There’s a picture I keep tucked in my Bible that was captured about thirty years ago. In the photo, my dad and I are camping out in the living room beneath a blanket fort. Raggedy Ann is tucked safely in my lap, and my arm is stretched proudly across my dad’s shoulder. (Special mention to my trimmed bangs looking real nice.)
During my childhood, my dad’s health significantly declined, and he spent eleven years living in a nursing home until his passing in 2007. Despite his illness, we were very close. I keep this treasured photo in my Bible to remind myself of the special moments we shared and to remember that in my dad’s absence, God is a “father to the fatherless.”
In Scripture, God is called our “Abba Father.” Depending on your relationship with your earthly father, identifying God as “Abba Father” could trigger insecurities related to abandonment. You may question God as being truly kind and good since your earthly father didn’t embody those qualities. Even for those people who were raised by loving, attentive fathers, they must still recognize their fathers’ faults and limitations to understand the perfection of our Abba Father.
Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” In the Aramaic language, “Abba” means “father,” so Paul–the author of Romans–is communicating to the reader, “Father Father.” Imagine the earnest and tender way a child will call out to their dad. At our house, our girls say their dad’s name (at minimum) 15 times before they finally accept he’s watching them do their fancy leg twirl trick. Repeating this name of God–“Abba Father”–reflects an intimacy with God as our father, and not just as our Heavenly Father, but the kind of father that a child calls for with great affection and familiarity.
As this verse in Romans states, we are not bound by a spirit of slavery to live in fear, but we have the privilege of crying “Abba! Father!” because we have received the Spirit of adoption of sons. In other words, when we submit our lives to Jesus as Lord, we’re adopted into his family as a daughter. Tim Keller says, “The only person who dares wake up a king at 3 am for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.” As his children, we have the freedom to approach Abba Father with anything on our heart, knowing he not only hears us, but he cares.
Pause for a moment and praise God for being your Abba Father. Thank him for his perfect wisdom and his loving-kindness. We could easily feel anxious if we dwell on these recent earthly crises–isolation, financial instability, threats to our health. Confess your worries to God, and ask him for peace. Rest in knowing the same good Father who longs to bring you comfort is also the sovereign King who sustains all things by his powerful word. We have that kind of access.