On Abba and fathers and survivors

The first time the name Abba stuck with me is when I read Brennan Manning’s exquisite book, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging. Something about this particular way of referencing God–essentially as “daddy”–made me feel as if I was curled up and safe on His lap.

It’s no accident that most of the time Comfort (one of the two main protagonists in How Sweet the Sound, and the one who was raped and molested) refers to God as Abba.

Comfort argues with Abba.

She laments to Abba.

She weeps with Abba.

She asks Abba why.

Comfort talks with Abba the way He wishes all His children felt free enough to do. But because many abuse survivors are hurt by their fathers, many feel unable to approach God as a Father.

I am so incredibly grateful that I was not abused by my earthly father. In fact, my Dad is the epitomy of kindness, gentleness, and a strong protector.

They were, however, extended family members, and sadly, a few of their friends.

But my abuser was not–praise God–my father.

Trust may be the most difficult and enigmatic aspect of survivor recovery, especially when the people who are supposed to protect you the most violate the deepest, most private parts of you. Because so many have a hard time relating to God as someone who watches out for them, someone who delivers them, and someone in whom they can place their trust–things a father should be relied upon for–I decided to refer primarily to God as Abba in my novel, with the hopes that painful, triggering memories associated with the name “father” diminish for some.

Because whether eartly or eternal–especially eternal–we all need to know we have a Daddy who loves us unconditionally. Who can handle our deepest, darkest questions and secrets. Who binds up our wounds. Who heals us so we can bring hope to others.


“Only reckless confidence in a Source greater than ourselves can empower us to forgive the wounds inflicted by others.”
Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging




“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 NLT


What about you?

Do you have a hard time thinking about God as your father?

Do you think the name Abba helps or hinders faith in Him?

One thought on “On Abba and fathers and survivors

  1. Boy, your words could be my words. I was abused by my father and had a hard time relating to God as a father. Then I headr a priest give a talk about another name for God- Abba. Papa. And it changed my whole image of God and I was able to see Him as my loving Papa. You are right on with this. And I read Mannings book, too.

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