In his most recent General Conference talk, Elder D. Todd Christofferson illustrated the important connection between fathers on earth and our understanding of God.
Perhaps the most essential of a father’s work is to turn the hearts of his children to their Heavenly Father, he said.
When a father is righteous and loving, he is able to teach his children about the true nature of God. In his embrace, children understand God’s comfort. In his direction, children learn to trust and to follow gospel truths. In his constant companionship, children find God’s safety. A faithful father, notwithstanding his human imperfections, has a powerful impact on the way his children are able to build their eternal relationship with God.
However, when a child grows up with an abusive or absent father, it can be much harder for that child to trust in the very idea of fatherhood. Trusting, loving, and relying on God become much harder when all you associated with a father is abandonment or pain. In the midst of these lasting feelings, it can seem harrowing to try and building a healthy relationship with Heavenly Father. While not easy, it isn’t impossible. Here are some ways you can get started in coming closer to your perfect Father.
Study the Atonement of Jesus Christ
Through the scriptures, we learn that Heavenly Father’s love for us is so great that “he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Jesus Christ stands as the greatest testament of who God is and should be to us. The more we understand Christ and what he did for us, the more we will understand our relationship with God. Through the Atonement, we begin to form a better picture of who God was to us before this life and the kind of life we can enjoy with him in the life to come. There is a splendid reunion awaiting us! Brigham Young once said:
If any of us could now see the God we are striving to serve—if we could see our Father who dwells in the heavens, we should learn that we are as well acquainted with him as we are with our earthly father; and he would be as familiar to us in the expression of his countenance, and we should be ready to embrace him and fall upon his neck and kiss him, if we had the privilege.
It is Christ who can lead us to such a moment and as we seek him out we will be brought closer to our Father.
Focus on Honesty and Vulnerability in Prayer
Those who have gone through traumatic experiences with their fathers or father-figures can find it hard to be vulnerable. The body and the mind is trained to remain safe and avoid danger. People will go to great lengths to stop themselves from being hurt again. The unfortunate part of this is that healthy relationships are built solely on honesty and trust. If you can’t safely take a risk to show yourself to someone, then you limit your ability to be fulfilled by relationships.
This is why we need to show ourselves to Heavenly Father. We need to be vulnerable and open up the very depths of our hearts and souls to him. It doesn’t matter if he already knows. It doesn’t matter if we’re feeling and thinking things that are “wrong” or that “we shouldn’t say.”
The Bible Dictionary says prayer becomes natural and instinctive “as soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children).” Focus on praying consistently and openly, telling Heavenly Father everything and anything that is on your mind. Even in the midst of anger or frustration, keep trying to communicate.
Seek the Blessings of the Priesthood
The stigma of having “daddy issues” is real and more paralyzing than many people realize. There are many who struggle to trust men or feel uncomfortable around them. For all those who face these situations, the blessings of the priesthood can help rebuild your faith and comfort in men, fatherhood, and your relationship with God.
When you feel comfortable, specifically seek priesthood blessings from those you trust as you strive to understand how God feels about you. Talk with your home teachers and Church leaders. Attend the temple, whether you can go inside at this moment or not, and contemplate the promises God has made to you.
It isn’t easy to go through this life without a father you can trust or turn to. Sadly, more and more people in today’s world are facing just that. However, we can find hope in the fact that we can build an eternal relationship with our Father in Heaven and the idea that “though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.
He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love.”