I’ve mentioned that I think lots of women have mother hunger. But father hunger is something that may be far more pervasive. The point seems to be that mothers fail and fathers fail. And when they fail in a spectacular way, there can be spectacular results. When mothers fail, daughters grow up without the role model they need. When fathers fail, girls grow up without the masculine leadership they need.
When Dad was absent (because of death, divorce, military duty, etc.) or when Dad was not being a good or godly father, it can affect daughters in multiple ways. Sometimes it can create an insecurity that drives the daughter to look desperately for masculine attention some place, any place, which then can lead to immorality, broken relationships, and an unhealthy desire to please. Or, a daughter growing up without a dad can feel uncomfortable around men, crowded and intimidated, not sure what they are thinking, especially around her.
I’m sure there are many other ways father hunger can harmfully affect women, and there will still be women who survive a fatherless childhood with a strong confidence and healthy outlook nonetheless. The world is a funny place. And since no father on earth can imitate God’s fatherhood perfectly, we all will have an unmet father-need of some kind or other to one degree or another. Since God has built the universe with a Father at the center of it, we will by nature long to enjoy a good relationship with our earthly fathers because we long to be on good terms with our Heavenly Father.
It seems to me that a woman needs to approach this with a matter-of-fact attitude. Everyone has handicaps of some kind or other. The key is to identify and strengthen the weaknesses and press forward. So, forgiveness is always step one. If your father was unkind, unjust, unloving, or un-anything else, you need to repent of any bitterness and resentment you have toward him, and ask God to forgive you for harboring the hurts for so long. Then ask God to mend you. It is good to be needy and to know you are. That way you are turning to the Lord, seeking His help, His healing, His guidance, and His grace. Though we are always needy, we don’t always have the sense to know it. So thank God that you see an area where you need His help. Then look to Him in faith.
The next thing to do is look at what the Bible says that women are called to do, and do your duties with joy. We can’t stop in our tracks whenever we detect a failing in our upbringing. We can’t refuse to press on because of the inadequate or even harmful childhood we had. We don’t need to drag it around behind us all our days. That is not pressing on. No one has had the perfect upbringing, and if yours was poor, comfort yourself that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been!
“There is not a man on earth who can satisfy the heart of a woman.” I remember reading this in a Walter Trobisch book, I Loved a Girl. His point is that women expect men to solve our problems and fill our hearts. But they simply cannot, even if they were capable of doing everything exactly right. So we must look to Christ to remake us, sanctify us, and make us into the women He wants us to be. No amount of looking at our neediness will fix us. No amount of blaming parents will fix this. Only faith in God can lead us out of neediness and away from ourselves and our troubles.
Here’s a little Thomas Watson: “Let not men and women pore too much upon their afflictions: that is, busy their thoughts too much to look down into their afflictions. You find many people, all of whose thoughts are taken up about what their crosses and afflictions are, they are altogether thinking and speaking of them. It is just with them as with a child who has a sore: his finger is always on the sore; so men’s and women’s thoughts are always on their afflictions….you should rather labour to have your thoughts on those things that may comfort you.”
If you want to read more on father hunger, Valerie has recommended a couple of excellent articles that you can find linked in her comment under the post titled Mother Hunger.
15 thoughts on “Father Hunger Too”
“Since God has built the universe with a Father at the center of it, we will by nature long to enjoy a good relationship with our earthly fathers because we long to be on good terms with our Heavenly Father.”
In college, as new believer, I was stumbled by the commandment to honor my father and mother–how was I to do so if they weren’t Christians? I pulled out my ‘morbid introspection mirror’ and ‘counted my scars’. (Dwelling on the scars of one’s youth gets one no end of misery, and meditating on how your life could be a Lifetime movie is equally depressing.) Mr. Wilson gave me some simple and terribly helpful advice on that particular stumbling point. He simply said, “the Ten Commandments says to ‘honor your mother and father’. It doesn’t say, ‘honor your mother and father only if they are believers’.”
How grateful I am for my father…a man who exemplified Christ to me and was a tool in preparing me to respond to my Heavenly Father. His example is an inspiration to me as a parent.
Thanks for recommending the links from Valerie.
Your book, The Fruit of Her Hands is very good in helping those of us with father issues to relate biblically to our husbands and in the body of Christ. The father issues are not directly addressed, but proper order, usually missing in those situations, is addressed admirably.
The whole naval gazing or being overly introspective, whether it’s about father hunger, mother hunger or any other thing usually causes one to start veering off the path since they’re not really looking up and looking forward. Ask me how I know? 🙂
I disagree. Acknowledging the problem does not have to lead to naval gazing, although it can.
It can also mean acknowledging the issue of brokenness and bitterness towards one’s earthly father, and how it has caused deleterious effects in our other relationships, including our relationship with God Himself, which should bring us to repentance and acknowledgment of our sin. The next step should be renouncing our sinful way of relating to God and others improperly, and seeking Biblical counsel in our relationship with God as our Father, and with others, so we can be restored and entered into the inheritance that God intended for us all along.
Re-reading what I have written, I sound kind of cerebral, and it was not a cerebral issue for me, but an emotionally loaded one. I was a Christian for over 20 years before I was able to call God, “Father.”
After dealing with the “father hunger” issue, I got on the Christian path in a life giving sort of way for the first time.
While I certainly can see that Nancy has hit a nerve, and that many women reading this site have mother/father issues, I just want to add something.
Be thankful. God is sovereign, and he did not mess up when he put you in the family you were born to. Moreover, God knows our weaknesses–he knows if you have a mom who did not model godly womanhood or a dad who was absent. God is good (always!) to his children! This means that through Jesus Christ, God can use hard circumstances for our good! Moreover, consider Paul’s NT instructors to parents, husbands/wives–many of those first hearers/readers *needed* those commands because they were new believers, coming from outside the covenant people of God.
Also, it helps me to remember that God will equip me to do his will and obey. As a young wife, I can often be tempted to compare myself with the excellent women around me–this one has a very clean house, this one is so organized, this one dresses so nicely on a budget, etc! It is good to know that God created me as an individual, with my gifts and interests, and that he doesn’t require me to be like every woman at church. It is good to remember that God has plan for my life, and that my purpose is to obey his Word, help my husband, and seek Christ in all of life.
This post hits home with me quite deeply. I won’t bemoan my history as I’m desperately seeking to respond to the Lord and not be entangled by the ignorance, pride–hence folly of my past relating to men. I’m quite ashamed of my behavior….however, I relish in the fact that my sin proves the Gospel. And I truly rejoice in Christ’ supremacy over all my failures. This is my only joy as I look at my past. I’m very thankful for your insights Mrs. Nancy as I’ve been following your insights (as well as the other ladies here) since September 2007 or so, I think. I’m grateful for you and all the writers here. I want to share one remedy that is working for me, as a classic textbook case of father hungar. In addition the Lord’s grace, I’ve found Godly mentorship. I’m grateful that the Lord has placed a strong godly woman (and her family) in my life to model for me how to love a man and respond to him in a godly way. She’s showing me how to love a family unit. She’s everything I hope to be should marriage be in the will of God for me. I’ve known her for about six months too, as around the time I found out about you, she came into my life. She’s 47 I’m 35 and she’s been such a model.
I relate to the part about “pressing on” that’s where my focus is and part of my pressing on is milking this season to be a fly on the wall with this family as well as trying to communicate the lessons I’m learning in an edifying way to anyone who has ears to hear. I’ve started a blog called in a few words. I’d really like the feedback of this board relative to my content. Ms. Nancy if you have time, I’d be honored if you’d share your opinion of my site after a quick browse. Every post is 500 words or less (see the 66 words post for why). I don’t expect anyone to read the entire blog but just a solid browse and if any topic moves you just let me know what you think and how I could improve. I’m concerned wanting the personal examples I share to be helpful not just venting. You may email me your response or comment at the blog.
Mrs. Wilson, that’s three posts in a row where you’ve knocked one clear out of the ballpark. (It really must be something extraordinary if it inspires me to use a hockey analogy!) Sandwiching “A Savior Who Saves” between the other two was perfect, as those of us dealing with father/mother hunger often struggle to keep the basic gospel issues straight.
I wonder if father hunger is more damaging precisely because it’s so closely tied to our understanding of the gospel. Fathers model Christ (accurately or inaccurately) to their children (both directly and through the way they treat their wives) much more powerfully than mothers do. Mother hunger seems to have to do with our understanding of how to do; father hunger seems to have to do with our understanding of how to be.
Could you expand on the notion of an “unhealthy desire to please”? What does that look like? What’s the demarcation between healthy and unhealthy there? Thanks.
Thank you for these words, Nancy. This and the mother issue is certainly an area that I’ve been working on ever since I became a Christian almost six years ago. It is a struggle with every fiber of my being to not pity over myself and wonder why God allowed me to go through all that until I finally left for college. I’m at the point where I can look at my past with acceptance and concentrate on my present but the Bible says we should be joyful, even over our past. Psalm 37:23 says ‘The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” How, this is a question that I wrestle with daily, how can someone with such a dark and pain-filled past also delight in the way God chose for us?
The only way is to delight in the Lord, and be thankful that He has brought you out and away from the dark past. He has shown a light on your path and lifted you out of the pit. In that you can rejoice. And you can believe Him that He really works all for good. That is your faith at work. Our work is to believe Him even when we don’t see it. We may never know the why’s for certain events, but we can still cultivate gratitude for His goodness to and for us. I don’t believe the Bible tells us to rejoice over the sin itself, whether it is ours or someone else’s. But we are to give thanks always and for everything, knowing that He orders our lives perfectly.
I, too, took note how “A Savior Who Saves” was smack dab in the middle of what I would consider to be some of life’s most difficult obstacles to overcome – mother/father hunger. Either you knew exactly what you intended here, Nancy, or you were really guided by the Holy Spirit as to the order of your posts. Jesus is able to redeem our lives in totality. All loss He is able to make as our gain, in Him. Beauty for ashes; streams out of deserts; tribulations into glory. Who is like our God? Jesus is there in the middle of our lives, at the very center, knowing from whence we came from where we shall go. Yes, Jesus is central and a wise woman will place her affections centrally on Him.
To echo a previous post, I have found that making the choice to be thankful for my father has made all the difference in the world. My father and I may never be close, but finding reasons to thank the Lord for him — for all of the sleepless nights and diaper changes, for tirelessly working to support our family, for teaching us the value of a good education, etc. — somehow makes the resentment for offenses I know I want to feel melt away. I cannot resent the good gifts that the Lord has given me, and so honoring my father has become more about the Lord than about my dad.
Whoops! Try again.
Here are some truths I’ve learned. Maybe they will help you as they have helped me.
If you grow up (as I did) saturated in the world’s system of education (which is surprisingly full of humanistic psychology), you are taught that you are inherently good. Insecurities, heartaches and so on can be traced to the bad influences ON you, FROM others, which are not your fault. You are breastfed self-pity and blame (and these come quite naturally anyway). This road inevitably leads to a great big bulls-eye of blame on the forehead of your parents. We are awash in this thinking and have a hard time extracting ourselves from it.
But the bible teaches that we are inherently bad, that we are sinners and would be sinners regardless of how good a job our parents did and that we are under a CURSE. For myself and others who had divorce in their upbringing, the divorce was part of the curse, but the divorce didn’t cause the curse. My parent’s inadequacies, sins, etc didn’t cause the curse–it was already there. Those things were a result of the curse. And I was also under the curse, not a victim of bad parenting. The results were very tangible in my heart–pain, loneliness, anger. All those emotions I felt are part of the curse.
When Jesus redeems us, he is liberating a captive; not an innocent captive of others but one who is also captive to his own sin, a captive of Satan, a captive of the curse. That is where you delight in your past. You realize you aren’t someone uniquely to be pitied because of offenses against you. You are a dirty rotten sinner just like those who have sinned against you. You praise God that He is lifting the curse from your life, redeeming not only you but also your children. He is stopping the flow and curse of sin down through the generations with you and beginning a Godly line with you. That gives one reason to rejoice.
When children are sinned against, God mightily takes note, as Jesus said with millstones and such. He will be a father to the fatherless. He sees the injustice to children and will render to each man according to his deeds. In other words, the sins against children are real; the pain they feel is real and needs real healing.
As I think Nancy wrote about, this process has come best in my life by plugging away at life, not stopping to lament, but persisting in prayer to ask God for healing. God brings events, people, all sorts of things to bind up our wounds and heal them, and it’s a slow process. But 20 plus years down the road I can say that Jesus is such a healer and has done much more than I had ever hoped.
Hope that helps.
I come back sometimes to this post and the mother hunger one to reread posts and comments. To any of the writers who see this, thank you very, very much for sharing. And to those who wrote to address my concerns in particular, thank you so much for taking my problems I didn’t know how to deal with seriously and caring enough to respond! Know I really have appreciated the wisdom!