Should Abuse Victims Call God “Father”?

abuse victims and God

Should Abuse Victims Call God “father”?

I spoke recently on Jesus’ Teaching on prayer. He taught his followers to pray to God as “father”.  But what if you are an abuse victim? What if your father abused you and the word “father” sends negative chills up and down your spine? Do you have to call God “Father”. This might seem like a trivial topic but for abuse victims, it matters.

Abuse victims tell me that seeing God as father troubles them. It shuts them down from God and prayer. What can they do?

As with any Bible teaching it’s important to go deeper than the word alone. The Bible teaches that “the letter kills but the spirit gives life” meaning that any teaching can end up hurting people if it’s not connected to the intention of God.

Is There Another Word Abuse Victims Can Use?

The spirit of Jesus’ teaching on prayer is that God is personal. We should refer to him with a term that we associate with a loving provider. The word Jesus used for “father” is even less formal than father. It’s equivalent to our word “papa”.  If the words “father” or “papa” don’t bring up good images that you want to associate with God, then what word does?  Maybe something as simple as “friend”?

My point here is to not get tripped up on the word “Father”. Jesus is communicating to us that God is approachable. He wants us to come running into his presence not stand off at a distance in fear. What you call him isn’t the focus here. Coming to him believing that he loves and accepts you is.

My first granddaughter is starting to talk. My daughter asked me what her daughter should call me; Grandpa, Papa, or the French term, Papi?  As I’ve thought about it I concluded that I really don’t care what she calls me. I just want her to know that I love her. I trust that she will find a word for me that works for her.

In the same way, God isn’t so insecure that he needs to have a certain title to feel respected. Mere humans can’t offend God so easily! I don’t think it matters to him what we call him.  He just wants us to call him!

God cares for abuse victims. He understands their situation…the pain, the memories, etc. He wants nothing more than to help you find healing…not impose a word on you that causes more pain.

Question: Do you agree or disagree with this? Has using the word “father” been a problem for you in relating to God?  Leave your comment below and “share the knowledge” by clicking the links.

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4 thoughts on “Should Abuse Victims Call God “Father”?

  1. SA

    I would say that honestly I feel uncomfortable using the word “father” when I pray, but despite being an abuse victim in my past, it was not my father…so for that reason it doesn’t fit exactly. My own situation, my dad was gone frequently due to work and I only lived with him until about the age 11. We do not have a close relationship and as a female I often wonder if some of my faith struggles are not somehow affected by my past connection/disconnection with father/parents. I know someone who refers to God as “daddy” which I think is so great, although I know that I couldn’t. Sometimes I wonder if it’s ok that I say, “Hey God…it’s me”. 🙂 I was actually thinking about this recently when I read something suggesting we all have the privledge to call Him “father”.

  2. fragmentz

    really thought provoking, thank you. I really like ‘God is not so insecure as to care what we call Him, just so long as we call’. Do you think seeing God as Mother works too?

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      I think it does. Some people get weirded out by that. But God is neither male nor female. God lacks gender. God encompasses both male and female attributes. The Father image is a nice way to convey God’s power and protection. But if your experience with males is the abuse of power then maybe power isn’t what you need right now. If calling God “mother” helps you tap into other sides of God, I don’t see a problem with that.

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