Beloved of God

Popular culture and biblical truth:

I should begin by stating that I do not have the television on all the time – although some of you might think so. But often an article of mine on this site will be inspired by some recent TV viewing. That is the case with this piece. Because the wheels in my head are always turning, and lateral thinking seems to predominate, I often find things in film or TV that I can write about, and even churn out devotional pieces on.

So let me mention just two things I recently saw – or at least parts of, and then tie them into a biblical message. The first involved seeing part of the 2019 film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood about the famous American children’s television presenter, TV presenter Fred Rogers (1928-2003).

I had actually seen this movie with my wife five years ago at the cinema when it first came out. I wrote up my impressions of the film back then:

In that piece I focussed more on the Christian faith of Rogers, and how the film downplayed that. But seeing it again just days ago, with my wife now gone, I have had a different and more emotional response to the film. In it, Lloyd, a cynical and jaded journalist, is sent to write a story about Rogers. He at first was going to do a hatchet job on him, but as he got to know him, all that changed.

Lloyd was estranged from his dad, who was unfaithful while his mother struggled with and died from cancer. His hatred of his dad consumed him and coloured his life. But in the film Rogers befriends Lloyd, and seeks to have him deal with the past, and offer some forgiveness, and so on.

In the end he does. But the point is, like millions of people worldwide, a bad or non-existent relationship with a father can have a lifelong negative impact on folks. Being unable to deal with that can lead to all sorts of problems, from drug abuse, gang involvement, to suicide. Rogers, the Presbyterian pastor, was able to point Lloyd in the right direction, and to help him deal with the hole in his soul.

The second thing I saw – just last night – was part of the 2018 documentary, “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind.” We all know about the American comedian and actor Robin Williams (1951-2014). He was married three times, dealt with drug and alcohol issues, and was quite depressed later in life. He took his own life at age 63.

One thing the doco often made clear was that while he was a very quiet person in his personal world, he came to life on stage, and seemed to live for the attention and applause of the audience. That was what drove him and energised him. Especially as a stand-up comic, he craved the approval and praise of the audience as they roared in laughter at his jokes, improvisation and high-octane performances.

On a side note, British comedian Eric Idle said of Williams in the doco, he had “a restless mind”. When I heard that I thought that seems to nicely describe my mind. It never seems to stop or slow down. Non-stop thoughts bounce around in my head which in part explains why I find it so hard to fall to sleep easily. Often there are one or two hours of tossing and turning – and hard-core thinking – before I finally fall asleep. But I digress.

So if Williams was so successful, so loved worldwide, and so wealthy, why did he take his own life? Like Lloyd, he had his own inner demons to deal with it seems. We ALL need and want the approval and affirmation of others. That is natural. But above all, we need the approval and love of God in order to really thrive and flourish.

Spiritual takeout

The sad truth is, countless millions of people are starved of love and acceptance. That deep need is not being met, so all sorts of false routes are taken to fix it. For Lloyd, drink, anger and bitterness were ways in which he sought to cope. For Williams, it was feeling accepted and loved by the audience.

As I said, there is a place for human affirmation, acceptance and avowal. We all need that, and we should expect to find that in the home at the very least. But far too many people do NOT get that from their own parents. Either mother and father break up, leaving them devastated, or in so many cases, children are brought up in homes where there never has been a father present.

So we have zillions of the walking wounded out there. They are seeking love and attention, but in all the wrong places. They think being popular, or being successful in business, or being powerful, will give them what they are so desperately seeking.

One can simply consider the issue of homosexuality, where the majority of those heading down this path report having no fathers around, or an abusive or aloof father. The love and attention they so very much needed as a child was just not there. So now they seek for that but in the wrong places.

The truth is, we are all broken and wounded people. And even those who have been Christians for a long time can struggle in these areas. I know that I do. I may have written countless articles on God and his love for me, but what is in my head may not always be in my heart.

I too often feel starved of love. I too often wonder if God really loves me. Of course he does, but my own upbringing had in some ways worked against me being able to fully appreciate and receive God’s love. Not to belabour all this, but while my parents loved me, they almost never said it to me. Perhaps like many parents back then, they did not really know much about how to properly express love and affection.

Let me mention a line from two films, and then offer a few biblical passages in closing. In the Rogers’ film, Lloyd finally meets up with his father who is now dying. The father admits his many mistakes and faults, asks for forgiveness, and tells Lloyd this: “I have always loved you.”

Of interest, it seems the exact same line was used in another film that I also discussed recently. It also had to do with this broad theme of people looking for love and acceptance. In the Steven Spielberg film A.I. a non-human boy who nevertheless has emotions, always seeks to earn the love of his human mother.

Centuries later, when her mother is long gone, but the AI boy remains, others are able to bring her back to life, but only for 24 hours. His previous home is recreated, and he spends the day with his mum. She tells him as she is falling to sleep, “I have always loved you.” With those beautiful words the boy falls to sleep next to her, finally at peace. But see more on this here:

That movie always brings me to so many deep, deep tears. And in both films, genuine healing and restoration was accomplished when those words were heard: “I have always loved you.” If two Hollywood movies can deal with these fundamental truths and realities, how much more the real and living God?

We know from all of Scripture that God is love, that he loves us, and that he has always loved us. Yet for so many believers – me included – it just seems too hard to let that reality fully sink in. I STILL doubt it, or do not come close to understanding it, and fully allowing it to transform me.

Consider just two of so many texts that can be offered here. In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah we find this incredibly moving and powerful word given to wayward Israel (31:2-4).

Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
    found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
    the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
    O virgin Israel!
Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
    and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.”

And verses 7-9 speak of what I have been discussing here about the father love of God:

For thus says the Lord:
“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
    and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
    ‘O Lord, save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.’
Behold, I will bring them from the north country
    and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
    the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
    and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
    in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn.”

The New Testament of course also speaks of Father God and his love for us. In 1 John 3:1 we find these words: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

The crisis in the world over father-absence and mother-absence seems to be getting worse – certainly in the West. More and more wounded children simply grow up to become wounded, angry, dysfunctional and embittered adults. They desperately long to know and experience real love and acceptance.

While most humans – including too many parents even – will let us down in this regard, God never will fail us. His love is indeed eternal. And he loves us as a father who is always committed to us. Yes, there is some maternal imagery found in Scripture as well, such as what Jesus said to Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” So we can also see a mother’s love as we consider the God who is there.

Two films – and there might be others – have the amazing words uttered, “I have always loved you.” In one, a mother spoke these words to a young boy, and in the other, a father spoke them to an adult son. They both needed so very much to hear and receive those words.

Please pray and ask God to let his eternal love fully and forcefully sink into our thick skulls and hardened hearts. I know I need this desperately. And many of you do too.

[1843 words]

12 Replies to “Beloved of God”

  1. Bill, your post today is one of the most beautiful, moving and pastoral ones you’ve ever written. May I offer you my heartfelt thanks.

  2. I relate to Peter, who, though forgiven, restored and saved – still had doubt. Paul, too, who wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Because one doubted and the other persecuted, both suffered unworthiness.

    So go we, the more we know we are saved. Why? We don’t deserve it.

  3. I had to shut myself in my office for a time at work today after reading this – it touched me deeply.

    While the causes of the trans wave currently swamping and drowning many families are many and varied, one of the more common reasons cited, especially when men take this path in adulthood (20s onwards) is an emotionally distant and emotionally abusive father – withdrawing love and approval and ignoring the child for extended periods (weeks and months) of time whenever the child fails to measure up in any way. With some young men this eventually manifests itself in a hatred and fear of being anything like the father – even the very thought of being male is abhorrent. Declaring “I don’t want to be anything like you” is probably the most potent weapon such young men can wield against such a father. Such young men need prayer to encounter the light, love and knowledge of the heavenly Father who would love them and father them if they would but call out to Him.

    Once I was finally able to free myself and my children from 20 years of such an existence, I surrounded them with a wonderful group of strong Christian men and fathers in the absence of their own. While strong connections with these men were formed that sustained the boys through their mid – late teenage years – men to whom I owe an undying debt of gratitude – it was not enough. The boys always knew that there was a specific man who was supposed to be in that role, leading them into manhood and he had let them down.

    But trying to resolve the issue by pretending one is a woman doesn’t solve anything as we know. The craving for the love of an absent father runs deep and, as you say in your article, the love is sought in ways that are nothing short of destructive and horrifying to contemplate.

    In his book ‘Faith of the Fatherless’ Paul Vitz wrote something that has stayed with me – something I have observed in my current work with the mess that families have become these days. While not discounting the impact, importance and role of mothers in a child’s life, Vitz says that the character of the father seems to have a greater effect in terms of long term outcomes for children, for good or for ill, whether the father is a Christian or not. He says that a strong, loving, involved and available father will generally end up with stable, well adjusted, resilient children even when the mother is far from ideal, but if the situation is reversed – where the mother is the better example -involved, loving and maybe even a Biblical faithful Christian – and the father is absent or uninvolved or abusive, that the children are still likely to grow up with considerable issues. In my 12 years work with families I see this exact pattern working itself out in the stories and accounts of these families as I try to help to ‘make things a little better where I am able. The children of an involved dad and a poor mother will often have fewer problems, but when I work with a good mother whose former partner might have drug and/or alcohol issues, or issues with the law, no matter how hard she tries she cannot be a dad to her children, just as I could not be one to mine.

  4. Perhaps the best article you have written, Bill.

    In our harsh world where the authority of truth and love has been usurped by fabrication and hedonism, those who know and love truth suffer just like Jesus had to suffer. This is the taking up of our cross. God softens our heart and we feel the full impact of the worldly deceit and people’s unjust self interest but unfortunately, this is what has to happen for evil to be judged and condemned for what it is.

    This is the patience of the saints. We have to know that truth will eventually prevail. Wickedness will be destroyed and we will then be able to enjoy the full fruits of God’s love and Truth. We will see the full loving kindness of the Father without interference but that which is decreed will be need to be poured out on the desolator and it will not happen until we see the necessity of doing this. We will see and declare “Holy, holy holy is the Lord God almighty” and know fully that His ways are true, just and kind. His and our authority will be restored because Truth will again reign. Those who cling to truth will be given authority over much because they have proven their love of truth, justice and faith in the small things.

    These are currently harsh but nonetheless true matters. Very well written, Bill.

    Blessed are those who mourn.

  5. Thanks for this article Bill. It resonates strongly with me. Losing my dad to cancer when I was 12 emotionally crippled me for many years and led me into relationships which hurt me and increased my feelings of not being good enough. My mother did her best but she was damaged as well. When I was saved at the age of 32 a lot of healing took place. I am now 72 and after years of prayer, therapy etc I believe the hole in my soul has nearly closed. I have experienced the love of God in many, many ways over the years and I am so grateful, so thankful to Him but the “feeling” that God is real and that He loves me is something I haven’t really experienced. He has shown me in practical ways and has been so faithful to me and my family. Blessings

  6. Another great article Bill, thanks, And thank you for sharing, Anonymous.


    That’s what it comes down to. It is what every child looks to in a father. Yes a good father is so much more than this, but if a child doesn’t get validation from their father then they will spend the rest of their life in the pursuit of it, usually disastrously.

    If we don’t get it from our fathers, the best cure for this is the validation that we get from our Father in heaven, YHWH. I too have a bit of personal experience in this. And consequently have tried my best to ensure that my four children got this from me. (Praise the Lord that He is there for them too, for all four of my adult children are travelling very well.)

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