God as Tender as a Mother?

Does God have a Feminine Side?

The Motherly Love of God?

By Grantley Morris

Any feelings of love, softness and warmth
that the word ‘Mother’ elicits –
God is all that and more

(This Webpage in Bemba)

My passionate yearning is for this webpage to be both highly biblical and go way beyond touching merely your intellect. The goal of the following – indeed of the entire website – is to help you fall more deeply in love with the most fascinating, exciting, wonderful and lovable Person in the entire universe.

A committed Christian of very many years standing confided that an early draft of this webpage had empowered her to see God in a thrillingly new light. ‘What a huge difference!’ she wrote, ‘Instantly I felt I could communicate with God again.’ For the first time, she saw God as being highly protective of her. A satisfying and much needed sense of security in her relationship with God flooded her. Suddenly she knew that God could be trusted to keep his covenant with her.

Her experience hints at why I am writing. No matter how intimately you already know God, my longing for you (and me) is for a spiritual revelation propelling you into life-transforming greater fulfillment in your relationship with God. The prayer of my heart is that my writings be a launching pad from which you leave my words behind and get caught up in a divine encounter.

In Luke 15 Jesus delivers three consecutive parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost (prodigal) son. In them, God is likened to a shepherd and a father. Some of us are shocked to realize, however, that in the middle parable, Jesus likens God to a woman (Luke 15:8). Should this really surprise, since God made both male and female in his own image (Genesis 1:27)?

I am driven to write about our perception of God’s ‘gender’ because it has profound, practical implications for us, and can deeply affect the warmth and nature of the most satisfying, fulfilling and vital relationship any human can enjoy – our relationship with God.

Gender is a highly emotive issue for us humans. It is at the very core of our being. It is such a primary aspect of human identity that gender is usually the first thing we notice about a person and what we most want to know when sizing up a stranger.

To think of God as a father or mother would hit us deeply even if it only raised gender issues but by linking God with parenthood it can send our sensitivities through the roof. Our strongest emotional bond during our most impressionable years is with our parents. If something goes even slightly wrong with that foundational relationship, causing the love and trust that children instinctively want to give their parents to be violated, it affects profoundly our every other relationship until our dying day, unless we experience a remarkable degree of healing. Even among those who think they have survived their childhood unscathed, many think of a father as colder and sterner than a mother and this unconsciously affects their feelings for God.

Yet another emotive layer to this mix is that those who truly know spiritual truth correctly recoil from any whiff of pagan religion. Rightly or wrongly, any hint of God being anything other than emphatically male conjures in many people fears of paganism or departure from biblical truth. Occasionally fear might protect us, but it also has the disturbing potential to paralyze what should be our relentless quest to know the God of the Bible with ever increasing depth and accuracy. Our only true protection is to be led by the Spirit, not driven by fear.

So the issue of God’s gender and linking God to parenthood by using the word Father, profoundly interacts with the deepest part of us, affecting us not just intellectually but causing the feelings of many of us to cool toward the warmest Person in the universe.

People who think themselves better than those whose emotions cause an irrational reaction against the thought of God being a father, seldom have any right to feel smug because they are often the very people whose rational and spiritual pursuit of truth is stymied by an emotional reaction against the notion of God being like a mother.

The real God is the God of truth. And fear, emotions and prejudice are the enemies of truth.

Regardless of the position taken, much that is said on this subject reveals more about our personal hang-ups and biases than it does about the heart of God. To have any hope of diffusing some of this we need to take a wider view before zeroing in on the issue of whether it is biblically accurate to think of God as a mother.

* * *

Life’s Greatest Adventure

Let’s begin by intensifying our passion for discovering all we can about God and by gaining deeper insight into why life’s greatest adventure centers on continually growing in our intimate understanding of the most beautiful Person in existence. Like a babe’s knowledge of its mother, our knowledge of God can be warm, intimate, fulfilling and continually growing but there still remains much beyond our capacity to understand. Our lack of understanding can at times be frustrating, as it is sometimes for children not understanding adult wisdom, tastes, sexuality, and so on. Growing in our knowledge and understanding of God, however, should be as exciting as lovers getting to know each other.

The Almighty is so much bigger than us that the never-ending challenge is to keep bursting the confines of our own hang-ups and narrow human thinking and shallow reading of Scripture. We need daring humility, a courageous passion for reality, and a yearning for divine intimacy if we are to continually expand our understanding of God to include more and more of the full biblical revelation of who God is.

Even a brief meditation on the following Scriptures will affirm that our highest calling and life’s most thrilling adventure is to know God as intimately and as fully and as accurately as humanly possible.

    Romans 1:21-22 Because, knowing God, they didn’t glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools

    Jeremiah 9:23-24 The Lord says, Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, don’t let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says the Lord.

    John 17:3 This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ.

Job knew God so well that we read:

    Job 1:8 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Job? For there is no one like him in the earth, a blameless and an upright man, one who fears God, and turns away from evil.”

Yet still this man of God had grasped so little of God that he later declared:

    Job 42:5-6 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Knowing God deeper is an on-going adventure:

    Ephesians 1:16-17  . . . making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him

    John 8:31, 54-55 Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him . . . ‘It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is our God. You have not known him, but I know him. . . .’

    Isaiah 55:9-8 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    Psalms 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of your law.

    Matthew 16:17 Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. . . .’

    Jeremiah 29:13 You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.

    Exodus 33:18 He [Moses] said, “Please show me your glory.”

    Mark 12:28-30 One of the scribes came, and . . . asked him, “Which commandment is the greatest of all?” Jesus answered, “The greatest is, ‘Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ . . .

Let’s pray:

    Dear Lord,
    The magnificence of your glory, the perfection of your ways, the depths of your intellect, the scope of your powers, the vastness of your love, and every other aspect of your nature, far exceeds human comprehension. Nevertheless, relative to what we are currently capable of grasping, we do not want to settle for a hazy or inadequate or even fanciful view of you. We want to know the real you. To know you is to love you, and to love you is to want to know you more.

    If we have misunderstood you or limited you, leaving ourselves with feelings for you that are colder than you deserve, we ask that you melt our hearts with a deeper revelation of who you really are. If you are more wonderful, more beautiful, more desirable, more thrilling, more lovable than we realize, we ask that you open our eyes to see you more fully.

    We ask you to explode any blockages that our past hurts or prejudices or worldliness or small thinking might have created. We want you to captivate our hearts, taking us on a never-ending journey of discovery of the breathtaking beauty of your heart.

* * *

God’s Courage

    Deuteronomy 32:15 . . . he abandoned God who made him, and rejected the Rock of his salvation.

More than twenty times the Bible calls God a rock. That’s a bold act because by calling himself a rock God leaves himself wide open to misinterpretation.

This is typical of God. Consider for instance when Jesus lost a huge portion of followers by saying that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He could easily have expressed that far less offensively but instead of carefully explaining, he used it to differentiate between those who genuinely wanted the true God from those who preferred a god of their own fancy; a god who requires little faith because he is within the scope of their own intellect.

If you want a staid, predicable God, you are doomed to an inferior earthly life and perhaps even a terrifying eternity.

To qualify for life’s greatest adventure, you must be willing to tolerate mystery. If you want a God you always understand – one who will not so frustrate and mystify you that you often feel offended – then you do not want the true God at all. You want a fanciful god of human invention, not the God who is too driven by his love for us to limit himself to human ways rather than use all his resources – his infinite intellect, supernatural ways, access to dimensions that we cannot even conceive of, and so on – to lead us into what is best for us.

The Bible choosing to call God a rock is not in any way a denial of the fact that God has many abilities beyond that of a rock, such as intelligence, senses and emotions. Likewise, the Bible calling God Father cannot of itself be taken to deny that God has attributes far beyond those of a father.

To say that God is a rock does not mean God is unfeeling. Likewise, to say that God is a father cannot of itself be taken as implying that he is lacking in motherly softness or feminine tenderness. To know whether God is more feeling than a rock and has motherly compassion necessitates a deeper exploration of biblical revelation than hasty presumptions based on a couple of words.

We might despise rocks as cold and hard but it would be foolish to reject the Judeo-Christian God as cold and hard if, in fact, the Bible reveals that God is loving, gentle, kind and compassionate, and that he is a rock only in such ways as dependability, agelessness and a place of shelter and safety. It would be a tragedy of eternal proportions if we were to rob ourselves by rejecting the God of the Bible just because some preachers or certain superficial readings leave us with the false impression that God is cruel, harsh or egotistical.

It would be a serious mistake to create a God of our own making that suits our own whims and fantasies. We must come face to face with the real God, as truly portrayed in the Bible, not as we guess him to be as a result of a superficial encounter with him or shallow reading of Scripture.

Just because some people think warmly about fathers does not mean that even for them there are not thrilling, staggeringly beautiful aspects of God’s nature that are not adequately covered by the word ‘father.’ Not having hang-ups about fathers does not mean a person has grasped all the depths and beauty and love and purity and goodness and wisdom of God. No matter how much we know of God’s heart, there is still more to learn, and no matter how deep and sophisticated our conception of God, our understanding is still shallow and over-simplistic relative to who the almighty, eternal, holy, infinite Lord really is.

As a friend, commenting on an early draft of this webpage, wrote:

    God is a rock, but not just a rock! God is also a father, but not just a father. To say God is only Father would be to apply human constraints on a limitless God.

* * *

God is Not a Man

Many societies twist and distort males, forcing them into a mold that is contrary to God’s conception of masculinity. Jesus – the perfect man and the perfect revelation of the heart of God – cried often and had a tender heart. In fact, wherever we look in the Bible – even among men sometimes mistakenly thought of as being somewhat callous, such as warrior David, Old Testament prophets, loud-mouth Peter, and the apostle Paul – we find men crying. I suggest you let your eyes glide over the vast number of biblical references to men crying. You might be amazed at the impact of seeing all the references gathered together. That many of us think it unmanly to cry shows that there is a softness about the biblical conception of masculinity that is often lacking in our view of what it means to be male.

Nevertheless, one of the most basic biblical revelations is that God is not a man. Neither is he to be represented by the image of a man.

    Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor the son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?

    1 Samuel 15:29 Also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent.

    Romans 1:23 and traded the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man . . .

I know a woman who from a very tender age was not just molested but sexually tortured. Understandably, she became so sexually inhibited that as a teenager she recoiled from so much as a glance at her partly unclothed body such that she had no idea what even her pubic hair looked like. Very many sexual abuse survivors have shared their hearts with me, along with many married couples, yet today this woman stands out as so remarkably healed that although she is highly moral, within the sanctity of marriage, the average Christian wife seems riddled with hang-ups in comparison with her.

This outstanding healing came about by God, without any human intermediary, personally and very intimately teaching her about human sexuality and marital love. What allowed this to happen was this woman’s assurance that God is not sexual and therefore fully trustworthy in the realm that terrified her.

As she discovered, God is not anti-sex. He is the Creator of sex. Nevertheless, he himself is not a sexual being. To develop sexual feelings toward him is as inappropriate as it is to have sexual feelings for any non-human, whether non-living objects, animals, demons or angels.

God is not a man. Neither is he a woman.

At least until very recently, almost every application form asks for your sex and date of birth. God couldn’t answer either question. They apply to earthly creatures but not to the infinite Lord. He couldn’t even give you his street address or telephone number.

‘What is God’s sex?’ is as meaningless a question as, ‘How old is God?’ To have sex (gender) implies not only sexuality but a certain incompleteness outside of union with the opposite sex. There is no incompleteness in God.

To think of God as either male or female – as humans are – is not only theologically mistaken, it is an insult to God. God is neither fully male – which would imply some sort of need or yearning for a female God, nor is he an emasculated male, as if there were something lacking in him. The Almighty is perfectly whole and self-sufficient.

God is not only not sexual, he is not even physical. He is warm and personal and yet he is spirit. He has many qualities of which our own are reflections, and we have such compatibility with him that we were literally made for him, and yet he is breathtakingly different to us. As a mother and baby are so intimate and yet so different in their abilities, God is even more intimate and different to us.

Since all humans have gender, few, if any, earthly languages have the capacity to refer to a being who has a personality without automatically assigning a gender to that person. This has nothing to do with the nature of God, but the nature of human language. So to know whether the Bible teaches that God is male, one has to delve deeper than the mere use of the male pronoun. The Lord referring to himself as if he were male must not be interpreted in a strictly literal sense, any more than we should interpret literally God calling himself a rock, a tower, a shield, a lion, and so on, and referring to his “hands,” “feet,” “wings”, and so on (Deuteronomy 3:24; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ruth 2:12).

* * *

When it is Insulting to Call God, ‘Father’

There are hearts for whom the words, ‘Daddy is home’ are the most chilling, terrifying words that could ever pierce the air. Tragically, these dear people cannot even imagine how those same words flood millions of hearts with delight, making them feel warm, secure and content. That children can beam from ear to ear at the sound of a father’s entry staggers their imagination. So different is their father that they find it almost beyond belief that there are those for whom their father is not only their protector and hero; Daddy is fun. There are children who know that in their Daddy’s eyes they are as close to perfection as any child could get. These greatly loved children know it is not because they are special; they think all fathers are like that.

When seeking to portray something that nothing in the universe can match, it is a communicator’s nightmare that what for some people conveys the most powerfully evocative and accurate picture, is for other equally important people so far off beam as to be considerably worse than nothing.

If the Christian God is even remotely like the person many people know as father, we would have good reason for rejecting and despising him.

For vast numbers of us today the word ‘father’ produces little of the warmly secure feelings of being cherished, doted on, protected and wisely guided that the word was intended to have when originally delivered to humanity. In present-day western society, fatherhood has suffered such horrific breakdown that what God’s Word meant by Father is as foreign to many of us as ox-drawn plows and other features of Bible times. For possible reasons behind this breakdown, see The Degradation of Fatherhood.

* * *

God: The Best of Both Genders?

    Genesis 1:27 God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.

This famous Scripture shows that women, as much as men, are in the image of God. It also hints that both male and female were required for God’s image to be complete. In fact, it might be that a man and woman made one through marriage portray the fullness of God better than individuals. We certainly know from the biblical teaching of the body of Christ that the fullness of Christ is better portrayed by the entire church than by individuals.

God is neither male nor female, but in whatever respect one gender excels, in that respect that gender better reflects the nature of God. For example, the typically greater male physical strength – significantly more important in pre-mechanical eras than now – means that in their ability to offer the security of physical protection, men in biblical times portrayed slightly better that aspect of God. On the other hand, if women tend to be a little less callous than men, in this respect they are that bit more like God. In their ability to nourish and comfort, women typically better portray that side of God’s nature.

We need to keep expanding our view of God. For instance, down to the minutest detail, God knows exactly what it is like to suffer period pain or impotence; not because God has male and female characteristics, but because he is all-knowing. The Lord knows you more intimately than you know yourself.

The Almighty, without feeling the need to explain his actions, has chosen to reveal himself to humanity as a God and not a Goddess. One possible reason is that in the biblical era men usually filled leadership roles. However, I suspect a significant factor behind God’s choice is the nature of human sexuality. Men, tending to be more sexually volatile, seem more likely to fall into perversion than women. Consider, for example, the horrific incidence of child sex abuse instigated by men, relative to the somewhat lesser incidence of female-initiated sexual abuse. (And this without men breast-feeding babies or spending the long periods alone with them that is typical of mothers.) As much as it may shock you, a few women actually nurture sexual feelings toward God. I suspect that male sexual vulnerability is such that perverted feelings for God would be more prevalent in humanity if God were commonly thought of as being female.

So not only does God’s application of the male gender not imply male superiority, it might actually be an accommodation to a weakness in fallen males.

There is also a heartwarming reason for God preferring to reveal himself as Father. If, in this fallen world, fathers are more likely than mothers to be cold and aloof, then people will need God as the warm, approving father they never had. It might grate on us initially, but the ironical reality is that the less able we are to see a father as being kind, loving and gentle, the more we need to see God as Father because, like it or not, suppress it or not, we have a deep, painful ache within us for a good father figure, and nothing can meet that need like a relationship with Father God.

This webpage, however, is for the many of us for whom that is too much, too soon.

Another complication is that human language and thought patterns restrict our ability to cope well with the concept of a person who has no gender. Our language leaves us with no option but to say ‘he,’ ‘she’ or ‘it’ when referring to God. The Lord is most certainly not an ‘it.’ God is so personal that alongside him we are coldly impersonal. This forces the selection of either the masculine or feminine pronoun.

Until quite recently in our history, the English language was such that the words ‘man’ or ‘men’ often referred not exclusively to males but to every man and woman in the human race. The Hebrew language (the original language of the Old Testament) was the same. Thus, Genesis literally says in Hebrew:

    Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him [note the singular male pronoun]; male and female he created them.

Clearly in some contexts the Bible’s use of ‘he’ or ‘him’ in its original language is gender-neutral. It might well be that it is in this gender-neutral sense that the Bible uses ‘he’ or ‘him’ when referring to God. In many contexts when the original says ‘men,’ we would be very mistaken if we assumed it only refers to males. We might be making a similar mistake if we read too much into the apparently masculine references to God.

Studies have shown that even in modern English literature, referring to a male to illustrate a point is seen by readers as excluding the other gender less than if a female were cited. So even in modern English, to refer to God as ‘she’ might more pointedly imply that God is female than referring to God as ‘he’ implies God is male. Some people are beginning to avoid all references to pronouns when referring to God and simply say ‘God’ each time. Given the direction our language is going, this, although tedious, might be technically more accurate.

Whatever God’s reasons for choosing to reveal himself using the masculine pronoun, I respect God’s wisdom and holiness too much to dare tamper with his decision by using the feminine pronoun. I seek, nevertheless, to broaden my understanding of God to embrace the full breadth of his revelation, which includes what we might label feminine characteristics.

* * *

Feminine Aspects of God

The Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary sees it as highly significant that the Hebrew term for the uniquely female organ, the uterus (womb), is used in the original Scriptures to describe God’s compassion.

God’s wisdom is obviously an integral, eternal aspect of God. Scripture frequently speaks of this highly rated aspect of God’s character as if it were a person. Scholars believe John’s concept of the Logos, the Word that was God and became flesh (John 1:1-14) was derived from the Old Testament understanding of Wisdom as much, probably more, than from the Greek idea of Logos. And yet Wisdom, the one with whom are riches and honor and righteousness (Proverbs 8:18) and who shared with God in the creation of all things (Proverbs 8:27-31) is consistently given a female gender in Proverbs and by Jesus (Proverbs 1:20; 4:6; 8:1,11; 9:1; 14:33; Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35).

* * *

God as Mother

Ponder these words from the lips of God:

    Isaiah 66:13 As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you. . . .

By what it inserts in brackets, the Amplified Bible (Classic) leaves no doubt as to how its scholars interpret the words immediately prior to these:

    Isaiah 66:12 For thus says the Lord: . . . you will be nursed, you will be carried on her hip and trotted [lovingly bounced up and down] on her [God’s maternal] knees. . . .


In a beautiful picture of maternal love, Jesus expressed the depth of divine compassion with the words:

    Matthew 23:37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I would have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not!

Since Jesus came to show us the Father (John 14:11-6) it is not surprising that we find in the Old Testament a similarly beautiful picture of God’s love:

    Psalms 36:7 How precious is your loving kindness, God! The children of men take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

Significant Additional Scriptures about God as Mother

* * *

Tender, Compassionate Jesus, Versus God the Father

Millions upon millions of people see Jesus as tender and giving and compassionate; a friend of the outcast; a defender of the downtrodden; someone personally and voluntarily overwhelmed by the depths of human suffering. They see him as warm, approachable, innocent. He is all that is loving and desirable. He is a dove; a soft, inviting blanket to cozy into in a shivering world; a protector who would gladly take a knife or bullet for you. What is startling, however, is that many who rightly hold this view of Jesus see God differently. Nothing could break Jesus’ heart more than someone imagining the Jesus is kinder or gentler or more forgiving than the true God.

Reading about someone is very different to meeting that person in the flesh. This is one of the reasons why there are a million mistaken views about God. A significant part of Jesus’ mission was to sort out the mess. God, as he really is, is exactly what you see in Jesus.

    John 14:7, 9-10 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him. . . . He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works.

    John 5:19 Jesus therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. . . .”

    John 10:30 I and the Father are one.

Jesus’ God – the true God – is so different from the God of most people’s imagination that one of the favorite names early Christians had for God was “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Let’s select one of these:

    2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (Other Scriptures)

No wonder the New Testament is filled with such Scriptures as:

    Hebrews 1:3 His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his [i.e. God’s] substance . . .

* * *

Have We Got It Back To Front?

When wanting to gain insight into God, is it Scripture’s intention that we should use as a springboard not so much our feelings toward our parents as our parental feelings toward our own children?

Let’s read Scripture with new eyes:

    Matthew 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Jesus was not saying, think of your father: God is like that. He was saying, think of your tender feelings and sacrificial love for your own children: God is like that. Moreover, he was saying that God’s love is so good and pure and selfless that alongside him even our best attempts at love are evil.

* * *

The Divine Dilemma

The insurmountable difficulty is that there will always be people for whom an analogy evokes the intended warm feelings of love and security far more effectively than any abstraction, and at the same time there will be some people, though fewer, for whom the analogy is a disaster. Any group of humans – children, lovers, grandparents, sisters, pet owners, pastors, nurses or any others you could name – who for some of us epitomize tenderness, loyalty, devotion, selflessness, wisdom and all things good and wholesome, will be symbols of raging hurt for a few of us.

Communicators can only appeal to the intelligence and charitableness of their audience to realize that when they select an analogy they are thinking of the finest examples of that group of humans. There will be some dear people, however, whose emotional pain screams louder than their ability to be coldly intellectual. Ironically, those for whom an analogy is an excruciating disaster are the very ones who desperately need to discover that God is the one person who can fill their gaping wound with his loving compassion and faithfulness.

* * *

Your Dadda

Three times, the New Testament in its original Greek refers to God as Abba (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). The peculiar thing is that this is not even a Greek word. It was the word Jesus used when speaking his native language. Mark, apparently because he felt there was something precious – almost sacred – about the expression, left Jesus’ choice of words untranslated. We can’t be sure whether Paul’s use of the term was influenced directly from Jesus’ earthly preaching or came from the apostle’s own revelation, but he, too, clearly felt there was no Greek equivalent that adequately reflected the depth of Abba.

It is popularly thought that Daddy is the best English approximation, but we can do a little better. For the people Jesus addressed, Abba was a baby’s first attempt to call out to its father. The closest English is Dadda. It is not entirely coincidental that it even sounds a little like Abba. It is derived from baby talk. Being one of the very first words a normal baby ever utters, it must be easy for a baby to say. (In some households, the word would be Pappa, but again you’ll recognize the similarity.)

The significance of this choice is that Dadda engenders feelings of tenderness and intimacy and trust that might not be there with the more formal Father. The word Dad might suggest someone a little boring or taken for granted, but Dadda or Daddy has connotations of someone who is special, maybe even exciting. Names used by older children might also bring with it overtones of a disciplinarian, since fathers are likely to be stricter with older children than with babies. The point is that this tender expression was Jesus’ and Paul’s choice of the most appropriate form of address to God.

If thinking of God does not elicit within you warm feelings of love and acceptance and security, then you are missing a significant aspect of what God was wishing to convey to humanity by the use of this word. When things get tough, God would like us to have the carefree confidence of a little child leaving her broken bike with Daddy and happily running off to play, certain that Daddy will fix it.

There are some very moving Scriptures about the depth of God’s compassion for his children. The eye can slip over them in casual reading, but I urge you to view these Scriptures one on top of another, letting the impact mount until they touch you deeply. See God’s Tender Love.

* * *

Grasping for analogies

Of course, divine love is not merely equal to that of earth’s best parents. God’s love, being perfect, is incomprehensibly superior to all human feelings.

    Psalms 27:10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

    Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, these may forget, yet I will not forget you!

    Matthew 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

God’s love is so immense that we are forced to scan the full range of human attachment and love and compassion to find a mere shadow of God’s feelings for us.

We have noted that in grasping for glimpses into divine love that we might understand, Jesus in just one chapter, likened God’s love to a woman, a shepherd, and a father. The woman was deeply anxious about her lost coin, which might have been part of her dowry, having great sentimental and emotional, as well as material, value. Today’s equivalent would be a stone from an engagement ring. The shepherd, upon finding the sheep, actually carried it home, joyfully lugging the quite heavy eastern animal on his shoulders. The highly forgiving father had apparently been on the constant lookout for his ungrateful son, day after day, month after month, year after year. Seeing him a long way off, he runs the distance, throws his arms around him and showers him with kisses in an emotional display that could call for no less than the slaughtering of the prize calf and throwing a party (Luke 15).

Another hint of God’s love is the commitment of the most faithful husband or even the excitement of a newly wed:

    Isaiah 62:5  . . . As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.

Other Scriptures about God as Husband

Yet another way that Scripture tries to convey to us what is ultimately indescribable is by using our commitment to our own body. The New Testament often refers to Christians as being part of Christ’s own body. What could be more intimate? Christ nourishes you, protects you and feels your pain, like you would feed, look after and to rush to soothe the pain of any part of your body.

God treats his people as the apple (pupil) of his eye – that most precious part of the body which we instantly shield by blinking or taking whatever measures are appropriate to meet its every need. Thus we find this description of how God treated the Israelites:

    Deuteronomy 32:10 He found him in a desert land, in the waste howling wilderness. He surrounded him. He cared for him. He kept him as the apple of his eye.

In a rush of metaphors, the inspired psalmist prayed:

    Psalms 17:8 Keep me as the apple of your eye. Hide me under the shadow of your wings

And the Bible’s attempts to convey God’s love keeps coming. Many people think Jesus must have had a very special love for his earthly mother. He did. There’s a wonderful side to this, however, that is often overlooked. The special feelings Jesus had for Mary are the very same feelings he has for you. It is with that extreme devotion that he loves you.

Or maybe for some of us, the love of a brother or sister is more meaningful. No problem. Jesus said:

    Matthew 12:50 For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Jesus’ longing to be our brother, pushed him to astounding extremes:

    Hebrews 2:11, 14, 17-18 For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers . . . Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil . . . Therefore he was obligated in all things to be made like his brothers, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

    Romans 8:29 For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

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Comprehending the Incomprehensible

    Ephesians 3:14, 17-19 For this cause, I bow my knees . . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Emphasis mine)

As brilliant as Paul was at communicating, he found himself forced to resort to prayer because he wanted his readers to gain insight that no amount of explaining or describing could ever achieve. He longed for them to experience the supernatural miracle of knowing that which was beyond knowing.

Each time Paul mentioned Abba, he did so in the context of receiving a revelation from the indwelling Spirit of God.

    Romans 8:15 For you didn’t receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

    Galatians 4:6 And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”

So the only hope we have of truly knowing God’s love is by a spiritual miracle that begins with new birth. For help in entering this, the most significant of all human experiences, see You Can Find Love: What Your Fantasies Reveal

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Healing of hurts

Vast numbers of us carry wounds because our earthly father was considerably less than perfect. Your loving Lord feels your pain and he wants to heal you in two ways:

    1. By continually being the Perfect Father you have always deserved. (If you have been emotionally wounded, this is something you secretly crave and yet something you fear. What makes it scary is the thought of again being let down. Thankfully, unlike any human, God fully understands and is utterly trustworthy.)

    2. By removing the festering bitterness that would otherwise keep infecting your wound and preventing healing.

The following few paragraphs are extracted from Serious, Do-It Yourself Healing From Emotional Pain. Maybe your resentment is as strong toward your father as implied below, maybe it is less, but the principles remain the same.

    Suppose someone broke your hand. This makes you so mad that every day as you pass that person’s photo hanging on the wall, you punch it with your broken hand. The release of pent up anger might feel good, but the constant punching prolongs your agony and prevents your hand from ever healing. A desire to see someone else suffer inevitably ends up perpetuating our own suffering.

    The devastating thing is that resentment is addictive. Like a junkie, we focus so much on the welcome relief resentment offers that we hardly realize it inflames the downer that follows, and so the agonizing cycle continues.

    Despite our fanciful notions, it is unlikely that we could ever see anyone suffer so profoundly as to satisfy our lust for revenge. Moreover, as people keep discovering to their dismay, it is our pain that drives the desire for revenge and, except for Jesus, no one else’s pain cannot lessen our own pain. So the tragedy is that if we get stuck on the revenge path, in fifty years’ time we will still be no closer to a resolution.

    For as long as we are dominated by the longing to see someone suffer, that person has succeeded in lowering us to his abysmal level. He hurt us. Now we want him to hurt. We degrade ourselves by entering the slimy world of hate, staggering through life a defeated person, floundering in the same moral mud in which our tormentor lives. In fact, sex offenders are often themselves abuse victims with heart-wrenching stories. They failed to resolve their anger and pain and so inflict it on others. Regardless of how it manifests, resentment enslaves and corrupts its victims. Pathetically, people blinded by anger or hate usually feel morally superior to other people who are blinded by anger or hate. Bitter people are beautiful people turned ugly. Thankfully the process is reversible, once we learn to forgive.

    We move from victim to victor only when we break free from resentment’s death-grip.

    I often hike in wilderness areas infested with snakes so venomous that without specialized medical treatment I would have only a couple of hours to live after being bitten. Suppose a snake bit me, then slid out of sight. I would be a fool to squander precious time angrily trying to find and kill the snake. First priority must be to seek medical attention.

    For your own survival, focus on healing, not revenge.

    I am convinced that just as martyrs are especially honored in heaven, so are those who have suffered greatly and yet have forgiven.

    Forgiving others is tough. It is so critical to our own emotional and spiritual well-being that our spiritual enemy strongly attacks us on this issue. Nevertheless, divine help is available.

    It’s sometimes subconscious, but people suffering great difficulty in forgiving others usually have as the basis of their agony the pain of having great difficulty forgiving themselves. The two sides of forgiveness – forgiving yourself and forgiving others – rise or fall together. Many people raging against someone else’s guilt are pressured to do so by an urge to keep suppressed the tortured screams of their own conscience. Their subconscious is forever frantically trying to deflect the attention off themselves by blaming others. Peace soothes our troubled mind when we dwell on the extent of the forgiveness and purity that we have in Christ. When we realize how much God has forgiven us, it becomes easier to act more Godlike and have that same forgiving attitude toward ourselves and others. For this reason, I recommend beginning with the webpages about handling guilt. Other pages you will benefit from are:

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Wrap Up

A failure of those close to you to love you like God loves will leave you bleeding emotionally. But everything that is missing in human love is found in the endless depths of the One who longs to hold you in his arms forever.

People so tragically hurt by one or more men that it darkens even their attitude toward God – the utterly sinless, genderless non-human – are suffering a crippling inner wound that God longs to heal. And, as already discovered by many astonished people who were once afraid to think of God as having any male qualities, at least part of that healing flows from finding in the safe, warm God, the love of the perfect Father.

Ironically, it turns out that those who most object to relating to God as Father are the ones who will eventually most benefit from relating to God as Father. Yet this is so difficult to grasp for those who are deeply hurting because of abusive humans, and they desperately need to snuggle into God’s comfort long before they can see God as the tender Father who will fill a gnawing emptiness within them left by a hopelessly inadequate human father.

Since God is nothing like an abuser, he does not force healing upon us. If a surgeon will not act until a person is willing to consent to the operation, God – whose respect for us is far deeper – will wait for you. Sadly, it often takes us a long while to muster the courage to heal. So if you do not yet feel ready to relate to God as Father, put that thought on hold, but do not perpetuate your inner pain by letting it hinder you from drawing close to the true God, who alone brings the comfort you desperately need.

Those close to you are imperfect, but the One who is closest to you is perfect. Everything that a starry-eyed bride could wish for in love and security and faithfulness and devotion; everything a little child could hope for in a Mommy or Daddy or brother or sister or grandparent; God is all that and more.

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Related Pages

How Much Does God Love Me? Get Your Very Own Revelation of God’s Love

Is God Male or Female? God’s Gender

Gender in the Bible: God & Women

Healing from Sexual Abuse

Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net
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