Rev Dr Joel Edwards, who passed away in June 2021, left a huge spiritual legacy with his family, here at the Evangelical Alliance, and the wider church family in the UK. Here, Joel Jr shares his perspective on losing a good earthly father, as well as remembering all those who experience hurt or lack this Father’s Day.

Recently, Father’s Day took on a new but painful meaning for me.

It is no longer only a time to lament on how much less choice my children have to celebrate me in comparison to their mum on Mother’s Day (#JustSaying), but it has now become one where I am almost forced to accept the truth that my earthly father is no longer here. Having lost him almost two years ago, we are naturally doing all that we can to come to grips with the chasm he left. Yet even in this horrid reality, there is some gratitude as I am able to reflect on the incredible impact he had on my sister and I, and on so many others.

I hope that, like me, you have a rich well of childhood emotional recall to draw on. I remember wanting to be able to drive like my dad on the long trips to Spring Harvest; sharing his interest in music as he imparted value and discipline into my life without my knowledge; or even prancing around in the height of silly made-up games during the holidays.


Perhaps, as you matured, your father or another significant person also stood in the gap for you and gifted you with fond memories of warmth, love and laughter; of challenge and correction; even of disagreement and reconciliation. Gave you the ability to recognise the power and influence of wisdom and experience moulding the very trajectory of your life.

Acknowledging responsibility – and brokenness

As a father now myself, I am all too aware of the awesome responsibility I have, to shape my son as he continues to grow into a wonderful young man, whilst giving my daughters the framework and templates for their own sense of value and the blueprint for how they allow themselves to be treated. I find myself adapting the practices and repeating the phrases that used to irritate me growing up, that I promised myself I would never use, yet only now beginning to understand some of the wisdom and genius behind them and doing my best to emulate it. For today’s fathers of all ages, this is no easy task. In many cases, the combination of modern technology and social media often leaves us feeling as though we are barely keeping our head above the water as we navigate present-day complexities and wrestle with quiet feelings of inadequacy.

Of course, I recognise that not every paternal relationship is worthy of being celebrated, and we don’t have to go any real distance to see whole generations of people utterly damaged by a toxic or even non-existent father. It is well documented that this hurt can impact and invade the very fabric of a person’s being. This was not my story, yet the absence of my earthly father in the last months has been so profound to me, I can barely comprehend what many of us have had to endure. But there is hope.

Embracing fatherhood – and our heavenly Father

Regardless of the type of father we have had, or which side of the relationship we’ve found ourselves on, embracing fatherhood is an opportunity to step up and step into the divine role and relationship that God Himself has modelled for us. Be it biological, foster, step, grand or spiritual father, stepping into this role is an opportunity for us to become more like God. He has given his blueprint to us which is to reflect His love, care, challenge and discipline.

Equally for those who have found themselves victims of failed fathers who have negatively impacted their relationships and ability to trust, the door to Abba Father is open. This is something which is often overlooked from the perspective of the child. We often focus on the intimacy, love and grace of the Father which is super important, but the word Abba’ means more than just the receiving of the Father’s intimacy and grace – it is actually a term of active submission, meaning, Father I will obey you.’

So many of us have now been locked up by less positive experiences, where our trust is eroded, and as a result we build walls of protection which often enslave us. Romans 8:15 tells us that, the Spirit of God does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again, rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry Abba, Father.’” Here the freedom, security and peace we often seek is found, not in building walls of protection, but in the posture of vulnerability and trust. In actively resetting ourselves to be able to blindly trust in God’s ability to care for us.

This Father’s Day, let our prayer be for men to follow God’s blueprint of the Abba Father. Men who are ultimately reflecting the glory of God in our lives.

Let us also be mindful that whatever earthly father we have or have had, whether they have positively or negatively impacted our lives, whether they are present or absent, we have an ever-present heavenly Father, who sees us, who loves us, and is with us through it all.

So, however you are celebrating Father’s Day today, let all roads point back to our Abba Father, with love, praise and adoration for His unconditional love, sacrifice and ever-present help.