My friend Annabelle grew up in Uganda in a Muslim home.
One night, her stepbrother abused her, and to her horror, Annabelle realized her father would do nothing to protect her. Things only got worse as Annabelle (only thirteen at the time) discovered there was a plan to marry her off to a teacher of Islam who was already married. Terrified, Annabelle ran away.
Annabelle described her pain with these words: “As time went by, I never trusted people. Not even my parents. I learned to cover my pain in work. I disconnected from my father. I felt he didn’t want us. He didn’t protect us enough. He didn’t stay. I wondered if life was worth living. They say incest is a curse—I struggled with the perception that I was going to live all my life a cursed girl. Who was going to ever marry me? I hated men—and I detested the word FATHER!”
In high school, Annabelle attempted to take her own life.
It wasn’t until Annabelle met Jesus that her life was radically changed. Annabelle and her husband, Isaac, now lead a ministry called the Remnant Generation that seeks to rescue girls from trafficking. Annabelle’s husband is seeking to teach dads how to be the fathers God calls them to be.
Many women have shared with me their stories of father wounds and how those hurts have left them scarred and broken. It’s not just women who have suffered, but many men have also suffered. They’ve spoken to me about how their own father wounds have impacted their confidence as fathers. Unfortunately, the stories are all too common.
Father wounds run deep and are at the root of much of our brokenness.
They are also at the root of many mental health issues. I am no stranger to father issues. My father, though in ministry, was abusive: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and sexually. I remember well the counselor who told me I had to separate my earthly father from my heavenly Father. I’m not going to lie; it wasn’t easy. I spent countless hours on my knees asking God for a new picture of Him as my Father.
As I’ve had the privilege of traveling and speaking around the world, I have seen and heard firsthand that thousands have trouble seeing God as a loving Father because of deep wounds from their earthly father. Maybe that’s true for you as well.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer, He introduced rather radical theology.
Almighty God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, wanted a Father-child relationship with us. I imagine the religious leaders in the crowd listening to Jesus shook their heads in disbelief. As religious rule followers, they were accustomed to teaching people to pray at certain times of the day and using very specific words: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). The prayers of the religious leaders were rote and pompous, done for show to impress their followers. They declared allegiance to the kingdom of God; however, this was more an allegiance to their own religiosity. Their prayers lacked both authenticity and warmth. Instead, they were filled with lofty theological phrases. As a result, many saw God as a distant deity concerned with people keeping all the rules. Jesus came to reveal the truth about the Father heart of God. He wanted folks to realize they could have an intimate relationship with God.
Adapted from Our Father by Becky Harling (© 2023). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.