Jack Frost grew up with a father who did not know how to express emotions or love, so Frost never experienced being loved by his father (although his father loved him). As a result, he rebelled as a teenager, eventually overdosing on LSD, where he heard his father saying over and over that he loved him. But he still lived out of the pain of feeling unloved, which drove him to being the best. He was successful at being the best fishing captain, but he was an angry, impossible to please man. He eventually cried out to God, became a Christian, and gave up the sea for ministry, where he was driven to be the “best” pastor. He was legalistic and his family saw him as impossible to please. His wife felt deeply unloved and his kids wanted nothing to do with his legalistic God. He had an encounter at a conference where God revealed to Frost His liquid love, revealing that He liked Frost. This healed his relationships a lot, and his kids saw a huge change and began feeling loved by him, but it did not impact his relationship with his wife. Finally, God showed Frost a picture of him hiding while his parents were arguing, revealing that he had built up walls to avoid the pain that prevented him from giving and receiving love, and melted the walls away with His love. Frost saw the pain that his wife had to endure from him, cried for days, and was able to start being intimate with her.

Being loved by God is foundational to being a Christian. Everything in the Christian love flows out of us receiving God’s love and giving it away to other people. If you do not think you are lovable, or you think God is angry with you, then it is difficult to receive God’s love. The reality is that the Bible says that God loves us completely, enabled by Jesus’ payment for our sins. The enemy accuses us of not being good enough, but God restores us. The Christian life is about staying in Father’s embrace: the state of being where we feel God’s love for us. When we sin, think we are unlovable, or think that God is angry with us, we step out of His embrace, and we need to repent and come back.

Frost identifies two different kinds of cycles leading us away from Father’s embrace. The first is the prodigal son’s cycle (from Luke 15). When we sin, the guilt and shame causes us to fear intimacy with God and other people, because we are afraid of being found out. So we distance ourselves, especially from God, which creates a loss of intimacy which results in an insecurity because we no longer feel God’s love. The loss of intimacy creates loneliness, which we try to escape with escapism. The escapism is sin, which fuels the cycle. Frost initially coped with drugs. The solution is to confess your sin and come back to the Father’s love.

The second cycle is the elder brother’s cycle. Here, self-love, jealousy, and being judgmental cause us to leave Father’s embrace, because he is unconditionally accepting. “Any distance from God’s love will gradually gravitate to law and legalism, and it will lead to feelings of insecurity, because it is the unconditional acceptance of the Father that gives us our true value and self-worth.” (100)  We feel unworthy, so we try to earn our love by striving to do all the right things. We treat others the way we feel (unworthy). We may get jealous of other people who appear to be more successful because we think Father’s love is limited. Finally, we self-justify to make our self-love, jealousy, and judgment seem acceptable. The solution is to recognize our sin, repent, ask those we have hurt for forgiveness, and humbly accept God’s love.

Frost’s family felt deeply unloved, because he was loving out Law. He says that Law is the need to be right, or to have things done properly. “The core issue is usually insecurity and fear that is rooted in a love deficit.” (146)  Law accuses, demands justice and rights, remembers faults, and just generally acts like Satan. Negativity in our thoughts and actions is a good sin we are starting to live out Law. God, however, gives grace: He forgives, advocates, encourages, honors. In our relationships we can act out of Law and destroy them, or we can give up our right to be right and give grace like God does.

Much of our pain comes from our fathers and mothers not being able to express love to us. From fathers, children need unconditional expressed love expressed to them, to feel secure, to hear praise and affirmation, and to be told they are special, with a purpose in life. Many fathers tend to  fail in similar ways. Many do not express love because they do not see this as part of a man’s role, or express love conditional on doing well at something . Angry fathers make children feel insecure. Critical fathers teach their children that they are not good enough. Absent fathers obviously never do express anything positive to their children.

We also receive a lot of our love from our mothers, especially at an early age. We receive love in the womb, and after we are born, through touch, eye contact, and tone of voice. If the mother is depressed, or did not really want the child, then she is likely to communicate this to the child through the lack of these expressions of love. Frost’s wife did not feel like she could handle another child at the time she became pregnant with their second child, then became depressed after giving birth for a year. Their daughter received the lack of love that her mother was giving her as rejection, and rejected her femininity. After they realized this, they started showing her love in the ways she needed and she became a warm woman.

We tend live in darkness, “a moral state where you hid things, have secrets, and [therefore] give the enemy ground to traffic in your life.” (165; from Jack Winter). This may express itself in unconfessed sin, our masks and coverups, shame from previous major sins, and other people’s darkness that invade ours (such as a spouse’s darkness). We often have pet names and excuses for sin that try to minimize it. Frost gives examples of several: “If I’m transparent, people will reject me” (pride); “I’m so tired from work, that’s why I’m been impatient” (sin against love); “I’m too stressed out from work and just don’t want to talk” (sin of separation); “I’m withdrawing because I don’t feel safe around you” (isolation and self-love).

God desires for us to walk abide in love, instead. We experience God’s love daily, both in the times when we feel God’s love very tangibly and in those times where we do not feel much, if anything, but remind ourselves that the Bible says that we are loved and our sin is gone. We walk by the Spirit as we focus on what is on God’s heart, instead of focusing on ourselves. We confess sin: “I began to recognize that anything I hid from others in order to make me look good is darkness, and I start drifting away from dwelling in Father’s love.” (193)  Finally, as we become overcomers (victory at least 51% of the time) we share transparently about our problems, which weakens their hold on us and encourages others.

Frost ends with some bad assumptions in marriages and some examples of how wives react to husbands living in darkness.

This is book on the journey of a lonely, insecure elder-brother. Frost starts burning himself out and destroying his family trying to be the best possible pastor in order to get God’s love his followers. By the end, he has deeply experienced God’s love tangibly, and learned to daily walk in that love, which transforms his ministry and family into something life-giving. Along the way Frost concisely identifies the main ways Christians live apart from God’s love that we were designed for. He graphically shows some of the painful consequences, and all along the way gives prayers and steps for people to get healing.

However, I am disappointed that the book feels like one of those marriage books that says that the problem is the husband, like Every Man’s Marriage, but the title suggests that it is a general purpose guide to experiencing the tangible love of God. Instead, it seems like it would be more properly titled From Demanding Husband to Experiencing Father’s Embrace. The content is very good and quite practical, and a good marriage book as well. However, the title is just not clear about this. Furthermore, while men seem to fail very visibly in their marriages, it makes me very uncomfortable when the other side is not presented. The content suggests experiencing Father’s embrace is something that husbands need to do, which trickles down to their previously pained and unloved wife and kids. I have to assume that women are failing in their marriage, too, that some husbands are primarily suffering from their wives’ darkness, not their own. This book has nothing to say to those men and women, nor to the unloved wife, and gives the impression that a bad marriage is the man’s fault. I felt the same way after reading Every Man’s Marriage, but at least the title was pretty clear, and there is Every Woman’s Marriage to speak to the women who are destroying their marriages.

Still, this book offers a great explanation of where our loneliness and insecurity comes from, and offers a concrete path to walk for healing. I wish I had known about this book years ago, before I had experienced God’s tangible love! If you are not regularly experiencing God’s unconditional love for you, I recommend giving Experiencing Father’s Love a read.
Review: 8
Very clear, orderly presentation. If anything, a bit dry and intellectual, but chock full of explanations, application, and ways to begin walking healthily in God’s love. The book feels timeless in a way that is unusual, but does not really cover the topic very completely. If the title were From Demanding Husband to Experiencing Father’s Embrace, I think this book would be fairly timeless (for the topic of angry, demanding husbands). It is more a marriage book than a guide to experiencing God’s love, so with the chosen topic, it simply does cover the material very thoroughly. What it does cover, though, is quite complete.