Alot of us grew up without fatherly guidance, and when we come into Christ we end up opening unseen wounds our father's (or lack there of) left us from childhood. Each time God wants to reveal Himself to us as our Father, we end up treating Him like our earthly father and push Him away. We know our failures are our own, but without understanding how God wants to heal these wounds, we end up in a loop of destruction, Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." So what do we do? Let God's Word heal you...
The failures of our parents can create stumbling blocks that if left unaddressed, can cause a stunted growth in Christ. We know the love of God is our strength, and His approval is the confidence we stand on when He sends us as a light to shine in a dark world. But it's hard to stand on His love when your understanding of fatherly love has been so perverted. Our earthly fathers teach us what a father should be, they set the tone and create expectations. When a father fails his role, misunderstandings become cemented in the mind of a young child, their understanding of a father becomes perverted and they grow up building on this foundation. Our growth in Christ is reliant on identifying as His child, but if this perverted foundation isn't removed and replaced, a stagnation starts to sink in.
It's hard to understand the selfless love of your Heavenly Father, if your earthly father hated you. It's hard to see the love in God's rebukes when our earthly fathers corrected you out of hate. It's equally hard to understand your Heavenly Father's approval when your earthly father only gave you rejection. This applies to many other areas, but you can see how a perverted foundation teaches us to subconciously treat God like our earthly fathers. Our earlthy experiences set our heavenly expectations, but this isn't fair to God. We know not everyone is trying to rob us so why treat everyone like a robber? If your earthly father was merciles, would it be fair to assume God would be merciless to you?
Our response to this reality has to be to disconnect our expectations from our experiences. We need to learn to let God's word replace our experiences and let God's truth set our expectations. Lay aside your past sufferings and let God reveal Himself as the loving father the word testifies Him to be.
In my own walk, God revealed to me I was mistreating Him as my earthly father. I was trying to gain His attention through works and would fall to rejection when I didn't get the attention I was looking for. He revealed to me that I've never lost His attention, even when He's silent. And when He shares His love with His other children, He isn't ignorning me. They too have been given the same love through Christ and He wants to love on them equally! Then He said something that I'll never forget, "I'm a much better father than any man could ever be!" This truth applies to all of God's children, you can't gain His attention or love because Jesus' sacrafice bound His heart and eyes to you!
Josah's story in 2 Kings 12 can relate to many of us who've suffered from failed parents. His father was killed and grandmother Ahaziah responded by killing all the children from the house of Judah. Young Josah had no say in who his family was, he was an innocent baby who couldn't even form an opinion and yet he was already a target. He was rejected before he could even walk, but God had a purpose for this young man.
His aunt Jehoshabeath ran in to save Josah from death and swiftly hid him in God's house for 6 years. He was miraculously crowned king at seven years old as his grandmother was killed for her treason. Later in Josah's life he dedicated himself to God and led Israel through a massive revival.
The question here is how, how did Josah, who was rejected at birth, not suffer from rejection? How is it he didn't turn out to be an evil king, or suffer from the trauma of his upbringings? The answer is simple, he was raised in the love of a father and mother. God gave him his aunt and and uncle as his new parents. His aunt rescued young Josah in the same way any mother would, and loved him as such. His uncle was a priest in the house of the Lord, and it was during this time in Josah's life, he received the love of a father and was embrased by the love of a mother. He learned what it meant to be a son and watched his new father set the example of what a man of God should look like, as he "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him." (2 Kings 12:2). God used his aunt and uncle to fill the void his parents left in his heart.
This is a beautiful testimony of God's delivering and nurturing hand, but not all of us got the same replacement parents as Josah. But that's where the Word of God gives us hope! Although Jesus had parents, he didn't receive them as his parents. He denounces His mother and family in Matthew 12:47-50 "...Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." And Jesus' mind was on His Heavenly Father's will even at 12 years old, Luke 2:48-49 "48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"
So how can we receive God as our Father and walk in the same strength as Jesus Christ? By realizing the same love that delivered young Josah, is the same love God has towards you. The same way Josah's aunt saved him from death, Jesus' love delivered you from eternal destruction at the cross. The Holy Spirit has always been with you, and no matter how bad it's been, it could have always been worse. The Holy Spirit has guided you away from destruction and disaster time and time again, and counseled you in the same way a loving mother would. He knows your heartache and suffering, and has always been leading you to the answer! The Holy Spirit is never "done with you", or mistreated you. His guiding love has been faithful throughout all your life. So why not receive his love in the same way you would a mother's? Josah's adopted father was a priest and raised Josah in the way of the Lord. Jesus is our priest and and God's word shows all of us how to live Godly lives. So why not receive His counsel like a Father?
God offers Himself as a loving Father, guiding voice, and selfless Savior. It's our job to respond in faith and accept Him as such. He can be your Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Deliverer, Healer, Righteousness, Father, Teacher, and Friend but for this to happen you have to let go of the past.
Your Father isn't like those that raised you. He isn't rebuking you because he's threatening to send you to hell, he's correcting you because he loves you and knows what's best for you. God's love is infinite and isn't limited to just a singular moment in worship, it's limitless and He wants you to make it your strength. Learn to approach God as a child, discover His love through His Son, and come to Him as a student when you have questions! You're invited into his presence and you won't be rejected.
I think now is as good of time as any to apologize to God if you've ever treated Him like someone He's not. With all this said, you need to learn to respect Him as a Father. God doesn't move forward unless the past is dealt with. You will need to confess any hate or rebellion you've had against your parents. You will need to ask for forgiveness for ever speaking against them and for rebelling against your first authority. Everything from idolizing parents, to stealing from them, confess it to God and don't go back to it. The deeper you go with repentance and confession, the deeper the hand of God goes to take the roots out. Just let it out and confess the truth, He's not going to bring it back up or use it against you.
A few tips I've learned that have personally helped me grow in the love of God:
Let the Word speak to God's character
Worship God in your private time and don't resist the tears when you feel the Holy Spirit.
When preparing your heart to ask God for something, approach Him as a kid! (It'd be hard to imagine a Father refusing to provide for his child's needs)
When a child is hurt, does the child try to figure out how to heal himself? No, he runs to his parents knowing they will deal with it. So why do we try to diagnose our problems when we suffer? Let God reveal what's wrong and let Him heal it!
Call Him Dad! Whatever title you're most comfortable with, pops, father, etc. Get comfortable with Him, formality in prayer distances you from His heart.
Tell Him how your day went, tell Him what happened at work, tell Him what you're thinking about. Yes, He saw it when it happened and knows all things but it's special when you tell Him again! Do you ever get tired of telling people about how God saved you? Or how about how you met your spouse? EXACTLY! God feels the same why when you do the same throughout your day!