If there’s one constant theme I’ve picked up on from talking to parents of all kinds, it’s that they want the best for their children. They’ve worked hard to build their lives to provide for their kids, and they want them to succeed, thrive, and flourish as they grow to maturity. They want them to be safe, healthy, and happy, and the heart of that is good.
My parents said that to me growing up-- “we just want what’s best for you.” I appreciated the sentiment, sure, but I also wondered at times if they truly meant it. What if what I saw as best for me didn’t align with their standards? What if I felt like God was opening doors for me that weren’t ones my parents might have planned for me?
What if I wanted to pursue a creative career instead of one guaranteed to bring in the big bucks or rocket me to the top of the chain of command? What if I chose to work for a start-up instead of a stable, established company? What if I wanted to travel or live overseas in areas with risks and potential danger? Even as a high school student applying for colleges, a part of me wondered what would happen if I took some time off to travel or explore or go on missions trips instead.
I never doubted that my parents loved me and wanted the best for me, I just wondered what would happen if our “bests” looked different, or if God had a different path in mind for me than they did.
Cameron Cole tackles this question in his article for The Gospel Coalition entitled “Do Christian Parents Flirt with the Idol of Safety?” He says: “There’s nothing wrong with parents wanting their kids to maximize the talents God has given them. … But does our craving to see our children excel arise out of faithfulness or idolatry?”
He says it’s not necessarily the desire for money or success that drives parents to try to steer their kids in the ways they think are best, but instead that the root is “two more subtle idols: comfort and safety.”
He makes a good point. I’m sure my parents felt anxiety when I talked about taking a mission trip to Costa Rica instead of coming home to see the family for one college spring break. I’m sure they felt some hesitation at allowing me to spend a summer in England to study abroad and earn a second minor when I was just 20 years old. I’m sure they questioned whether pursuing a career in writing would be fruitful and secure enough for me to pay my bills and stay afloat. All of these examples are things I strongly felt the Lord calling me to do, but that doesn’t mean they were easy for my parents to stomach.
“Often we want our kids to follow Jesus to a certain extent,” Cole says. “We like their commitment to Christ when it means good moral choices and a sense of spiritual fulfillment. But what happens when they embrace the gospel to a point where life gets financially challenging, or even physically dangerous?”
The beautiful thing is, if parents are desiring the best for their children, their willingness to follow His lead and His call in their lives is exactly that.
“The tough pill for parents to swallow remains that, just as God’s love for our kids comes with no strings attached, his lordship over their lives comes without conditions too,” Cole explains. “That the Father offered his Son as a ransom for our children and us means they belong to him, not us.”
There are many stories all throughout Scripture of people who gave up security, safety, jobs, and livelihoods to follow Jesus. Sure, there were risks involved, and I’m sure the parents of Paul or James or John were concerned about their choices at times.
“This level of surrender to Jesus comes with great rewards. A child willing to follow him anywhere will be a child with a satisfied soul. Indeed, the most fulfilling life is one centered on God’s glory and the advancement of his kingdom,” says Cole.
Parents, as you raise your children and pray for the best for them, there will be times where it gets uncomfortable. Don’t be discouraged. Pray in hopeful, bold confidence that the Lord would lead them in His perfect way. Trust that His ways, even when they are hard for you to process, are always best.
Crosswalk.com contributing writer Whitney Hopler reminds us of the limitless power of prayer for all parents. “Don’t limit your prayers only to small requests,” she says. “Pray big prayers that claim God’s promises for them so they can benefit to the fullest.”
And, as Cole concludes, “don’t let idols of comfort and safety rob them of the chance to experience the joy of life devoted to King Jesus--regardless of the cost.”
Parents-- how are you praying for God’s best for your children today?
Publication date: February 11, 2016
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com