Fathers Day (Australia & New Zealand) Sunday 5th September 2010

My crisis of burnout in early 2009 could be summed up in this question that I asked at that time:

‘Are You the God I am afraid that You are—a task-master whose approval I can never win? Or the Father I have longed for—a God of grace and joy?’

‘Are You the God I am afraid You are—or the God I want You to be?’

How can it be that a Christian of 33 years could have such a crisis of faith?

The Orphan Spirit

‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’ John 14:18

As Christians, we are beloved children—sons and daughters—of a loving Father. And yet for many of us, this truth is negated by a deep-rooted belief that we need to prove our worth in order to be loved.

We are born again as sons and daughters, a relationship so valued by God that Jesus paid the price of His life-blood for it, and yet many of us live as spiritual orphans. Why?

I first came across teaching about the ‘orphan spirit’ by Jack Frost in 2002 [1]. I read his articles with interest and agreement, little knowing that at least one statement would prove prophetic:

‘Often within the church it is difficult to tell whether a person walks in the heart attitude of an orphan or a son (this includes daughters).  Outwardly, a person may have a pattern of service, sacrifice,discipline, and apparent loyalty,but you do not know what is inside a person until he or she gets bumped. Then the attitude of the heart overflows at a time when they feel they are not getting the recognition or favor they deserve.’ Jack Frost [1]

My loving Father arranged for the year 2008 to be the year I was ‘bumped.’ Due to transition in the ministry I served in, I had 5 responsibilities, and could do none of them well. It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, the approval I craved was withheld.

I emerged in 2009 free of all but one of the ministry roles, but burnt out and exhausted. It was in the ensuing crisis of faith that I asked the question, ‘Are You the God I am afraid You are—or the God I want You to be?’

Discovering the Father’s Heart.

It was in this year of brokenness, devoid of the ability to achieve, that I discovered the grace of my Heavenly Father.

This was chiefly expressed through my husband, who bravely bore the burden of providing for our household, giving me as much time as I needed to recover.

I also discovered grace through friends who encouraged me to find and express my own voice, resulting in this blog.

I discovered grace through the presence and patience of my pastors and church family.

I discovered grace through reconnecting with the Father and allowing Him to peel back the layers of my need to perform, replacing them with His love.

Living as Sons and Daughters

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matt 3:17

Two weeks ago I listened as Leif Hetland [3] taught on ‘The Orphan Spirit.’ An orphan, he said,

  • Sees God as a master
  • Lives by love of the law
  • Is always insecure
  • Needs to be noticed
  • Is one for whom discipline is a duty

Whereas a son and daughter:

  • Sees God as a loving Father
  • Lives by the law of love
  • Has security, rest, peace
  • Has total acceptance
  • Is one for whom discipline is a delight

He went on to share five truths associated with this—the revelation of belonging, of being wanted and valued, of favour, of being seen and watched over by God, and of being approved.

It was a great message, and when Leif gave the call for those who needed to respond to stand, I actually stayed seated—a testimony to the work God has done in my life over the past year.

Kingdom Citizenship

Leif then asked the worship leader, Steve Swanson, to sing a song of the Father’s love over us. As I opened my heart to God in that tender moment, I had a vision:

‘I was looking at a secured metal briefcase. It immediately reminded me of the movie ‘The Bourne Identity,’ when Jason Bourne went into the secure bank deposit and came away with a briefcase that contained passports, weapons and a wealth of money.

Down the right-hand side of the briefcase was a combination lock. It was very long—a set of numbers that would be impossible to remember. At the moment I noticed it, the Father said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got this covered.’ He opened the case.

To my surprise, the case contained no wealth—in fact, it was relatively empty.

All it contained was a single passport.

I knew that it was a Kingdom passport, and that it was mine because I was a daughter of the King. The front cover was embossed with a large crown, along with the face of a lion. ‘The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.’

God in His grace chose a revelation that had personal meaning to me. You see, my family and I are not citizens of the country we are now living in. This has been an ongoing source of frustration to us, as there are rights and privileges we do not have access to here in Australia.

Now, He was showing me that I am a citizen of His Kingdom, belonging to His Tribe, fully qualified, with all the rights and privileges attached to being a daughter of His Kingdom. There are no places in His will I cannot go to—every door my Father opens I can pass through.

I did not realise that there was a wound attached to my citizenship status until God chose at that moment to reveal and heal it.

But better than that—the truth of sonship has, once and for all, dropped from my head to my heart. I no longer need to live as a spiritual orphan. I am a daughter of the King.

And the answer to my question?

‘I am the God you want Me to be. I am the Father you have longed for—the God of grace and joy.’

If this article has spoken to you, you may be interested in the following resources that I have referred to:

[1] I recommend Jack Frost’s book, “From Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship”

[2] Leif Hetland also has a number of resources available on this topic

Related Posts:

For a prayer to help you break free from an orphan mindset, read the first of the following posts:

Breaking Free From An Orphan Mindset

4 Symptoms of the Orphan Spirit in Church Life

1 Father, 2 Sons, 3 Positions: Which Describes You?

© Enliven Publishing 2010 Helen Calder

23 thoughts on “No Longer An Orphan: How I Discovered The Father’s Love”

  1. many thanks, have searching to get answers on orphan heart. a counsellor diagnosed my struggles as orphan heart. 2 months ago. Have had anxiety attacks and severe depression and all that after ministry sessions,prayer, mentoring by great pastors.i have been a Christian for 23 yrs.

  2. Hi John, thanks for leaving the note. I pray that you have a life-changing revelation of God as your loving Heavenly Father and all He has created you to be as His son. May you also be filled and refilled with the Holy Spirit and His joy. The journey is totally worth it.

  3. I have only recently after being a Christian for 37years come to the place of truely recognising the difference between an orphan and a daughter. I have worked so hard, seeing fruit of ministry, yet always coming to the place of burnout. I am delighted to say i am a daughter of my father living in his presence, still productive not by compulsion but from a place of peace even joy. I love the fact that i am an image bearer and that i carry his whereveri go

    1. That’s a wonderful testimony, Valda! I love your thought about being His image bearer, too – thank you 🙂

  4. Helen, I am so moved by this. The wording that the Lord gave you – ‘Are You the God I am afraid You are—or the God I want You to be?’ – is breathtaking. I know the Lord wanted me to find your articles tonight – have mailed them to friends as well. May you know that your hard-won insights are reaching all over the globe. with love in Christ, Marilyn from Minnesota usa

    1. Hi Marilyn, thank you so much for letting me know – prayers and hugs from afar in Melbourne, Australia 🙂

  5. Deb from Chattanooga

    God directed me to this site tonight! I have been through trials so much in the past few years that i have developed depression and panic disorder. In my darkest times, i feel like even God has left me, but i keep telling myself to remember what God has told me in the light.Isaiah 45:3 spoke to me! The dark times are treasures! I don’t know if you understand what i am trying to express, but that verse gives me tremendous hope for healing. Thank you!

    1. I love that Deb, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about the treasures! It reminds me of a vision I had once in which I was journeying through a very dark cave / tunnel. But my attention was captured by beautiful jewels that were glowing, embedded in the walls of the cave. I was so delighted and fascinated with them that the cave seemed to be a beautiful place, not at all scary. Be richly blessed.

  6. Ok, I read the article. If I have the orphan spirit, does that make me not saved? Is having the orphan spirit a sin?

    1. Hi Jennifer, in answer to your first question, struggling with an orphan mindset does not mean you are unsaved, it may mean that you ARE saved but don’t have the full sense and awareness of security in your relationship with Jesus.
      You can be a Christian for many years, as I was, and still be struggling with this.
      Fear and doubt are sin, and these are part of an orphan mindset, so yes, aspects of it are sinful.
      Take a look at the links I have above to the Jack Frost articles, these explain a bit more at length (and he has some great books on this topic too)

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