When Father’s Day is not a Happy One

when Father's Day is not a happy oneI’m not gonna lie. If there’s one day I dread each year, it’s Father’s Day.

For many families, it’s a time of celebration; a day honoring the men they love and admire.

Every year, we go to church surrounded by families only to watch them all disperse to after-church lunch venues. In that moment, my husband and I look at each other with half-hearted smile and ask, “Well, what do you wanna do today?”

Because for some of us, Father’s Day isn’t always a happy one.

Because standing in an aisle full of sappy Daddy cards leaves some of us feeling either a little broken-hearted or embittered.

And I’m betting we’re not alone.

A Father-Shaped Hole

Studies show that fathers play a central role in who we are and who we will become. Your relationship with your father will affect all your other relationships in life. A girl’s view of men will be largely shaped by her father whereas a boy will look to him for his sense of manhood and approval. A father remains central to a child’s innate “sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity”.

The word Dad conjures up all kinds of emotions and memories on Father’s Day. And not all are good ones.

What do you do when Father’s Day leaves a father-shaped hole in your heart?

Maybe you experienced the tragic loss of a father. Or you’re a single mom trying to parent alone. Perhaps you were abandoned by the one man who was supposed to be there. Abused by the father who was supposed to protect you. Or your father is physically present but emotionally cold and distant. Maybe your heart aches to be a father, yet the role continues to elude you.

For us, Father’s Day is another reminder of what we’ve lost. Though our fathers took drastically different paths, we were both left with our own version of grief to bear.

If this is you this Father’s Day, you are not alone.

You do not have to force yourself to be happy. It’s important to recognize the loss. It’s ok to grieve. To be raw, honest, and real.

But regardless of your situation, there are ways to still have a good Father’s Day even if you did not have a good father. Even when you no longer have a father. Even if you are still not a father.

Celebrate your heavenly Father

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 27:10, “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close”.

Even if your father was absent, abandoned or abused you, God will not. God will not use and abuse you. He is not impatient, harsh, cold or distant. God is the perfect kind of Father; affectionate, gentle, patient, personally engaged, offering wisdom and direction without finding fault. He disciplines us out of faithful love and genuine concern for our well-being. He is the perfect role model. He never asks us to do anything that He has not already done.

Fathers play a central role in who we are and who we will become.

But your Dad doesn’t have to define your life.

Jesus can transform and redeem even the most hopeless situations. I have seen firsthand how a little boy abandoned by his father grew up to be a strong and godly man, quick to help others in need. I have witnessed a little girl’s world tragically rocked at the sudden passing of her father, yet out of the ashes she has risen stronger and more confident. I know of a woman who held her dying husband in her arms as he whispered that she forgive his attacker. Even in death, he gave his family a living legacy of faith and forgiveness.

Only Jesus can do this.

A personal relationship with your Heavenly Father will impact who you are, your relationships, and who you will become more than any earthly father ever could.

Celebrate with the fatherless

To those who will be celebrating with loved ones this year, don’t forget about those around you. Think about the people in your world. Do you know a single parent? A couple who doesn’t have family in town? Someone who has lost a husband or father? Are there children in your life who have no one to celebrate on Father’s Day?

Step outside your comfort zone and invite the fatherless to join you this year.

It doesn’t hurt to ask. We can always say no. But at least offering a place for us to be on a difficult day may just be what our heart needs.

Celebrate the good memories

Instead of spending the day lamenting over what has been lost, choose to celebrate the good. Use it as an opportunity to remember the good times even if they are few and far between. Use it to celebrate a legacy and a life that once was a part of yours.

Though I lost my father years ago, we now have another godly man in our lives to celebrate! And though we are still miles apart, we remain thankful for the good God has brought out of our grief.

So this Sunday, focus on the good times. See the blessings you have today that have transpired out of what was lost. Spend time with those you love.

No matter your situation, this Father’s Day can be a happy one. Because you have a forever Father who is faithful, who will never leave you, and who will perfectly love you.

“[Today] is the day the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

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