Father’s Day is coming up and I don’t know what to do. How do I biblically honor a father who was physically and sexually abusive my entire life? I want nothing to do with him and I’m still afraid of him. Does God tell me to try to have some sort of relationship?
First, let me say I am sorry for what you experienced as a child. Evil is everywhere, including many homes. God hates what happens to children when their parents misuse their positions for wicked and self-centered purposes.
Many of my clients have severely questioned God’s love and his goodness because of their traumatic childhoods. They wonder how God could say he loves them when he allowed this kind of mistreatment to happen. They question if God is really good or does he even exit?
It’s beyond the scope of my response here to address those questions but for those who might need some help with them, please check out a book called, Beyond the Threshold of Hope, by Diane Langberg. She is an excellent clinician and godly woman who specializes in helping childhood abuse survivors. God hates what your father did and how he treated you. It was evil, selfish, and not loving in any way.
Your question right now is how does God expect you to handle your father.
First, what happened to you was not your fault. You were the child, he was the adult and what happened to you is a part of your life story. However, as an adult, you will be writing the next part of your story. It will consist of what you are doing and going to do with what happened to you. What kind of person are you becoming not only in spite of what happened, but because of it? This is your choice and your struggle.
When evil thrashes our soul, our human tendency is to become overwhelmed by it. We feel depressed, useless, unlovable, hopeless, shameful, fearful, and bitter. We shut down our desires, dreams and hopes because we’ve been so wounded that we never want to feel that vulnerable or badly again.
I want you to understand that your struggle right now is much bigger than what to do on Father’s Day. You are in a battle for your very personhood. The apostle Paul describes it this way, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12).
Paul also writes that we do not fight this battle with human weapons, but with spiritual ones (2 Corinthians 10:4,5).
Paul tells us how to win this battle. He writes, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
What does all of this have to do with honoring your wicked father on Father’s Day? Because of what happened in your childhood, you will be especially tempted (emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually) to be overcome by evil. The only way you will keep this poison from turning you into someone evil, is to fight back with good. Doing so does not overcome your father (or the evil person) but you can overcome the evil done to you as you walk in the truth, light, love, and the goodness of God.
What does that mean? It does NOT mean you must have a relationship with him. When someone harms us and is not sorry or changed, it is not wise to try to have a relationship with them, nor does God ask us to. But it does mean that you will overcome evil with good by praying for him so that he may see the evil of his ways. It means that if he has a need for care or some other help, you will do what you can to help him. This isn’t because he deserves it, he doesn’t. It’s because you are not allowing evil to overcome good in you. God calls us to love and to do good to even our enemies. Remember, do not allow yourself to be defined by what happened to you, but rather what God is doing in you and who you are becoming.
I’d encourage you to do good by making sure you are working on the lies that you’ve believed about yourself so that Satan does not have a louder voice in your head than God’s Spirit does. And, as he gives you the strength and courage, there may even be a time when you speak to your father about what he did, inviting him to repent.
So, to answer your question about Father’s Day. God’s word tells us to honor our fathers and mothers. He doesn’t quality this by saying, only if they were good parents. Here's an example where the apostle Paul respected someone in authority who wasn't worthy of it, but he did it anyway because of his position.
When the apostle Paul defended himself before the Sanhedrin, Ananias, the high priest, ordered that Paul be slapped across the mouth (abuse of power). Paul reacted to this initially by calling Ananias a hypocrite and telling him that God would strike him. But when Paul was informed that he had insulted the high priest, Paul immediately felt remorse, because he knew God had said, “You must not speak evil of any of your rulers,” Paul didn’t stop defending himself, but he showed respect for the position of high priest, even though Ananias was corrupt.(Acts 23:1-9)
Pray and ask God how you are to honor your father for his position, not the way he carried out his position. Perhaps it’s only that you start praying for your father and asking God to show him the evil of his ways. Maybe it’s with a neutral card saying that you hope he has a nice day. Perhaps it’s not at all right now but you begin thinking about how you will do it for next year.
In my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, I share my struggle with my mother. She was not as abusive as you describe your father, but it was still very hard for me to figure out how to honor her, mostly because I did not want to. I never even spoke to her for 15 years (she didn’t speak to me either) while God was doing some incredible healing in my life. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t do anything yet. Just work on the larger battle I mentioned earlier and be willing to learn how to overcome evil with good. As you obey in this area, he will show you how you can specifically honor your father and will give you the right moments to do so.