“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” – John 1:12
Have you ever lost a father? I did.
They say fathers play a significant role in our lives. Researchers have found that those who grow up without fathers are susceptible to depression, early pregnancy, and imprisonment. But those who grow up with a loving father are more likely to excel in school and are less likely to fail in life.1 A father is a child’s main source of confidence and security.
I could never have agreed more.
I lost my father when I was 21 years old. I pretty much grew up with my dad. I have a mom, but she wasn’t always around. So my dad did the things that a mom supposedly should have done.
My dad was the first person who taught me how to pray when I was 5 years old. He made it a point to pray when we woke up in the morning, before eating, and before sleeping. However, praying before sleeping was given more importance. He would kneel down at our room’s wooden floor in front of me and my two other siblings, while we sat comfortably on our bed.
He would sometimes ask my older brother to kneel with him, and then he would raise his hands toward heaven and start his prayer with, “Ama naming makapangyarihan sa lahat, Diyos ng langit at lupa, Diyos na dakila” (Our Father who is mightier than everyone, God of the heavens and the earth, God Who is Great). He used a deep toned voice, the same voice he used to tell us something important or to scold us for doing something wrong. His tone taught us that prayer was no joke and that it must be done in a very serious manner.
While praying, my dad once caught my siblings making sounds with their knuckles. He took them downstairs and scolded them. I found it hilarious because scolding after praying never really fit together. I never really understood it back then, but I do now. Our dad was teaching us the most significant lesson he would leave us — prayer and reverence toward God. That was my most cherished memory of him, and it increased the love and respect I had for him.
I was in high school when my dad had a stroke. His health deteriorated. It started with his posture: his lean shoulders started slouching, then his walk slowed down. The decline continued, and he eventually couldn’t walk without assistance. We bought him a wheelchair, and he started using adult diapers since he could no longer control his bowel movement and urine release.
My dad who was my hero, the strongest man in my eyes, became weak and never recovered from his illness. It was tough because I never wanted to see him like that, so I did the only thing I could—I prayed for him.
I would drop by his room, ask him how he was doing while I ran my hands down his back. Little did my dad know that as I laid my hands on his back, I was silently praying for him. I remember crying out to God to heal him miraculously in my daily devotional time. I would also lead my dad in a prayer, in the same way he led me when I was younger. I even wrote Bible verses about healing and taped them to his cabinet so that he could easily see it. There were days when I believed these verses with all of my heart, and there were days when I felt like a fool, but I continued to pray and believe because losing him was my biggest fear.
It was a fairly good Friday night when I dropped by my dad’s room before going to church. It never dawned on me that this was going to be the last time I’d see him smiling at me. Our youth service started with me reading Isaiah 61:3 and how “a garment of praise” is a strong weapon against the “spirit of despair.” That night, we sang “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin and lavished ourselves in the goodness of God. After the service, my eldest sister received a phone call from our house. I knew by the look of dread in her face that something was wrong. True enough, my dad had a stroke again.
“Oh God, please! Sana hindi ito yung kinakatakutan ko na mangyari!” (God, please! I hope this isn’t what I have been fearing!) I prayed in my mind while we were rushing over to the hospital in a tricycle.
That night is forever engraved in my memory. I can still see it with my eyes closed. I still dream of it. Everything remains vivid: the white hallways of the hospital; my dad lying unconscious on a hospital bed with tubes connected to his nose; the hushed voices of the nurses as they speak among themselves; the long hours outside the emergency room; our family outside clenching hands from the tension as we wait for the doctor’s report. Some of my siblings were crying, and I did my best to keep it together. I was holding on to my faith. I was holding on to the times that I prayed for healing and believed in my heart that it would be given. I often cried myself to sleep praying. It was tiring, but what was more exhausting was the tug of war between faith and hopelessness waging inside me. After three days in a comatose state, my dad passed away.
There were two voices in my head: one declared that God is good, but the other kept asking questions, trying to make sense of the situation. “God, I prayed every day. I believed you, but why?”
I eventually pushed those thoughts aside. I knew it wasn’t right. I told myself that God was good, and that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). I encouraged myself in every way possible, but I was never convinced. After a few weeks, I decided I would be fine. Unknowingly, a gap in my relationship with God was formed. I tried not to entertain negative thoughts towards the goodness and sovereignty of God. I went to church, prayed, and continued ministering to the youth. I dared not face the truth that my heart was still broken and disappointed with God. These things were silently preparing me for an encounter with Him.
A few months later, I attended a National Prayer Gathering where I volunteered as a staff member. At one session, a pastor started praying for the Filipino families. Then, he started praying for the orphan spirit among the Christians or for those whose hearts did not know or had no connection to the Father’s heart.
I heard God speaking to me, “My child, you are not an orphan. I am your God. I am your Father.” I cried upon realizing it. Yes, I did lose my earthly father, but I was forever a child of God! I have a Father who loves me beyond my imagination, and this was all possible because of Jesus.
The cross did more than just redeem us—the cross made it possible for us to become His children. Even now, I am still awestruck by this truth. How can the Creator become one of His creation and die in our place to take the punishment meant to be ours?
Some say that when Jesus was crucified, he was bathing in His blood and the spit of the people who crucified Him. Scientists even said that every breath Jesus took was a torment to Him. Breathing meant balancing all His weight on the three nails lodged into His hands and feet. The cross was the most excruciating means of torture a person could experience, yet Jesus bore it all. He didn’t have to, but He did, so that we could be partakers of His inheritance as children of God.
The psalmist wrote it well for those who have no parents: “The Lord will take me up, adopt me as His child” (Psalm 27:10).
We are the reason why the Good Shepherd left the ninety-nine for the lost one. The same intensity of love He has for the one is the same intensity of love He gives to the ninety-nine. Jesus Himself testifies, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). It may seem absurd, but Christ’s love does go beyond reason. It is our reality.
Jesus and God the Father have been together from eternity to eternity in perfect harmony. It is not hard to love Jesus—imagine the love the Father had for Jesus, but He willingly gave up His Son to be the perfect sacrifice and to pave the way for our adoption as His children. He gave us what we couldn’t afford. As he hung on the cross, Jesus cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” For the first time, a disconnection between God the Father and Jesus occurred, and it was for our adoption.
So hear the voice of the Father calling, “My child, you are not an orphan. I am your God. I am your Father. Jesus paid the ransom so you can be mine.”