When Father's Day is Hard

On the surface, Father’s Day may seem like a happy holiday marked by barbecues, family photos, and a celebration of all things dad. For many of us, though, the holiday carries more weight and surfaces emotions that can be hard to acknowledge and express on a day designed for gratitude. You may have experienced the loss of a father you held dear and the holiday reminds you of the void that just cannot be filled. Perhaps your relationship with your father is complicated or painful, and Father’s Day just serves to highlight this or surface an unmet longing. The holiday may be a heavy reminder of the child you have lost--through death or disconnection--and grief that your heart carries each and every day. Or you may find yourself overwhelmed as a father who did not have a good example growing up. If you find yourself in a hard space for whatever reason this Father’s Day, you are not alone.

If you are carrying pain connected to Father’s Day, God sees you and is near. We need only to look at Scripture to be reminded that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” (Psalm 34:18). God doesn’t leave us to face our pain alone. And not only is God near but He also invites us to honestly share our hearts with Him. God isn’t afraid or bothered by our authentic expression of difficult emotions and invites us to bring our whole selves when we come to Him. The Bible provides many examples of individuals giving voice to their grief and wrestling, from David’s writings in the Psalms to the book of Lamentations to Jesus’ own experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. When we choose to express our pain before God, this practice is called lament.

Lament opens us up to experience God’s presence with us in deeper, more expansive, and transformative ways. We invite God in to comfort and bring healing to those places where we are hurting. Lament is simply any prayer that describes with total honesty the pain, sorrow, anger, and desires we are experiencing while also expressing trust in the relentless goodness of God. In lament, all our feelings are welcomed; nothing needs to be censored or held back. Also, we get in touch with our desires. What do we really want or need from God? Finally, we are invited to return to a place of trust in God’s plans, purposes, and provision. In lament, our pain is named and known and entrusted to God’s loving care.

As you recognize the pain you are personally carrying this Father’s Day, we invite you to engage in the practice of lament. You may want to write your own lament, expressing to God the fullness of the emotions that you are carrying around the holiday. To support you with this, a step by step guide has been provided. If you don’t feel comfortable or ready to write your own lament, you are welcome to pray one of the Father’s Day laments provided here.

 

How to Write a Lament

1. Prepare to Lament

Reflect on what aspect of life you are grieving that you want to bring before God in lament. For fathers, it could be an experience from the past or something that you are currently facing. For sons and daughters, it may be a memory from childhood or something you have experienced as an adult child.

Questions for reflection and response
As a father, son, or daughter, what area of your past or present relationship feels wounded?
Where are you experiencing pain in relation to your father in this season?
As a father, how have you experienced broken relationships with your children?
As a father, son, or daughter, where are you experiencing pain in this season?
What did or do you miss out on in your relationship with your father or child?

Possible starting points
God, lately I have been feeling...
God, I am upset about…
God, as I look back on my childhood, I feel…


2. Cry Out to God

Begin your prayer of lament by calling out to God

Questions for reflection and response
What name do you want to use to address God? It may be something from Scripture like Rock, Refuge, Shepherd, Lord, King, etc…
Why do you want to bring this specific prayer to God?
Do you notice any ways that your relationship with your father or children has influenced your view of God?

Possible starting points
Oh God, my rock…
Most merciful God…
How long, O Lord?


3. Complaint

Describe the problem; give an honest description of the hurt, heartache, injustice, loss, anger, confusion, or sorrow you’ve experienced.

Questions for reflection and response
What specifically do you need to express to God?
What language might help you describe what you are feeling? Many Psalms of lament use metaphors like drowning, burdened, unending darkness, emptiness, crashing waves...

Possible starting points
I am so frustrated that…
I am hurt that this did not happen for me…

4. Petition

State what you want or feel like you need; ask God to act or respond.

Questions for reflection and response
What is your deepest desire from God?
What do you want for your specific life situation right now?
How do you desire your relationship with your father or children to change?

Possible starting points
God, please intervene and…
Lord, change this…
Look at me and answer, Lord…

5. Expression of Trust

State what you hope is possible. State your trust in God (or your desire to trust). Name your gratitude for God's Goodness.

Questions for reflection and response
Is there something you can look back on in which you experienced the presence of God’s love in your life?
What attribute of God can you thank God for at this moment?
Is there an aspect of your relationship with your father or child that you can be grateful for?
What does it look like for you to express your hope in God for transformation in your father-child relationship?

Possible starting points
Even still, I trust you God…
God, I thank you that…
Yet I will praise God, because…

References:

“Writing Your Own Lament” - Jenna Perrine

“How Do I Express My Sorrow?” - Rebuild Leader’s Guide Session 8

Psalm 13

 

Examples from Father’s Day 2020

For the Loss of a Father

Lord, my heart aches from the loss of my Dad.

It feels so unfair that I was so young when he passed. I wish I could have just one more day with him. While I know that can’t happen, God, I’m so thankful to have witnessed you provide for my widowed Mother and bring my family closer through that loss.

Lord, I pray you will heal my heart from the jealousy I have of those who still have time with their fathers.

Your love for me, God, comforts me and carries me through.

 

For a Difficult Relationship with a Father

God, my Father, You love me unconditionally. I KNOW I am a beloved child of Yours.

Today I reflect on Father's Day and my relationship with my earthly father. I am broken-hearted about all of the time missed together making memories and sharing milestones. I am saddened by all of the misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and frustrations that keep us at arms length. I am angry by all the ways that he has hurt me with his words and actions. I am sorry that I have not always shown him respect when I have been angry with him. I realize I don't always see the ways he shows his love because it is not the way that I would like to receive love or it does not fit within my understanding of love. Through it all I still crave a deep connection with him. I desire to have a close bond that I've seen other children have with their fathers. I am deeply hurt that this was never the case for us.

Lord, please move in our relationship. Please heal the pain, hurt and loss held on both sides of this chasm that divides us. Please bring peace, understanding, connection and unconditional love.

I trust in you Lord, wrapped in your embrace I can live as the one you created me to be.

 

For Generations of Heartache

Father in heaven, why does my father on earth cause so much heartache? I have never seen my father manage emotions or apologize, so what hope have I? Sometimes I am tempted to think that if I avoid the selfish failings of my father, that will be enough for my wife and children, as if by keeping a car out of the ditch I am automatically a good driver. My successes as a dad just remind me that I never had a dad who took interest in me.

God, give me the strength to face my father and to show him love. I cannot be the one to fix all the messes, but help me to navigate these troubled waters. Spare my mother and siblings from more grief. Sometimes I feel so helpless.

Heavenly father, thank you for granting me abundant chances to learn from the past. I know that you sent people to me who have stood by and kept me from self-deceit. I place my trust in you, the only one who can put all things right someday.

 

For the Loss of a Child

“Will my eyes adjust to this darkness? Will I find you in the dark – not in the streaks of light which remain, but in the darkness? Has anyone ever found you there? Did they love what they saw? Did they see love? And are there songs for singing when the light has gone dim? Or in the dark, is it best to wait in silence?

Noon has darkened. As fast as they could say, ‘He’s dead,’ the light dimmed. And where are you in the darkness? I learned to spy you in the light. Here in this darkness, I cannot find you. If I had never looked for you, or looked but never found, I would not feel this pain of your absence. Or is not your absence in which I dwell, but your elusive troubling presence?

It’s the neverness that is so painful. Never again to be here with us – never to sit with us at the table…. All the rest of our lives we must live without him. Only our death can stop the pain of his death.

How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself. We strain to hear. But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God.”

― Excerpt from “Lament for a Son” by Nicholas Wolterstorff

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