rebelling against low expectations

Knowing God’s Love When Your Own Father Was Absent


Growing up, my father was never physically absent. I never wondered if he would come home at night. But throughout my childhood, he was mentally and spiritually absent.

As a child, I felt his absence deeply. I longed for a relationship with him. I lived to please him.

When he was home, I followed him around like a puppy dog. I waited desperately for the day he would finally finish all the things on his to-do list and have time for me, but that day never came. Eventually, I stopped waiting and simply resigned myself to his absence.

A father’s absence, whether it is physical, mental or spiritual, always leaves a gaping hole in the home and in the child’s heart. Children long to know their fathers. They long to love and be loved by them. They long to make their fathers proud. A father’s absence affects his children deeply, whether he realizes it or not.

Fathers have been given a great responsibility. All throughout Scripture, God refers to himself as a Father. Our earthly fathers are meant to be a picture of him, demonstrating the tenderness, unconditional love, and forgiveness with which he cares for his children.

While a good father can set his children up with a proper understanding of who God is and a desire to know him, a bad father can give his children a skewed view of God or even a terror of him. Whether we realize it or not, our earthly fathers heavily impact our perception of God. It is no wonder then that the enemy of our souls so fiercely targets fathers and the father-child relationship.

When a father is absent, it often causes his children to believe that God too is absent. When a father is uninterested in his children’s lives, those children are prone to feel that God too is uninterested. When a father is abusive, his children often struggle with the belief that God too is angry and abusive.

I have struggled for years with the tremendous void that the absence of my father’s input in my life has created. If God is anything like my Father, he is largely absent, disconnected, and distracted.

I know that I am not alone. Many people struggle to relate to God because of a broken relationship with their earthly father.

God is a Father. This aspect of his character is supposed to bring comfort to us. It should be a joyful revelation. It should cause us to run to God, knowing that, as our Father, he loves and delights in us and is ready and eager to forgive us when we sin.

Unfortunately, far too many of us pull back when we hear him called our Father. We think of all the pain that our earthly father has caused in our life, and we run from God instead of to him. We fail to realize that God is not only a Father but the perfect Father, that he is what our earthly father should have been. He is faithful and true. He is love. He is slow to anger and abundant in mercy.

I don’t know when I first made the decision to run to God, but all throughout my growing up years when the void in my life became too much, I found myself at his feet. “Father, hold me. Father, I need you.” I desperately prayed through tears.

While kneeling before him, I discovered that God is not distracted or absent, but with me always and interested in every detail of my life. It is here at the feet of my heavenly Father that I have found and continue to find healing from the hole that my father’s absence in my life has created.

If your relationship with your father is broken, I would encourage you to go to the Word of God and discover who your heavenly Father truly is. He loves unconditionally. He always forgives us when we repent. He protects his children. He never leaves or forsakes us. He is tender. He is patient. He is good.

For many of us, our biggest scars and deepest wounds have come from our fathers, their absence, their thoughtlessness, or their cruelty. The last thing we want is another father—another source of heartache. But though our natural instincts may tell us to run from our heavenly Father, we must learn instead to run to him. Only here, in the arms of our true Father, will we find healing from all of our pain.

Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Abba is an intimate word. It is like saying “Daddy”. God has given us the Spirit of adoption and he invites us to call him Abba. He is not distant or distracted. He desires to know us personally and deeply. He longs for a relationship with us. He wants to be our Father.

So no matter what your relationship with your earthly father has been, run to God. Cry Father, Abba, Daddy. He is always there.

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About the author

Kaitlyn Donihue

Kaitlyn Donihue is a writer, musician, book-worm, and lover of Jesus. She is passionate about Him and desires that her life would point others to Him. One day she hopes to serve the Lord in ministry to troubled teens. Currently, she lives with her family in southern Michigan. You can find her blog at

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rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →