Father, Friend, Savior? Who is God to Us?

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A few weeks ago, I was in the kitchen preparing dinner as my almost-8-year-old son sat on the counter reading a book. Cooking tends to relax me, so I was in “the zone,” with worship music playing while I cooked.

My son, Jonathan, snapped me out of my peace by calling out, “Mom! Mom!” I had not heard him the first time, but with children, persistence is second nature. “Mom, in this book, God is described as a friend. Every time you pray, I hear you call Him ‘our father.’ How can He be both of those things? Dad is my father but I wouldn’t call him my friend.”

He had my attention at that point for sure. Growing up in the church, we always sang the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” At the same time, our Lord Jesus Christ directs us in scripture to always pray recognizing God as “our father Who art in heaven.”

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Jonathan had put a question in my mind that I hadn’t really considered at all.

Can We Define God?

Can God really be defined by such an earthly understanding of relationship categories?

Having found no answer to give him, I told him what all parents say to their kids to evade questions: “Go wash up for dinner and call your sister as well.” 

At that point, I made sure to ask the one person Who knows all things and from Whom nothing is hidden: God Himself.

Later that night, in prayer and devotion, I found an answer that satisfied me and that I knew would answer my son.

Exodus 3:14 says, 

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.'”

Exodus 3:14

Apart from His identity in Himself, there is no human or earthly parameter through which He can be described. No word can fully encompass who He is. 

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, 

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8–9

Who Is God?

However, here are few things God does reveal about His identity in scripture:

  • He is gracious.
  • He is loving.
  • He is faithful.
  • He is patient.
  • He is forgiving.
  • He is just.
  • He gave up His son that we may have eternal life.
  • He is love.
  • He is father to the fatherless.
  • He is husband to widows.
  • He is near to the brokenhearted.

After seeing all the ways God reveals himself to us, I realized that, essentially, God is what we need when we need itbecause He knows us. God takes up the position of father to the fatherless; He created us and is ultimately our father. If we need a father, one who will not give us stones when we ask for bread (Matthew 7:9), God will be that.

When we are brokenhearted and in need of a friend, He says He is near. God is a friend. When we need salvation and redemption from sin and the curse of death, guess what? He already sent His only son to die in our place.

Who God Is to Us

Armed with the realization that we cannot and should not limit our perception of God, I was ready to teach Jonathan and that God is everything we need: a father, a friend, and a very present help in times of trouble.

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As Christians, we are called to approach the throne of grace with confidence, to trust God to reveal Himself to us at our place of need. He is able to do abundantly more than all we can ask or think according to the power that is at work in us.

The creator of the universe is ultimately all we need. 

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