Father and sonI have a friend who is in his 70s. He has struggled with his self-image, depression, and a warped view of God all his life. Though I wouldn’t be so bold as to put all the blame on his father, clearly his father had a lot to do with the way my friend has struggled through life.

It might surprise you to know that my friend’s dad was a pastor and Bible scholar. Others revered him as a spiritual and godly man. But his view of God was twisted, for he portrayed God as an ever-present, ever-critical judge, waiting for us to get out of line, and quash us.

My friend’s dad showed no physical affection like hugs or kisses — even when his kids were young. Compliments and encouragement were rare. He was strict in the many rules he laid down and he used his religion like an emotional whip to punish his kids when they got out of line. Because, “After all, they weren’t just answering to Dad, they were answering to God!”

As fathers, we bear a huge responsibility to provide for and protect our wives and children. And providing and protecting go well beyond going to work and providing a home, food, and clothing. Our kids need our presence and love. Boys need a strong role model. Unlike my friend’s father, so many fathers are simply absent from the upbringing of their children.

Ephesians 6:4 tells us, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” To exasperate means to frustrate or provoke to anger. Obviously, sometimes when dealing with teens, they are going to get angry and feel exasperated. But this should not be our MO.

I’m a father of two sons and I know how hard being a father can be sometimes. It’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting too much from our kids, especially when they’re young. We walk a fine line between being too strict and too lenient. We tend to either over-discipline or under-discipline.

I think down deep we all want to be good fathers. We want to bring our kids up “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” We want to be a godly influence in our kids’ lives. The best way I know to do that is to follow Jesus and engage our kids in following Him. Show them that following Jesus is your way of life. Also, surround yourself with men who are great role models of fatherhood. Be honest with them about your struggles and listen to their advice.

To the extent possible, we want to portray to our children what their heavenly Father is like. Let your kids see your vulnerability and need for the Lord. Apologize to them when you blow it; they’ll love and respect you for it.

Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:7–12

Personal Application

What is your biggest struggle as a dad? Seek counsel from older godly men who are fathers. Confide in them and pray for each other. Ask the Lord to help you follow Jesus and learn from Him how to be a godly father.

Jim and Wendell signatures Jim Grassi, D. Min. and Wendell Morton

We cherish any verse in Scripture that reminds us to keep focused and intentional about evangelism and discipleship. “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5