One Reason Why So Many Men Could Care Less About God

By Michael J. Klassen

“How many of you would say that, growing up, you had a healthy relationship with your father? Would you raise your hands?”

Years ago I attended a church men’s retreat with about 80 other men. The speaker spent the weekend addressing the relationships between fathers and their sons. On Saturday morning, he asked us a probing question that generated a very unexpected response.

I raised my hand, assuming a good number of other men would join me. Ironically enough, the only hands raised were my father’s and mine. Out of 80 men!

“I’m not surprised,” the speaker confessed.

Then he organized us into groups of 4 or 5 and asked every participant to describe his relationship with his father.

Over the next two hours, multiple men in every group sobbed uncontrollably. The wailing drowned out the discussion. I’ve never seen so many men cry—even at a funeral.

My experience that weekend opened my eyes to the reason so many men struggle in their relationship with God.

Over my 24 years in pastoral ministry, I’ve noticed a pattern. Our view of God is often determined by the relationship we experienced with our fathers. Women, please don’t take offense at my observation, because none is intended. But to a great extent, our relationship with our earthly fathers affects the way we view God.

If you grew up without a father, chances are much greater that you tend toward believing in a God who either doesn’t exist or doesn’t care about you.

If you grew up with an abusive father, you likely believe that God is abusive with you.

If you grew up with a passive father, you believe God is powerless.

The same applies to manipulative fathers, deceptive fathers, unfaithful fathers…and good fathers.

Obviously, Jesus enjoyed a close, loving, intimate relationship with his father.

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Jesus’ Father Is Your Father

The correlation between earthly fathers and God shouldn’t come as a surprise. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he instructed them to begin by saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Few if any people before Jesus addressed God Almighty as “father.” To many, the term of endearment was considered disrespectful.

He told us that when we pray, we should say, “Our Father who art in heaven.” It’s interesting that we address our father “in heaven,” because it tells us that although they’re similar, our earthly fathers still differ significantly from our heavenly fathers.

Furthermore, Jesus told us that his—and your—father is good (see Luke 18:19). Not only is he good, but he enjoys giving good gifts to his children:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).

God gives us good gifts because he values us more than anything in creation.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

In fact, you mean the world to him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).

When the realization first hit me that God was my father, that he’s good, and that he really, really loves me, I could hardly believe it. But he does!

Join the conversation

  1. What was your experience with your father? How are/were they alike or different?
  2. How has your relationship with your earthly father (or lack thereof) affected your relationship with your heavenly father?
  3. How have you experienced God as your father?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “One Reason Why So Many Men Could Care Less About God

  1. Georgie-ann

    I would have to say that the early loss of my earthly father was a huge factor in my Search for God. Another blessed factor was the precious Love and Baptist Faith of my maternal grandmother, who not only taught me good-night prayers (while my very sad but atheistically inclined mother was going to night school), but eventually introduced me to The Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven,…”

    My grandmother was quiet, but the warmth and security of her Faith touches me to this day. The opening words, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven,” spoke to my childlike mind that in fact OUR missing father WAS in Heaven. And there’s not much arguing with a childlike mind! So in this way, the absence which I surely did feel in the ensuing years, was still connected with a sense of a Loving Presence in Heaven. My Search was eventually an irresistible effort to “connect all these dots.”

    I was born in a place and time in America when there still was “Faith in the air.” Our proverbial “Goodness” was palpable, and optimism was strong. It was pretty easy to “believe.” Since then, we have seen a huge decline in the public sphere of all these qualities, and tragically so.

    In the place of Our Good Father, the “false father Satan” has been doing his usurping and counterfeit best to undermine Everything Good,…and I DO mean Everything!

    During a particularly corrupt circumstance that eventually began to unravel itself “before our very eyes,” my ultimate conclusion came to be, “Well! I guess sometimes, in the absence of a ‘good example,’ we can really learn just as much from the bad example: just figure out what the opposite is and do that!” And unfortunately, I’ve found that I’ve had to do that more often than I would have liked.

    God motivates by Love. Satan’s tools are fear and hate. Coldness and withdrawal, cruelty, are symptoms of his work — NEVER God’s!!!

    Satan wishes to drive a harsh and intimidating wedge between the very things that God wishes to join in unreserved Love — Family being the prime target.

    If we look at the condition of the family in our post-modern culture, we find that each element has been viciously attacked and distorted by “conditions:” economic, visual entertainment media, philosophic, fashion, music, etc. Just about every example is Wrong. Kids are portrayed as very young and very mouthy, with adult scripted thoughts implanted in their minds, that never would have been there otherwise. The influence and roles of Woman’s Lib, Fathers in families?,…don’t ask. Everyone’s “just too busy being cool” (or “fabulous” or disaffected, or independent, or rebellious, or addicted and “out-of-it”).

    None of this reflects our Good Father God outwardly anymore. But He has still written His message “in our hearts,” which is where we have to look to find Him. If my heart has been broken by a poor outer earthly relationship, if I have been wounded or abandoned, hurt by jealous cruelty, I can ask myself, “What is it that I really wanted? What is it that I’m missing, that I long for?” Our Good Father God has these Good qualities and inclinations toward us — and can begin to connect positively with our lives, if we let Him, if we listen, if we seek Him.

    The “false father Satan,” has been doing his dead-level best to co-opt God’s Creation. Perhaps, and hopefully, his time is limited. When WE shake off the disillusioning lies and hurtful things and ways that he has “inspired,” when WE realize that ALL his ways are against God, and WE DELIBERATELY TURN AWAY from Satan and his lying substitutes, we can begin the journey that really will lead us to the True Reality and Kingdom of God and His Love.

    • Georgie-ann

      Luke 11:9,10
      9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

      • Thanks for your thoughtful replies, Georgie-ann. The sad disintegration of fathers in western society has gone a long way in impairing our relationship to our heavenly Father. Eugene’s father died when he was young, and it affected him deeply. I can’t imagine growing up without my father, who is still alive.

        Satan seems to capitalize most on our weaknesses. Unfortunately our “father wound” has left a gaping weakness in our society. Our church has started a mentoring ministry in the public high school where we worship on Sundays. The school supplies “at risk” students and we supply godly mentors. I’m excited to see where God will take this.

      • Georgie-ann

        iow, summing up a couple of things:

        (1) Being surrounded, immersed in and bombarded by such a negative “stew” as we find ourselves “swimming in” these days, inter-personally and otherwise, — where right is accused of being wrong or at least embarrassingly naive and stupid, and wrong is often held up as “cool” or even defended as “having rights” — we are being more challenged than ever to search inwardly, to study God’s Word and verify for ourselves that the path we choose and the choices we make are in line with “Who our Good God” really is. We will have to do much more than follow a group-y “copycat” instinct to arrive at and discern a walk that can be trusted in this life — iow, to find a truly authentic and positive life.

        (2) Given this sad state of affairs and the vulnerability of young humans to be adversely affected by others who have been adversely affected (and so on…), there is going to be much collateral damage entering upon the scene before awareness and pre-emptive measures can even be learned and taken. Thank goodness that we have a good God who understands us and this perfectly, and who has plans to rescue and heal and even reboot our lives!

        How important to me — in a way I couldn’t possibly have understood at the time — was my faithful little Baptist grandmother who taught me “The Lord’s Prayer.” She learned and grew her faith in a church family of faith and was passing it on. I like to say that “the Truth is Stronger than a lie.” Truth endures. Truth brings Light, healing and understanding. Truth sets us free from “old damaged conditions” and gives us a chance to reinvent our lives, as partners with God, in redeeming this time. And absent a specific individual, others with faith can certainly be helpful “stand-ins.” I applaud your work in these efforts!

        @ Michael, I just read your reply,…I agree that when this country backed off its “Backbone” made strong by valuing Righteousness and positive effort and sacrifice (being protective of woman and children “back in the day”), it lost or compromised principles that ennobled and supported some of the best qualities of manhood. Men were seduced into seeking and justifying a “pleasure principle” for its own sake. Women were seduced into seeking to own the “importance” role for themselves, that once provided for and protected them, by the men, usually. Children were seduced to think that they occupy special little precocious thrones and deserve to be served, indulged, every whim placated — a basic recipe for disaster, all the way around.

        And there is nothing of what is left that is sufficient to fill in the gap, until proper order is restored. There will only be more whining and crying, and “entitled” calls for help. But where is this help going to come from? (an oldie: “God helps those who help themselves.”)

        First God gave the instruction of Righteousness to the Jews, that the Law provided. (Coming straight out of Egypt, this was something they needed very badly, btw.) Without this as the defining backbone, there could be no basis for the Salvation and Mercy offered through the Lord Jesus Christ. A matriarchal society is much more prone to crying for help and “mercy” and even pity — and emasculating its males (early on). We are being influenced by such indigenous cultures and their “anti-values” to our detriment, and even finding high-sounding “intellectualized” reasons to comply with the destructive patterns.

        For all his evilness, nobody ever said that the devil was stupid (except in his ultimate decisions). He is a formidable and tricky foe. He loves to con — to get you to “have endless pity” on “poor him,” to appeal to your mental pride by selling you compromise positions with the principles of God’s Word. Lucky for us, the pure Goodness of God and His Word outshines all that when seen clearly.

  2. Georgie-ann

    oops, sorry,…but I omitted something I was alluding to, but neglected to say clearly:

    Perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of the process of becoming “free” of the burden of the overwhelming influence of satan on our lives, and the collateral damage (the sins, the hurt, the pain, the loss, the negativity and blindness) that we have experienced due to his co-opting — (by deception of Adam and Eve) — a prevalent role in the lives of ALL mankind on earth, IS:

    TO IDENTIFY CLEARLY “WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT EFFECT.”
    Once we understand and realize that it is satan alone, from the beginning of his co-opted influence, who has orchestrated the critical and negative effects against us, including death, and when WE FULLY REALIZE that the pain and suffering of the innocent is no pleasure to God, Who is calling us to Himself OUT of this mess, it becomes much easier to shake the “old snake, satan, loose and off into the fire.”

    God actually became visible to me at a moment of great despair, when I was crying out about, “how could I possibly be happy ‘under these circumstances’??” To which He clearly and calmly said, and smiling (which I found quite irritating at that moment), “Well what are YOU doing being under there?”

    The revelation “breakthrough” came to me that I was more FREE than I realized! I did not have to remain in the painful and abusive circumstances, and God was not any happier than I was about the suffering being inflicted. He told me, “Every time (..) hurts you, (..) hurts me.” He also invited me, “Come on up!”, but made no move to come down.

    Those were my clues. God was identified in a sympathetic and caring way with my pain. I still had to make every decision and “work out my own salvation” and path by faith that He was leading me out of my own personal Egypt. Before this, I did not realize that I could actually have become “innocently” entrapped by such dark circumstances. I was holding God, at least in part, accountable for things that had nothing to do with Him, and myself as guilty of somehow deserving the horrible mess I had been drawn into. I was unwitting, too trusting, but Satan had really blinded and tricked me into BLAMING EVERYONE BUT HIM. I had given our culture too much of a pass TO MISLEAD ME. The actual ugliness of satan is not always apparent to ingenue

  3. Georgie-ann

    uh-oh!,…I was working on that last one yesterday, and had NO INTENTION of posting it,…in fact, I just about rewrote the whole thing!,…I thought that I had copied both and saved them to be edited and/or completed later, as it’s unfinished,…and I don’t really understand how this one showed up here!,…maybe some kind of time lapse thing?,…dunno,…oh well,…so now you’ve heard the story that I was trying to distill into shorter terms instead!,…it’s true — nothing to hide — but I was “running on” so, that I was getting pretty sick of hearing my own voice inside my own head, and could only imagine how much “overkill” was happening!!

    This was truly accidental — a surprise to me — and I sincerely apologize if anything I’ve written anywhere is or has been offensive to anybody,…

    God bless you in all you do,…God is with you!

    Love, g

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