I shouldn’t be writing this. It’s eleven p.m. and I have a busy day tomorrow. There’s a good chance that I’ll wake up in the morning and scratch the whole thing because it’s not likely I’ll make much sense at this hour…But I can’t not write it.
Sunday is Father’s Day. We all know that. But I’ve had two nagging questions churning in my head and heart for several days that have never been there before. I simply can’t get away from them. The first is really quite natural:
“What about the fatherless?”
What about the children who will pass through this Father’s Day not knowing who their daddy is, where he is, why he left them, why he had to die, why he’s in prison…didn’t he love them? Did THEY do something to drive him away? Was it their mom? Was it someone else? Or was it just him?
Monday, the thought was brought to the forefront of my mind again when a friend tagged me in a Facebook post. The meme she’d posted was a picture of the most beautiful, happy child and Psalm 68:5, “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” I knew the Lord was trying to keep my attention fixed on that question—What about the Fatherless?
Tuesday afternoon, I ran across this article about the fatherless in Richmond, VA. Sixty percent – you read that right – sixty percent of the children in Richmond are in single parent homes. That’s more than half, folks!
Harsh though this may sound: We’re celebrating dads WHO JUST AREN’T THERE!
Tuesday evening, I found myself on the Facebook page of a receiving home in the town where I attended college. I was grieved as I read one particular post, which detailed why this is their busiest time of year: School is out, so neglect and abuse increase. The post went on to praise the teachers who protect the children—from their parents!!!
SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE!!!
My heart is breaking.
My first thought is to run to the aid of the children.
My second thought: How can we turn things around? How can we bring things back to where they ought to be?
Then I come back to the second of the two questions that were originally churning in the back of my mind:
How would JOB have celebrated Father’s Day?
Okay, I know that’s one of those where-did-that-come-from questions—I mean, Job has been dead for millennia—but the question is legitimate.
Of all the characters in the Bible (other than Jesus), Job and Mordecai probably vie for the coveted position of the man who knew best how to care for the fatherless. Both took it very seriously, but let’s stick with Job for a minute. In Job 31:17-23, we see his outlook, his reason and his approach to caring for the fatherless:
He was serious about this: If I have/haven’t done these things toward the fatherless “then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone.” (Job 31:22)
O-u-c-h! The only thing I’ve ever broken are teeth and fingers; but I have dislocated a shoulder as Job seems to suggest here, and I know this much—ALL of them hurt! Why would he be so serious about it? Was he just being dramatic? I think there are two simple answers. First, he knew he had behaved rightly toward the fatherless and there was no danger of suffering such horrific pain. The second answer is most likely found in his reason for caring for them.
He Feared God: “For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure,” (Job 31:23)
Job lived before God gave the law to Israel, but He seems to have a pretty good grasp on how seriously God regarded this matter. In Exodus 22:22-24, God reveals His position on the matter. He said if we “afflict” any widow or fatherless child and they cry out to Him—are you ready for this?— HE WILL KILL US WITH THE SWORD! We don’t take this issue as seriously as God does; I’m pretty sure of that. Why? Because we don’t really fear Him. We say we do, but we don’t. We don’t take HIM seriously. If we did, we would honor and obey Him. We would care for the fatherless, the widow, the poor and the needy, and the stranger.
So what about Job? Let’s say it’s Father’s Day, or perhaps a few days before Father’s Day, and Job goes for a walk. As he reaches the city gate, he sees a child whom he knows to be fatherless. He stops and considers that the child will have no father to celebrate. How does he respond? Pity? Momentary sadness that is quickly forgotten in the tasks of the day? I think the answer is found in His two-fold approach to caring for the fatherless.
He Gave Of His Own Supply
• He fed them with his own food (Job 31:17).
• He warmed them with fleece from his own sheep (Job 31:20).
He Was A Guide And Helper
• “For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father,” Job 31:18.
• “And I have guided her from my mother’s womb;” Job 31:18.
• He gave them aid when he saw them in need. (See Job 31:21.)
Chances are he would take that child by the hand, lead him to his home, set him at his table, instruct him, counsel him, teach him as if he were his own child, and, at some point, both show and explain to him that God is the Father of the fatherless: He need never fear.
What about us? The numbers in Richmond are higher than the national average, but the national average is still over forty percent. That means nearly half of the children we know may have no daddy to celebrate with this Sunday. Who will show them God’s love? Job knew it was up to him, just as it is up to us.
So, as usual, I’m issuing a challenge—A two-part challenge. (You may be wishing I’d woken up and scratched this right about now, but give it a chance. You stand just as much a chance of being blessed through this as anyone else!)
1. Get out a piece of paper.
2. Write down the names of children you know who have no father, or whose father has no part in their lives.
3. PRAY. Ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to them this weekend. Ask Him to show you how you can point them to Him as their father.
4. Follow His direction. (DON’T do this for conscience sake, or so you can check off a box, or because you want to bask in the warmth of knowing you did something good. Don’t do something without giving consideration to whether or not it is appropriate. Act as God leads you. Proceed with sensitivity and caution—and an abundance of love.)
Believe it or not, this is the easy part of the challenge. The second part goes back to my second response to the post by the receiving home: How do we turn things around?
But first things first—