Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3–4—NKJV)

There is a huge difference between fathering a child and being a father. Nowhere is this more evident than in the cities across our land. It seems that we are being inundated with news stories about the rise of the numbers of women who are the main breadwinners for their families and stories about the number of births to unwed mothers. Our society is in decline for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is the lack of men who are serving their family by fatherhood. Think of the number of government institutions that have been created to fill, scramble to oversee, and fail to replace the vacated responsibilities of a dad. Though Paul was speaking of spiritual fatherhood in 1 Corinthians 4:15–16, his truth applies to our culture when he says, “for though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me.”

Becoming a father makes you related; fatherhood allows you to build a relationship. Becoming a father requires no responsibility, no provision, no protection, no character, no structure, no obligation, no lasting presence, and no illustration of the fatherhood of God. When a man, imperfect though he is, steps up and fulfills the obligations of fatherhood, all of these needs are touched in the lives of his children. For a man to willfully ignore his duties in his fatherhood makes his children easy prey for the unscrupulous, exposes them to the dangers of nature, causes them to be dependent upon the charity of strangers, and places them under the tyranny of chance.

God uniquely cares about those who are styled as “fatherless and widows” in the Scriptures. Psalm 68:5–6 reads, “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families.” Psalm 10:14 and 18 reads, “…You are a helper of the fatherless…to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.”

The fact that God refers to Himself as a father instructs men of their potential and their significance. Fatherhood is a calling, an opportunity to embrace the stewardship of fatherhood. Those who embrace this relationship well in the life of someone else serve as earthly illustrations of the fatherhood of God.

Of course, there are bad fatherhoods. They resemble the fatherhood that they experience in Satan’s family. John 8:44 reveals, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” It is this kind of failed fatherhood that leads to such biblical statements as are found in Exodus 20:5, “For I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations….” Thankfully, for those who are seeking to be good fathers, the verse continues with these hope-filled words, “but showing mercy to thousands [of generations], to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Good fatherhoods resemble verses like Psalm 103:13–14, “As a father pities his children [tender love], so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” This is the fatherhood that our Lord illustrates in the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:20, “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” It is to this Father that our Lord teaches us to pray with the words of Luke 11:2, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name.” Our reference above reminds us that God is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Taking their cue from God’s fatherhood, men ought to boldly take the reigns of fatherhood like Job did in Job 29:12–17, “I was a father to the poor, I searched out the case that I did not know.” Paul states in Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” 1 John 3:1 reads, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” Fulfill the role of godly fatherhood to meet needs around you. Trust and obey.