The Power of a Present Father

Jun 14, 2024

By Michaela Wilkes, Liberty Counsel writer

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” — Billy Graham

Father’s Day is meant to honor and celebrate the fathers in our lives, yet for many, it is a painful reminder of an absent father. There’s little doubt that America is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of fatherlessness. An absent father devastates and destroys the nuclear family, many times creating a negative generational impact.  

The Fatherlessness Crisis

Approximately 18.3 million children across America live without a father in the home, which translates to about 1 in 4 children of the youth population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022). Children from fatherless homes fare far worse in overall well-being, behavioral health, education achievement, and criminal activity. Studies found that children raised without a father are four times more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime, twice as likely to never graduate high school, and have a seven times higher risk of teen pregnancy. However, children with an actively engaged father perform much better in school. Some data shows that they are 33% less likely to repeat a class and 43% more likely to get As in school. Studies show that a present father greatly affects the development of a child’s emotional well-being.

Simply put: America doesn’t need an increase in perfect fathers, it needs an increase in present fathers.

Spiritual Repercussions of Fatherless Families

Human hearts long for a paternal bond. Children with absent fathers often struggle to grasp the concept of God as a loving, caring Father. For example, if a father was absent during a child’s upbringing, the child, even as an adult, might perceive God as distant and unknowable. If a father is unstable and inconsistent, the child might dismiss God as unreliable, or worse, not worthy of the child’s trust. Therefore, those growing up without a father can struggle with feeling alienated, abandoned, and rejected by God.

But our Jesus intimately relates to those who feel abandoned, as He too felt abandoned at one critical time. He had never known separation from His Father until He hung blameless on a cross. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). In that moment, God the Father regarded God the Son as if He were a sinner (2 Corinthians 5:21). At His death, Jesus was a son abandoned. Because of His experience, Jesus is able to sympathize with the gut-wrenching reality of children who have been abandoned.

Up to this point, Jesus’ relationship with His Father had perfectly epitomized the closeness we were created to enjoy with our earthly fathers. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). God the Father called Jesus His “beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17). Throughout Jesus’ life, he looked to His Father for compassion and connection, guidance and protection. Most importantly, Jesus wanted to model His character.

Even today, fathers' model and teach their sons what it means to be a man. To daughters, fathers impart a sense of value and self-worth. British actress Dawn French once said, “It was my father who taught me to value myself. He told me that I was uncommonly beautiful and that I was the most precious thing in his life.”

Shaped by My Father’s Steadfast Love

I was gifted with a dad who was and is there. He’s loyal, steadfast, and God-fearing, an embodiment and reflection of God the Father’s agape love — pure and selfless. My dad is one of those fathers.

My father has helped make me into the woman I am today. Because of his love, I better understand His love. As I reflect upon my childhood and my dad's role as a father of four girls, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. My dad is the quintessential “girl dad” to four big-personality, fully involved “girly girls.” While he may not be perfect, he is present. From innumerable dance recitals, swim meets, beauty pageants, and state and county fairs, my dad dropped everything to support his girls. He made countless sacrifices to provide for and protect us. However, in all of this, the number one thing that marked me forever was his unwavering presence. No matter what we pursued, he was there. From watching my first steps as a baby to walking me down the aisle to my husband, he was there.

One of the most heart-wrenching moments for my dad was giving my hand in marriage. As my granddad, who officiated our wedding, called upon him to entrust me to my soon-to-be-husband, my dad fought back tears, fully grasping the significance of the moment. With every ounce of love he had poured into raising me, he kissed our hands, a tender gesture that spoke volumes. Because he was present from the start, the weight of allowing someone else to now protect me hit him hard and hit him deep. He had nurtured me with boundless love and compassion, and now, with a mix of pride and sentiment, he was passing the torch of primary provision and protection to my husband.

Celebrating Fathers and the Best Father of All

It's time to put fathers back in a place of respect and honor and celebrate every father who is present in trying to do good for their family. Fathers are the cornerstone of the family. Fathers offer structure and protection. Fathers are the catalyst for cultural change. Fathers anchor, guide, protect, and provide. As a result, the nuclear family grows tighter, communities get stronger, and the nation prospers. It all starts with the father.

And for those hurt or abandoned by their earthly father, take comfort that you are no longer fatherless in Christ. God is a Father who will never fail you. You have been chosen as true sons and daughters of the Most High King (Romans 8:16-17). Though it has been heartbreaking and difficult, knowing God as your Father will wash your wounds of fatherlessness. Your earthly father may not have been present, but your Heavenly Father is omnipresent. And that kind of “present” is the best gift of all.


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