If you had a dad that reflected the love of God toward you in many ways, you've been blessed beyond measure. And this article isn't for you.

But if you were afraid of your father, never felt loved by him, or just wished the two of you could've been closer, you are not alone. You - like many women I've met and ministered to over the past 30 years - had expectations for your father that he wasn't able to meet. And your heart may - to this day - even have problems with seeing God as your "heavenly Father" because of the negative emotions - or disappointment - the word "father" evokes.

My friend Sharon can relate.

For years Sharon tried to make sense of the physical abuse, incest, and other horrific events that accompanied her childhood. Feeling for years that God hated her, Sharon buried her pain deep inside and blamed a god she believed was just like her angry, abusive, manipulative father.

"I had a love-hate relationship with God," Sharon told me. "I wanted him to help me, but I saw him as mean and cruel and looking down at me with his finger pointed at me. I had a lot of faith, but I also had a lot of anger. There was a disconnect between my belief in God and what God looked like on a daily basis."

Finally, Sharon admitted, "I had to believe in a God so different from the one I believed him to be; I had to believe that the good God was real and the bad god was a lie." And she did that by going to the Scriptures and letting them reshape her understanding of who God is.

You can reshape your understanding of God, too, by getting into his Word and discovering, as Sharon did, that:

  • God isn't a father who considers you "bad" but a Father who said in his Word: "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).
  • He isn't a father who points his finger at you and waits to punish you. He is, instead, the God who said in his Word, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you ...thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • He isn't a father who desires that you be punished. He is the God who is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
  • He isn't a father who wanted you to suffer for his own selfish gain. He is, instead, the God who laid down his life to suffer in your place so you would not have to be separated from him for eternity (Romans 5:8).
  • He isn't a father who will withdraw his love from you if you do something he doesn't like, or if he is in a bad mood. He is the Father who says nothing can ever separate you from his love (Romans 8:38).

Once Sharon knew the truth of who God is, she knew she could trust him as her Father, and the Healer of her heart.

A large part of Sharon's healing process involved praying to the true God of the Scriptures and asking him to heal her hurts - and her entire being - in every way, using Psalm 139:23-24 as a guide:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting."

"My goal was for God to search me and strip out everything in me that was not good, that was damaged, that was wounded," Sharon said.