In his latest book, Louie Giglio sets out to do something extremely bold: He wants to reframe how we think about God and, at the same time, change our relationship with Him.
In Not Forsaken: Finding Freedom as Sons & Daughters of a Perfect Father, the Passion City Church pastor explains why having a “Heavenly Father” gives us access to a perfect, loving creator who truly wants to treat us like his own, beloved children.
We recently talked with Giglio about the book, and why the Bible’s picture of God as a father is so revolutionary.
Why did you want to tackle fatherhood from a biblical perspective?
The main Idea behind the book is that we can know God as a perfect father. I’ve been sharing that message for 30 years. It really impacted me when I was a college student.
One of my mentors was channeling AW Tozer, who said what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. He went on to say we tend to move toward our mental image of God, and that rocked my world, because I knew all these attributes about God, but I didn’t really quite know how to put my arms around things like “everlasting” and “sovereign” and “just.” Once I realized that Jesus was helping me see that God is a father who embodies all these characteristics, I realized this is a God I can know him like a son or daughter knows a father.
This book helps us all see God the way He wants us to see Him, but then tries to help repair and restore what might be broken in our earthly father relationships so we can move forward in a new kind of relationship with God.
What’s the first step you suggest people take to refresh their idea of God as a perfect father?
God is not the reflection of our earthly dad, but He is the perfection of our earthly dad. I think helping people get a vision of who God actually is helps us talk about some of the cracked-up views of God that we have.
Once you take that step, people can believe that God is trustworthy.
This is a big issue for all of us: Can I trust anyone after what my dad did to me? In this book time and time again I tried to lead us to the cross, because there, a few things are certain: God loves us, God doesn’t ask us to sweep anything under the rug, He’s trustworthy, we can depend on Him.
I try to lead people there and help people reframe their identity as a loved son or daughter.
Once people reframe their identity, they can be revolutionary agents in the affairs of their lives and be used by God as an agent of restoration and forgiveness in their relationships on Earth.
One thing people might have difficulty wrapping their head around while thinking of God as a father is the concept of discipline. God shows us grace and love, but He is also willing to correct us in difficult ways. What does a biblical view on discipline look like?
Any good father doesn’t give his kid everything he asks for, so I think some of God’s discipline is when He tells us no.
We can start questioning our faith while He’s just being a father, saying: “You have no idea, but that is not what you want, and you can’t see it but I can see it. And I’m just going to say no to that because I love you.”
The flip side of that is correction: “Hey, we’re not going that way; we are going this way.” I grew up in an era when people got spanked, and sometimes it was just my dad saying, “I’m not going to let you do that,” or “I’m going to penalize you because you did do it,” but he would always explain to me it was for my good.
Then 10 years later, 15 years later, 20 years later we realize it did hurt, but it was just them helping us get on another path. I think God does that through closing doors, putting headwind in our lives, making us uncomfortable.
You see a multitude of pictures of this through Scripture, where God intervenes to move people in a different direction. You have to be sensitive in every situation and be willing to ask: “God, are you in this? Do I need to be still? Do I need to listen?”
A lot of people think of the Prodigal Son when they think of God as a father. What does that parable say about the nature of God?
I think it tells us everything, I really do.
You can’t really single out one story Jesus told, but man, I can’t think of a more poignant and clarifying moment for Him to show us the father. When Jesus painted a picture of this dignified father running down the road and embracing his son and kissing him and looking past the muck and the failure and the embarrassment, He clarified how the Gospel is not about being good or bad, it’s about being dead or alive.
It helps us understand that God will go to great lengths to welcome us home.
Part of the story that gets overlooked is a repentance moment when [the father] doesn’t go find the kid and bail him out of the pig pen. He waits until the kid hits rock bottom and returns, but is already waiting for him. He was hoping [his son] would return.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.