As a Sabbath school teacher who prays regularly about instilling confidence in my students, I recently had a “God moment.” He revealed people in my life who have true, meaningful confidence. In prayerfully meditating on these lives, I realized that one thing was always present: a committed earthly father figure who invested time working with his children, teaching them how to love the Lord and serve others.
Unfortunately, positive male role models are in short supply in American society. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 25 percent of children in the US live in mother-only households. That is over 18 million children who do not live with a father figure, much less a godly one. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 20 percent of all elementary and middle school teachers are men. Additionally, when we look at popular culture, men and masculinity are increasingly ridiculed or viewed as toxic.
The truth is, male influence is not a detriment to society. It’s just the opposite: Godly father figures bestow blessings.
Precept of promise
Deuteronomy 6 says this:
“This is the command — the statutes and ordinances — the Lord your God has instructed me to teach you so that you may follow them in the land you are about to enter and possess. Do this so that you may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life by keeping all His statutes and commands I am giving you, your son, and your grandson, and so that you may have long life” (vv. 1, 2).
God still blesses when fathers obey Him by teaching their children His commands. The New Testament agrees. In Ephesians 6, Paul talks to both fathers and children: “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land” (6:2, 3; Exodus 20:12). He continues to the dads, “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (v. 4).
I don’t know what circumstances led to Paul’s admonishment, but I do know that he was addressing all fathers in this verse. While many recognize the truth of Paul’s words, this could also imply that if fathers don’t instruct their children in the ways of the Lord, they will stir up anger in their children.
These verses tell us that for families, churches, and society to reap the promised blessings, godly fathers must step up to their responsibilities and must be honored.
When our boys were younger, my husband, Jody, worked long hours as a truck driver. He would often get up around five each morning, and sometimes wouldn’t come home until between ten and midnight. For days, and even weeks, the boys saw him only on weekends. After going to church on Saturdays, my beloved would often spend Sundays working on the trucks he co-owned with his parents. Every time he was gone for any length of time, I noticed a building resentment and anger in the boys, but it seemed to relax anytime Jody spent time doing things with them. His presence restored blessing.
This principle doesn’t apply to just boys. As a teen, a sweet friend of mine drastically changed one summer after her parents divorced and her dad left to live with his new girlfriend. While her dad tried to include her in his new life, her mom told my friend stories about all the bad things her father was doing. As a result, my friend started seeking out new father figures in her life.
I invited her to my church youth group in hopes that she would find the ultimate Father figure. Though she came a few times, it wasn’t until several years later that she came to know the Lord. In the interim, though, my friend battled depression, anger, and resentment, and she made some poor choices along the way.
This is the story of so many in our society. The promise of blessing is lost when dads leave, and children reap the consequences.
Price of fatherlessness
When we look at society today, we see some good, but we also see bitterness, envy, anger, strife, and covetousness. Where does the good come from? In a large part, from Christians who are secure knowing that God loves them and is not going anywhere! We as a church are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and often minister to the sick, widowed, and needy in our communities. But what about the fatherless? Are we providing father figures for those who have lost the blessing and may not know the joy of running to a dad when they need help answering tough questions?
A legal guide written by attorney Jeff Adrian Biddle (July 2012) sheds light on what happens when strong, God-fearing father figures are absent from children’s lives. The study says that “85% of youths sitting in jail grew up in a home without a father.” That’s staggering. It makes me wonder how many of the other 15 percent had a God-fearing father figure in their lives.
The same study also states that “63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. . . . 75% of young patients seeking substance abuse treatment are from fatherless homes. . . . Children who grow up without a father are twice as likely to drop out of high school.”
While society teaches that we don’t need men in our lives, the Bible clearly states otherwise. And statistics clearly show otherwise. Instead of bestowing blessings, absent fathers leave a curse. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The church is full of godly men, and they are called to stand up to meet the fatherless and neglected souls where they are.
A church of fathers
Are we inviting father figures to actively participate in Vacation Bible School, teach children’s classes, or hold question-and-answer sessions, or even Bible studies, with our youth? When my boys were younger, my brother led a Scout troop that went hiking, fishing, hunting, and on many other outings throughout the years. While I encouraged and tried to help our boys earn their merit badges along the way, it was my husband who made a real difference in their motivation to earn the next badge.
Time and again, I would get involved and help our boys with fundraisers, testing for their badges and such. But it wasn’t until their dad got involved that they worked that much harder to achieve their goals. As a society, even for fathers, we often forget how important it is for dads to celebrate the successes of their kids and for children to know the exuberance of hearing them say, “Well done!” Rather than provoking anger, an attentive father bestows the blessing of joy.
Godly fathers can impact the church directly. In his article appearing in The Longmont Pastor (June 2016), Nick Cady cites statistics on young adult church attendance and the impact of the father’s church attendance. According to data he collected from Promise Keepers and Baptist Press, if the father in the family doesn’t attend church — even if his wife does — only 2 percent of the kids will become regular worshippers. Cady continues, “If a father attends church irregularly, between half and two-thirds of their kids will attend church with some regularity as adults.” If Mom does not go to church, but Dad does, at least two-thirds of their children will end up attending church.
While mothers are not excluded from teaching in the way a child should go, it is vitally important that father figures come alongside. They should reinforce the precepts that godly women bring to the table and give children a sense of peace about obeying our heavenly Father.
A great need
I think the Scouts had the right idea at one point in their early history: Father figures spending quality time with children sets the tone for the rest of their lives, either pointing them toward or away from God. I simply pray that we’re raising our children to look toward a Father who loves us so much that He desires an intimate relationship with us. Obedience to the Holy One opens up the floodgates for God to release His blessings. Are we opening our hearts to receive His blessings, or are we turning away His gift?
Clearly, statistics show just the opposite of what society proclaims today about father figures. I know that not all of us have a father present in our lives. My own dad passed away many years ago, but godly men in my life have lovingly come alongside me to guide me when I ask those tough questions.
Is there someone — a father, grandfather, uncle, or other church member — who might be willing to spend a little time with you or your kids on a regular basis? If you’re not sure, please reach out to your local pastor for ideas. You never know when a retired elder might be searching for a mentoring relationship with someone.
Please join me on a prayer journey that God would raise up the father figures He wants to be present in our lives to carry out His blessing. And for all the fathers who bless our lives every day, we say, thank you!