Another Father’s Day has passed and many of you had wonderful barbeques or breakfasts celebrating your dads. Others are feeling sad, disappointed and flooded with memories of an awful childhood. You may have been abandoned, sexually abused, emotionally battered or treated with indifference or cruelty. How do we honor this kind of father?
God hates what happens to children when their parents are selfish, abusive, indifferent and cruel. When evil thrashes our soul, our human tendency is to become overwhelmed by it. We often grow up feeling depressed, useless, unlovable, hopeless, shameful, fearful and bitter. When that happens, the struggle we face is much bigger than what to do on Father’s Day. Every day is a battle for our mental, emotional and spiritual health. The apostle Paul describes it this way, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
Paul writes that we do not fight battle with darkness with human weapons, but rather with spiritual ones (2 Corinthians 10:4,5), and he tells us how to win. He writes, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
Because of what happened to some individuals during childhood, they are especially vulnerable (emotionally, mentally, psychologically and spiritually) to being overcome by evil. If we’re not careful, we can start to resemble the very thing that we once abhorred. The only way to keep this poison from turning us into someone evil is to fight back with good. Doing good does not necessarily overcome your father (or any other evil person), but you can overcome the evil done to you as you walk in the truth, light, love and goodness of God.
This does NOT mean you must have a close or personal relationship with an evil person. When someone harms us and is not sorry or changed, often it is not wise or safe to try to have a relationship with them, nor does God ask us to. But it does mean that we can overcome their evil against us when we apply the biblical antidote of doing good.
What does that look like? It will be different depending on someone’s particular story, but it might simply mean that if your father someday needs a ride to the doctor or help managing an illness, you will do what you’re able to do to minister to his particular need. Not because he deserves it, he doesn’t. You do it because you do not want his evil to overcome God’s goodness in you.
God calls us to love and to do good to even our enemies. When we’ve been injured by evil, it’s crucial that we not allow ourselves to be defined by what happened to us (victim), but rather by what God is doing in us and through us now.
We also overcome evil with good by making sure we work through the lies that we’ve believed (or have been told) about our self so that Satan does not have a louder voice in our head than God’s Spirit does. And, as God gives us his strength and courage, there may even be a time when we speak to our father about what he did, inviting him to repent.
God’s word tells us to honor our fathers and mothers. He doesn’t qualify this by saying, only if they were good parents. But what does it mean to honor? When the apostle Paul defended himself before the Sanhedrin, Ananias, the high priest, ordered that Paul be slapped across the mouth (abuse of power). Paul reacted to this abuse by calling Ananias a hypocrite and telling him that God would strike him. When Paul was informed that he had insulted the high priest, Paul immediately felt remorse because he knew God had said, “You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.” Paul didn’t stop defending himself, but he showed respect for the position of high priest, even though Ananias was corrupt (Acts 23:1-9).
Pray and ask God how you could honor your father for his position, not the way he carried out his position. Perhaps right now, the only safe thing you can do is to start praying for your father and asking God to show him the evil of his ways.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t do anything else yet. Just work on the larger battle and be willing to learn how to overcome evil with good. As you obey in this area, God will show you how you can specifically honor your father and will give you the right and safe moments to do so.