Turn the hearts of the fathers to their children

After 26 years of ministry, a local pastor wrote that, “By far the most commonly recurring complaint I hear from married women is about phantom fathers who do not connect with their wives and children.”

Letter received from one wife

“The kids are in bed. There’s nothing on TV tonight. I ask my husband if he minds if I turn the tube off. He grunts. As I walk to the set my mind is racing. Maybe, just maybe, tonight we’ll talk. I mean have a conversation that consists of more than my usual question with his mumbled one-word answer, or, more accurately, no answer at all.

Silence – I live in a world with continuous noise but, between him and myself, silence. Please – oh God, let him open up. I initiate (once again; for the thousandth time). My heart pounds- oh, how can I word it this time? What can I say that will open the door to just talk? I don’t have to have a DEEP MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION. JUST SOMETHING!

As I open my mouth – he gets up and goes to the bedroom. The door closes behind him. The light showing under the door gives way to darkness. So does my hope. I sit alone on the couch. My heart begins to ache. I’m tired of being alone.

Hey, I’m married. I have been for years. Why do I sit alone? The sadness undergoes a change slowly – then with increased fervor I get mad. I AM MAD. I am sick and tired of living with a sissy. A wimp – a coward. You know, he’s afraid of me! Hostile, you say. You better believe it. I’m sick and tired of living in a world of passive men.

My two sons like sports. They’re pretty good. They could be a lot better if their Dad would take a little of his precious time and play catch with them. (I’m sorry, catch once a year at the church picnic doesn’t quite make the boys into great ball players.)

But Dad’s too busy. He’s at work. He’s at the health club. He’s riding his four-wheeler. He’s working on the car. He’s playing golf. He’s tired. He’s watching a video movie. So who plays catch with my boys? Me.

My husband says, “You shouldn’t be playing men’s sports.” So who’s going to do it? He says he will. But he doesn’t. Remember? He’s too busy satisfying himself, doing what he likes … So my poor sons have to be second-rate in sports. They could have been good. Really good. Yeah – I’m mad.

My daughter is a teenager. She likes boys. They notice her. They pay attention to her. She responds. I know what’s coming. I try to talk to her. But it’s not me she wants. It’s Dad. Yeah, Dad! If he’d just hug her, notice her, talk to her – just a little – she wouldn’t need those boys so much. But no … so she turns elsewhere for attention and love. And there’s nothing I can do.

A mom isn’t enough. Kids need a father. And not just a body, a passive, silent presence. And here’s the killer. My husbands father did the same number on him. Didn’t hug him. Didn’t take him to anything, let alone watch his baseball games. And he HATES his father. Now my husband’s doing the same thing. Will our sons grow up to be passive? Will they be cowards?”

It’s time to step up, grow up and be a good father! 

Dysfunctional fathers are the cause of many family and social problems that beset American culture. On average, American fathers give each of their children a mere three minutes of undivided attention per day. This kind of phantom fatherhood is tragic. Dads, we must realize how vital our role is to the well-being of family and society. 

Someone suggested that, “The notion of responsibility is at the crux of true fatherhood. The conscious sense of responsibility for the physical and spiritual well-being of others is the mark of a true father.”

The role for fathers

“Hear my Son, your Father’s instruction …” (Proverbs 1:8); “My son, observe the commandment of your Father …” (Proverbs 6:20); “Just as a Father has compassion on his children …” (Psalm 103:13-14). “The Lord disciplines those he loves even as a Father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12); “Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Some men mistakenly think that bringing home a weekly paycheck gives them a right to leave just about every responsibility in the home to their wives. Others are unwilling to give up their hobbies and toys to adjust to the needs of the family.


“Real men do not just make babies. Real men take responsibility for the physical and spiritual care of children they beget and for those begotten and deserted by others. Responsibility lies at the heart of fatherhood as it was intended to be” (Weldon Hardenbrook).

One of the greatest needs of our day is to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children so that, “the hearts of the children will turn back toward them” (Malachi 4:6). 

How do we do this? 

“…. if we see a dearth of fathers in the realm outside worship, we must not try to organize pro-fatherhood rallies in that same realm. It will not work. The need of the hour is to return to the worship of God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and all conducted in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

“the fact that we live in fatherless times, reveals our attitudes toward God the Father. Father hunger is one of the chief symptoms of our idolatry. It is the basis for our political follies, our cultural follies, our technological follies, and so on. But the solution is not to schedule numerous family retreats. The solution is …. that men must seek to be Christians first. If they love Jesus Christ more than mother or father, or wife, or sons, or daughters, then they will be in fellowship with the source of all love. If they make an idol out of any one of their family members, then they are out of fellowship with the source of all love — meaning that the “idol” is short-changed. A man’s wife receives far more love when she is number 2 after God than she would if she were number 1. A man’s children will be fathered diligently when they are loved in the context of a much greater love” (from: Douglas Wilson, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families).


“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (I John 3:1).

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Family life, Fathers, Parenting, Parenting teens. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Turn the hearts of the fathers to their children

  1. Malik Luckes says:

    and what does women ,nothing but complain if you read the bible you would know that women werent permitted to talk,so you and the government is trying to sissfy men and a lot of men are falling for it so what im saying is that men arent the problem,gossiping ,male bashers like you are.

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  3. andydbrown says:

    Powerful stuff! Thanks for sharing, Pastor. I think Malik got confused or didn’t read the whole thing through carefully as a letter from one wife was only one part of the bigger write-up. I believe the whole point of the whole blogpost was for us fathers to reflect on how we are doing in raising our children and caring for our families. I realize that the only way for me as a father to truly turn my hearts to my children and wife is to humble recognize the need and pray for God the Father to first turn my heart towards Him. “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned ..” (Lamentations 5:21) Thanks again for this well written moment of reflection with plenty of food for thought!

  4. Rev Konstantine Michailidis says:

    Pastor Steve, thank you for your excellent blog. It was the only of many that I searched that touched on what I also see as the heart of that verse. The letter of that woman was so powerful and so real.This is verging on heresy, (especially from a pastor like myself), but I see the need of the world is not a renewal of the church as much as the renewal of the family throught the renewal of the role of fathers. But, of course that will only come about through the teaching of the church.We have got things wrong somehow about equality in the church between men and women if It has led to passivity and irresponsibility in men. We need to pray for the renewal in the hearts of men and fathers.
    By the way,the original Hebrew says ‘sons’ not ‘children’. Most English translations say ‘children’. I think that dilutes the message. The key relationship is fathers to sons. The key to the right relationships in the family, and to passing them on to the next generation, is the restored and renewed relationship between fathers and sons.

  5. Pastor Steve,

    As a psychologist living in a predominantly LDS area (near Salt Lake City) and serving mostly Mormon clients, I can tell you that we see the same “phantom father” epidemic here. As men, we may not be absent, yet in too many ways we’re not fully engaged! My specialization is pornography addiction, which just exacerbates in men the cycle of withdrawal from real people, including one’s wife and children.

    Thanks for your Biblical call for us to step up, get involved, and keep at the everyday hands-on work of raising our kids. This week I accepted a challenge from someone I respect to be more responsive to my children. Well, yesterday my 14-year-old son asked me to play “Munchkins and Zombies” with him. If not for having that challenge in mind I would have told him I was busy doing something important on the computer. I would have said “important” to justify my refusal of his request–“I would do something with you if what I am working on were less important.” But looking back, what kind of message would that have sent him about how important he is to me or how important it is for me to spend time with him? I can tell you that game was created with 14-year-olds in mind, not 47 year-olds… nonetheless, how sweet it made the day to have spent that time going back and forth with him, having him teach me the ins-and-outs of surviving zombie attacks.

    I can imagine it was sweet for my son, too, because I remember what it was like when my own father got down on my level and showed me how to make something out of wood that I really wanted, but couldn’t afford to buy.

    The aftertaste of that experience made it easier, later in the day, to respond affirmatively when my 4-year-old wanted help creating a poster with all his favorite Avengers on it. Once again it was a challenge to gear down to the interest level and speed of accomplishment of a child. (I had to resist the urge to snap, “That’s enough swipes with the glue stick for Spider Man! Slap him on there and start on Thor already!”) But once again: later, as he stood back and admired his own work with a smile–how incomparable the reward of being an involved and engaged father!

    Steve, I couldn’t disagree more with Malik. The challenge you have made to us as fathers is not a bashing, it is an invitation to a series of delightful opportunities! It is a sort of heaven on earth waiting for us to wake up and relish! No reward we can enjoy in this life is more sublime than that which we can experience in the walls of our own home via the connection and closeness with members of our family!

    A sincere and hearty Thank You for your inspired message!

  6. Michael says:

    I find it real interesting that when people speak of fathers it is usually in the context of criticism or shaming. While there might be a few positive respondents to this article, I am prepared to bet that it will do precious little to solve the problem. Criticism and shaming produces guilt, but it does not produce the motivation for sustainable effort for lasting change. Think about it, fathers have been criticized and shamed for years, what has been the result? Answer: more phantom fathers.

    Have the author of this article asked why the husband referred in this letter has no interest in talking with his wife?

    Consider this quote from the letter “I am sick and tired of living with a sissy. A wimp – a coward. You know, he’s afraid of me! Hostile, you say. You better believe it. I’m sick and tired of living in a world of passive men. ”

    Many people claim that wives behave badly because their husbands are not stepping up and if they would love their wives as Christ loves the church then all would be well. Consider this implication. If wives and families behave poorly because the husband is not behaving properly, should we also conclude that the for those Christians who end up in hell it because Jesus Christ was not behaving improperly and loving them inadequately? Listen people, you cannot have it both ways.

  7. Vernita says:

    I love it! Thank you for sharing

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