I have three children who have given me 15 grandchildren, who are currently all between the ages of two and 12. As the psalmist would say, “My quiver is full!” And while I do feel blessed to have such a full family, I’m not here to advocate for a house full of grandchildren for Father’s Day. More than having lots of grandchildren, I care about having thriving children and grandchildren who love, trust, and follow Jesus. And that requires me to take up one of the highest callings—to be a faithful dad and granddad.
In parenting, like in all parts of life, it can be easy for dads to think that more is better. In work, we put in more hours to theoretically make more money and have more power. We’re told to want a bigger house and to crave more stuff and grander experiences.
But our children and grandchildren need something completely other than what the 21st Century image of a father provides. To leave a legacy of love and faith and good fatherhood, it’s important to keep our priorities straight.
As Christian dads, we have the privilege of building our foundation solidly in relationship with our Heavenly Father to get this dad thing right. This foundation is built by spending time with God and through engagement with Scripture, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines. It is built in godly community, with authenticity and loving accountability. And it’s built by the continual empowerment of His Spirit.
American Bible Society’s State of the Bible 2021 report (SOTB) showed that men with dependent children are trending significantly higher in Scripture Engagement than other groups (men without children, women with children, and women without children). This is encouraging news as it indicates that dads are building this firm foundation. And I think it’s also a challenge to all men—fathers and father figures and role models—to ensure that we are passing along a love for God and His Word to future and emerging generations.
As we place a high priority on building our solid foundation on God, consistent engagement with the Bible is of the utmost importance to helping us move toward being the kind of fathers our children need. Let me share just four benefits that emerge from building a firm biblical foundation of fatherhood.
First, our children will learn to trust God.
In Joshua 24:15, we read of the proverbial fork in the road when it comes to faith: “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” A decision must be made as to where we place our trust and how we will raise our children. It is only out of an authentic trust in our Father God that we can point our children towards Jesus and say, “He is all you need.”
As fathers, we do want to provide for our children in every way possible. But nothing matters more than offering them a view of what it looks like to live dependent on and in a real and authentic trusting relationship with God. As they see us love Him and trust Him, they will develop an interest in and, God willing, a desire to live in relationship with Him all the days of their lives.
Second, our children will feel protection and comfort.
Bad things will happen. After all, we live in a fallen world. And Scripture shows us that God doesn’t always stop harm from coming. Rather, He takes us under the shelter of His wings. Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” And in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed that He would not have to suffer death, the suffering wasn’t taken away, but He found comfort in His Father throughout the night.
When we allow ourselves to be comforted and cared for by our Heavenly Father as we suffer and face trials of all kinds (physical, emotional, social, or financial), we can reflect this comfort in our own parenting. We are comforted, and so we can comfort.
Third, our children will understand that emotional health matters.
Too many men feel unable to express their emotions, particularly when it comes to areas they may perceive as weakness such as fear, anxiety, and depression. Although the SOTB 2021 report shows that women with dependent children express a lower level of mental wellness and a greater level of stress than men, it is critical to remember that many men don’t feel they can share with others when they are struggling with areas of mental unwellness.
We as dads need to be honest with how we are doing emotionally—not only for ourselves, but so that we can model that well to our children. A simple reading through the Psalms demonstrates the validity of sharing the deep feelings we all experience. Lament, sorrow, fear, anger, frustration, despair, joy, hope, contentment, and more, are all expressed by the psalmists. God cares deeply about our emotional state and unless we are honest with ourselves on how we are doing, we cannot model God’s leadership in this area with our own children’s mental health.
Fourth, our children will become generous people.
The SOTB 2021 report also shows a fascinating (and positive) trend: men with dependent children are quite likely to want to demonstrate to their children what it means to care for others: 47 percent had donated to charity in the past seven days and 61 percent had helped a stranger.
This is not insignificant. There is something about being a Scripturally engaged dad that makes us want to demonstrate the Father’s heart of generosity. And His heart is this: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).
This Father’s Day, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children (and grandchildren) is a personal biblical foundation that demonstrates complete trust in God, protection and comfort, commitment to emotional health, and great generosity. Not only will they see us grow in these areas, but they will experience it through us, and eventually, prayerfully, it will also become a part of them. That, in my opinion, is a legacy worth leaving.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/digitalskillet
Scott Ross is the Director of Church Partnerships for Trauma Healing at American Bible Society. Prior to this role, he was a church planter and pastor for 25 years. He has been married to Lynette for 37 years and together they have 3 amazing children, 3 amazing children in-law, and 15 amazing grandchildren. They live in Aurora, Colorado, with their dog, horses, and a few chickens.