What was your experience with your earthly father? Some people had wonderful experiences. Their dads were loving, encouraging, and supportive. Though no father is perfect, many have fond memories of their dads. But not everyone had a loving, encouraging, and supportive father. Some people didn’t know their fathers. Maybe their fathers abandoned them. Others had their fathers around but felt as if their fathers didn’t really love or support them. Sadly, some people had alcoholic, aloof, and/or abusive fathers that made their life very difficult. For some, father equals pain because their fathers weren’t humble, repentant, faith-filled, Spirit-filled, and faithful fathers. What was your experience with your father?
Truth is, we’ve all been hurt by our fathers in some way because our fathers were and/or are sinful human beings. I love my children immensely. I’d give my life for them. I have also hurt them. I’m thankful my children are forgiving. Even the greatest of earthly fathers have wounded their children.
Because of the imperfections of our fathers, it can be difficult to think of God as our heavenly Father. It’s similar to the police. Some police have done reprehensible things, and for some people, this taints their view of all police. Though understandable, this is unfair; there are some really good cops. It’s hard not to project some of our pain from our earthly fathers onto our heavenly Father. But our heavenly Father is entirely different from our earthly fathers.
To whatever extent our earthly fathers failed us, it is comforting to know and trust that our heavenly Father is incapable of failing us. We may feel like God has failed us, but He really hasn’t because failure, neglect, abuse, etc. are not part of His character and nature. Psalm 145 is true: “The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works . . . the LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works” (vv. 13, 17). Your heavenly Father is entirely good. He is faithful, righteous, and kind in all He does. Your heavenly Father has never maliciously hurt you. Never. He has only ever loved you and acted for your good, even when He disciplines you.
So we should have little difficulty confessing, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Our experiences with our fathers shouldn’t make us hesitant to confess these words. We say a lot when we confess the first line of the Apostles’ Creed. There’s a lot of comfort for us in those few simple words, but in order to receive comfort as we confess those words, we need to understand them.
Heidelberg 26 asks, “What do you believe when you say ‘I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth’?” Okay, you may have the line memorized and it may roll off your tongue, but does the phrase actually comfort you? The more you understand the words, the more comfort you will draw from the words. Heidelberg 26 answers:
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and all that is in them, and who still upholds and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence, is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father. In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul and will also turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this life of sorrow. He is able to do so as almighty God and willing also as a faithful Father.
That statement is massive. In it are many marvelous truths to explore. God is eternal; He has no beginning or end. He always was, is, and will be. God has an eternal Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. God created heaven and earth, angels and celestial beings, oceans and rivers, tigers and infants, sunsets and the laws of physics that govern swing sets. God incomprehensibly created all things out of nothing or we could say ex nihilo. There was nothing, and from nothing God brought everything; God is the origin of all creation. God’s power and creativity are truly unfathomable. In His divine and unrivaled power, God upholds and governs all creation. He possesses supremacy and glory in all things. God is sovereign and His eternal counsel and providence are right, good, and immutable. And here’s the kicker. This Almighty God, this sovereign, omnipotent, supremely good divine Being is your God and Father. Father. God is your Father because of Christ His Son. That means you are God’s beloved child and heir. You belong to Him. He will care for you as a good Father does.
With all due respect, I don’t care for Pat Barrett and Tony Brown’s song Good Good Father. Why? Well, it’s very repetitive but also because the song never deeply explains why God is a good Father. The song doesn’t provide enough truth to provide much comfort. I agree with Barrett and Brown, God is a good, good Father, but Heidelberg 26 provides much more substance as to why God is a good Father. Many praise songs are shallow, ambiguous, and don’t provide a robust or comforting view of God. Reformed confessions and catechisms aren’t shallow, and they are way more comforting. Maybe instead of buying Chris Tomlin’s album, we ought to buy a copy of the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort, and/or the Westminster Standards and take their words to heart. It wouldn’t be a mistake.
Anyway, here’s why a robust view of God is absolutely necessary for your comfort. The deep truths of the divine triune Being provide you with deep comfort. Truly knowing God leads to being comforted by God. Almighty God is your Father. Christ has secured your adoption. And because God is what the first part of Heidelberg 26 says He is, you can trust Him. You can trust Him way more than your earthly father. You can trust your heavenly Father so completely that you don’t ever have to doubt that He loves you, is providing for you and is caring for you, body and soul. He does this because you belong to Him. Whatever happens to you in life, both good and bad, God is loving and caring for you in whatever happens to you. In fact, God is so good, He brings adversity and suffering to you in order to be good to you, to draw you closer to Himself, to work suffering for your everlasting good. When you suffer, when you are thoroughly disappointed, your heavenly Father is active in the pain working for your good. This is Romans 8:28 which is true and immensely comforting. Your Father may send you sorrow. Why? To be good to you. How can we be confident that this is true? God told us in His Word but also because our heavenly Father is Almighty God, and as Almighty God, He is willing and capable to do it as our loving Father.
Behind the first short line of the Apostles’ Creed are magnificent Biblical truths of who God the Father is and how He loves His children. In the confession is immense comfort for you. Look up the Scripture references in Heidelberg 26 and delight in who God is. Allow the Scriptures to give you comfort as they take you deeper into the character and nature of God. Allow sound theology to inform your view of God and then draw deep comfort from it. Theology matters. See, a shallow view of God doesn’t provide much comfort. Memorize the Apostles’ Creed and allow it to inform your mind and heart and to give you comfort. God is a good Father; He is your good Father.
Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021).
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.