Sunday 16 June, Father's Day. A happy day, a day to celebrate with a father who loves you - but let's not forget that there are many for whom the day will not be so joyful.
Recently I was talking with someone who had just become a new dad. As he told me all about it, he was obviously very excited. But it was also clear that the reality of his huge new responsibility was beginning to dawn on him. I remember both those things well from my own experience.
Being a dad is a serious business. (As is being a mum, of course - but that's another story.) In this connection, I was struck by a term I came across recently: 'father-hunger'. It came up in a book called Daddy Tried. I don't like the title, but the book's subtitle is much clearer: Overcoming the failures of fatherhood.
These days we're probably meant to think about 'learning opportunities' rather than 'failures' but, whatever we call them, most dads know something about getting it wrong when we reflect on the way we've brought up our children. And our failures can have a serious impact.
That truth is underlined in the book by some agonising snapshots of carelessness, cruelty and abuse, often by fathers who called themselves Christian. It's not just the obviously outrageous things that leave a mark, either. The author has his own sad story of hurt from a good father's failure.
His point? That we need an answer to the pain caused when 'father-hunger' is not satisfied.
'Father-hunger' is normal. Every child has a father. And every child has an inbuilt desire, as part of the natural order of things, for a good and loving father. Thank God for good fathers, but every father fails in some measure or other. When fatherhood fails badly, life-long damage can be done.
What on earth can the answer be? Jesus taught his disciples to pray, 'Our Father in heaven ...' The writer says that, ultimately, the answer is not on earth, but in heaven; not what, but who. God is love. God is not only the perfect model for human fatherhood. God is also the Father who can overcome the failures of human fatherhood.
So Christian faith offers hope for fathers who fail, and hope for all who whose 'father-hunger' has left them with great longing.
'No Christian is fatherless, because God is our Father.' If you are hurting today, that truth could change your life.