By Matt Haviland, Crosswalk.com
“He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6 NASB)
According to the latest statistics, approximately 24 million children in America live apart from their biological father; but that may not mean they are all completely fatherless. Please hear me when I say I am writing this with the utmost sensitivity and am in no way attempting to demean or put less value on anyone’s current situation. I’m all for finding ways to keep dads involved in the lives of their children and encouraging single moms who are parenting alone! Still, I believe the word “fatherless” gets thrown around too quickly in many situations, without putting the hard effort into understanding or assisting the bigger picture.
He May be Around
Just like many other scenarios, there are usually two sides to a story. Many times there are good, loving fathers who want to be involved to a greater degree in their children’s lives… but are hindered by barriers such as spiteful moms, courts, or even distance. In fact, I can name several men right now who would love to have more time with their children but are unable to do so because of the actions or decision of another person. Encourage the dads who may be in an uphill battle when it comes to custody; and speak truth when applicable about the need for both parents in a child’s life. Single parenting brings in brokenness, and often that brokenness turns to bitterness. Where can you step in to bring Christ’s love and truths into a situation like this?
Stop Condemning and Start Addressing
In our book The Daddy Gap, I make the following statement: In his Law of Motion, Sir Isaac Newton teaches us that “an object in motion will continue in motion unless acted upon by an outside force”. It does not matter how long a man [goes without a father], the fact is that he will continue down an unnatural path of despair unless acted upon by an outside force—that force being another man or God Himself.
It’s easy for us to throw a deadbeat label on someone, without giving much effort to get messy and involved in their life. I don’t believe every dad who is doing the bare minimum or on the fringe is a lost cause… but who is going to go get him? Look at the three parables Jesus tells in Luke 15. They all address two very important themes: the lost are found and sinners coming to repentance. Better yet, there is celebration for all of those involved. Granted, we all make mistakes, but a dad in a situation that is less than ideal is no more qualified for salvation than anyone else. We have the tools and resources as believers to go get them—which is exactly what we should be doing.
If a child’s biological father is not an option at all, father-figures such as a grandpa, uncle, or family friend can surely step in. Often, just having a strong male role model around sets a great example for a child to look up to. He fills a very necessary void. Behind ministering to single fathers, my greatest passion is mentoring—and I will continue to preach this message until every child in need of a mentor has one. A minimum of one hour a week is all it takes to make a huge difference in a child’s life. Ladies, do you have the heart to mentor a young lady who may need some extra encouragement? Men, are you willing to stand in the gap on behalf of a boy who desperately needs your presence in his life?
Cast Your Nets
When it comes to building fathers up and investing in kids without a dad in their life, we can do better. As the body of Christ, we have an awesome opportunity before us. What does this look like in your own community? Honestly, I cannot say. I realize everywhere is going to be different when it comes to resources, manpower, and demographics. Forget about what it may look like right now and how convenient it’s going to be—but envision how our world would be changed if we had a revival of fatherhood. There is no shortage of where we can go with this, just be prepared for a net-breaking haul when done the Lord’s way.
Our Father in Heaven, we come before You to stand in the gap on behalf of fatherhood in our land. Lord we pray for an awakening in the Church and to bring your gospel to all fathers and single mother homes. Use us to help restore the hearts of these families and relationships. Give us the boldness to go into the jails, centers, and communities to bring hope and healing. Lord, we lift up the men who are doing everything they can right now to be present in their children’s lives and ask that You would bless those bonds. Heal the hearts of those who may be bitter or spiteful towards a father and awaken the souls of the men who need to step up. In any case, help us not to pass judgement, but to see through Your eyes. God, we pray for mentors to flood the volunteer centers and to selflessly set time out of their weeks to minister to the least of these. Bless our families, Lord. Help raise up a new generation of fathers who chase after You will reckless abandon. Let Your Kingdom come and will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We ask all these things in Jesus’ name, amen.
Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry, the coauthor of The Daddy Gap, and the cofounder of the Midwest Single Parenting Summit. He is an ordinary guy who chases after an extraordinary God. Matt lives with his wife and daughter in Grand Rapids, MI. For more information, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: March 8, 2017