related to her friends.

For kids who grow up in this kind of home, proving themselves to others often becomes the dominating theme of their lives. Understandably, they carry this perspective of themselves into their relationship with God. Whatever you do, you have this nagging, unspoken doubt, “Have I done enough?” Or you think, “I bet God would be happier with me if I were a better Christian, if I were a better witness, a better wife.” You constantly compare yourself to others and say, “If I were like him or her, I bet God would be happy with me …” Yet somehow, it never seems to be enough.

The answer isn’t found in trying harder. It’s found in seeing how different your heavenly Father is. Isaiah says that we, as God’s children, are “precious” to God (Isaiah 43:4). God tells us in Isaiah that he pays more attention to us than a mother thinks about her newborn infant: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15 CSB).

It’s interesting to me that in illustrating God’s delight in us, Isaiah has to leave the analogy of father and go to motherhood. Most mothers, after all, are far more attentive to their newborn children than the fathers are. I remember, for instance, when our kids were young, how my wife Veronica would notice even their smallest physical features.

“J.D., did you see that Ryah has a new freckle behind her right ear?”

And I would say, “Uhh … Ryah is our second one, right?” (Just kidding. Ryah’s the third one. I’m pretty sure.)

Yet God knows you better and watches you more closely than the most attentive, love-stricken mother. You are closer to God’s heart than a newborn baby at his mother’s breast! Do you understand how profound that privilege is? Does it sound too good to be true?

The kind of love that God professes for his children completely contradicts the task-master spirit of the Never-satisfied Dad. Instead of seeing his children as disappointments, our heavenly Father looks to us as precious treasures. Instead of reminding us of our mistakes, our heavenly Father absorbs the penalty of those mistakes and sins into himself. The wrath of God was satisfied on the cross so that God could look on us with pure, unadulterated satisfaction.

You see, of all the fathers in the world, our heavenly Father has the most reason to look at us and be dissatisfied. We rebelled against him. We spat in his face. We considered him our enemy. And yet—this is the beauty of the gospel—when we were God’s enemies, he came for us. God, indeed, was not satisfied—not satisfied to let his children continue to run from him.

Most of us don’t really see our heavenly Father like this. It sounds too saccharine, too sentimental, too hokey. But what does the prophet Zephaniah say? “The Lord … will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). I know some awesome dads. But I don’t know any that walk around singing about their children. Yet here is God, so in love with his kids that he’s skipping along and singing!

Do you ache to be special to someone? You are special to God.

Do you yearn to matter? You matter to him.

Do you know how much God thinks about you? He knew you in the womb before anyone else even knew about you. He had laid out a plan for your life and planned to take care of you and be a Father to you.

Do you know how valuable you are to him? David says, “Even if I made my bed in hell, God wouldn’t quit thinking about me” (cf. Psalm 139).

Here is a love that is deeper, greater, and better than any love you failed to get from your father. Is there any wonder David said, “Such knowledge is high, too wonderful for me!”

Come back tomorrow for father wound #2: the “Time-bomb Dad.”