Scared of God

The Negative Influence of an Abusive Parent

By Tristan Haupt
  • April 29, 2015

I will never forget the day my pastor told me I was confusing God with my father. I thought the statement was both condescending and ridiculous.

“I think I can tell the difference between the Supreme Being and my abusive dad.”

“It isn’t the rational part of you that I am talking about,” he replied. “It’s the emotional part of you. Describe Jesus for me. Your emotional impression of Him, not the ‘correct’ answer for a theology class. Single words. Go!”

“Loyal. Kind. Selfless. Understanding. Loving. Merciful. Trustworthy.”

“Dead on,” replied my pastor. “Now, the same exercise for God the Father.”

“Holy. Righteous. Powerful. King.”

“Stop there. That is not what I asked for. I want feeling words. Not what you know is correct. I don’t want textbook answers, or even biblical answers. Tell me the words you feel about the Father. Honestly.”

“Distant. Detached. Baffling. Bewildering. Capricious. Unpredictable. Harsh,” I replied.

“Does that describe your dad?”


Hmm … He was on to something.

My childhood was beyond horrible. It was abusive and insane. And it scarred me more than I ever realized.

I began going to a Christian therapist, and he came to precisely the same conclusion as my pastor: “Your earliest experiences as a child profoundly and negatively marred your view of God.”

I wish I could say I was beyond it now. I am not. But I am in the process. If you or someone you know is on a similar journey, let me encourage you to seek professional help from a Christian counselor. You don’t have to struggle alone—the body of Christ can help you see God for who He really is—your loving heavenly Father.

If my pastor and my closest friends understand and sympathize with my emotional damage, I have to believe that my Father in heaven is even more understanding, more sympathetic, and more gracious than anyone on earth.

And if I panic and forget it tomorrow, it will still be true. My progress is slow. But I have a patient Father in Heaven, who is far better than my earthly dad ever was.

Dr. Stanley shares why it’s so important for parents to model the Christian life in his message “The Impact of a Godly Parent.”

Related Topics:  Family  |  Fear  |  Shame

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