The Problem of Fatherlessness in America: It's Not Too Late
How many of you have ever said, “I’ll never do to my kids what my dad did to me!”?
Most of us have said that at one point or another. These are natural reactions to hurt we’ve received, even if we had a great dad. But what about those of us who didn’t have a present, loving father? What about those who had an emotionally distant father, an absent father, or an abusive father?
Without the model of a present, loving father, boys grow up to become discouraged or despondent husbands and fathers. Some feel it’s just easier to leave, so that their kids don’t suffer from their mistakes. Unfortunately, this only perpetuates the broken cycle of fatherlessness that initiated their feelings of unworthiness in the first place.
This is the problem of fatherlessness in America.
According to the National Center for Fathering, recent statistics show that “more than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.”
This problem has also reached into our mainstream newsfeeds with concerns of what happens to fatherless boys when they grow up. How do we approach this growing issue of fatherlessness?
These concerns are not unfounded. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that children from fatherless homes account for:
- 63% of youth suicides
- 90 % of all homeless and runaway youths
- 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
- 71% of high school dropouts
- 75% of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers.
(“What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities?”, U.S. Department of Justice)
The issue of fatherlessness is nothing new. While the number of fatherless children today continues to grow at an alarming rate, the issue was present all the way back in the Old Testament of the bible. The prophet Jeremiah wrote in the book of Lamentations:
“Orphans we are, not a father in sight, and our mothers no better than widows.” (Lam 5:3 MSG)
Jesus came to change this orphan song. He said:
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
He was speaking to each and every one of us born without a present, loving father in our lives.
When young boys are raised in a home without a present, loving father, they suffer. Boys tend to ask the question, “Who am I?” and “Am I good enough?” Without another man present to answer this question for them, they spend their life trying to find their identity and prove their worth through their exploits, careers, and other accomplishments. While most of these young boys will grow up to be fathers themselves, they often lack the tools necessary to provide their children with a present, loving father—even if that is their very heart’s desire.
So what is God’s answer to fatherlessness? Is it too late for men in America to rise up and become the men, fathers, and leaders they didn’t have themselves?
The book of Malachi gives us a clue as to how God plans to heal this issue of fatherlessness:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6 ESV)
God has a plan to not only heal the issue of fatherlessness, but to heal the wounds you personally have suffered without a present, loving father in your life: your father wounds. He has a plan to heal your family, your community, and yes—the whole world.
God’s plan is two-fold. He plans to turn the hearts of fathers back to children. And he plans to turn the hearts of children back to their fathers.
But first, in order to do this, God’s plan is to become your father.
“…and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18 ESV)
God designed you for a purpose. He gave fathers a special job to bless and lead their children, so that their children would know the ultimate Father, God Himself. Unfortunately, with the growing problem of fatherlessness, so many children are growing up without fathers to bless them and to lead them. Perhaps that’s your story, too? God has provided a way for you to come directly to Him as your Father, to receive the blessing you never got from your own father.
How does God the Father become your Father? God the Father adopts you into His Family when you put your hope and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, and receive His free gift of forgiveness. When this happens, it changes how you father your children, because it changes how you’ve been fathered.
God’s plan isn’t just to change you into a great father. He wants you to have a great Father yourself. It is through this relationship and blessing from your new heavenly Father that you receive the blessing you need to pass on to your children.
“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children…”
This is the first part of God’s plan to turn the hearts of fathers back to children. When you receive the Blessing of the Father for yourself, God will begin to turn your heart back to your children. This process happens when you discover how much God the Father loves you, and the great lengths to which He’s gone to be your Father.
These truths can be further realized through daily reading and meditation upon God’s word. Knowing that God has blessed you to be the father to your children—and has given you everything you need to be their father—empowers you, and turns your heart to stay and be the present, loving father that He has called you to be. This empowerment and direction comes through the daily hope of the Holy Spirit, which God the Father promises to all of His children. This is the first step in changing the tides of fatherlessness.
“He will turn the hearts of children back to their fathers.”
If God’s plan all along was to turn your heart back to your children, then He also has a plan to empower you to be the father your kids need you to be. It is never too late to become that father!
God promises that He will turn our kids toward home again, AFTER He first turns our heart back to our children. This process is often long and arduous, especially when there has been hurt due to our lack of presence or love for our children.
But even these wounds can be overcome by the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Love and forgiveness are powerful tools when we allow God to use us as a humble example of His love and forgiveness for us. However, this is only possible if you’ve first been forgiven and loved by God yourself.
Many young children live in bitterness, and shut down in their relationships because of wounds they’ve received from their fathers. This is not a reason for you to shut down as well; this is an opportunity for you to take the first step in love and forgiveness even if your kids have hurt you.
Here are a few questions you can ask your kids that will help begin the healing process of turning their hearts back to you.
- Can you help me understand how I’ve hurt you, so that I can ask for forgiveness?
- Can you help me understand what you need from me as your dad right now?
If you have the courage to ask those questions, you have taken a gigantic step in restoring your relationship with your kids.
God has a plan to heal the problem of fatherlessness and to heal your father wounds: He wants to be your Father!
So your heart turns back towards our children.
So your children’s hearts will turn back to you.
It’s never too late to be the father your kids need you to be, and to have the Father you’ve always wanted.
Remember, the Father loves you and sent His Son to let you know!
To assist you in creating a daily routine of reading God’s Word, connecting with the Holy Spirit and receiving the Father’s Blessing, we’ve created a free devotional that reviews key scriptures essential to being a good father. It comes to you by email every day, takes only a few minutes to read, and connects you to the Father and the Holy Spirit every day. Click here to sign up for the free devotional!
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Published on April 4, 2018.