As a child of God, I personally have found one of the most comforting passages in all of the New Testament to be Romans 8.28-29:
“28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
It is a sweet promise given to the child of God by the apostle Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Here, God promises that all things work together for the good of His children. The definition of “good” is further revealed in the very next sentence: “to be conformed to the image of [God’s] Son.” In other words, all things in life (even the seemingly painful or uncomfortable things) serve a very intentional purpose: to bring about my highest good, which is to make me more like Jesus Christ. In looking at the parental role, it should likewise be the aim of every parent to use all things in our young children’s lives that are at our disposal to bring about their “highest good” as well.
It seems all too tempting today for parents to become short-sighted. Focusing on the event that is taking place in the moment (whether it be an argument, act of defiance, power-struggle, rebellion, or even a moment of delightful indulgence) rather than the end-goal. This can often be observed as a parent passes through the candy section or toy isle of their local store with their observant toddler in the shopping cart. Once a desired item is spotted by the child, typically the child will begin to communicate that desire to the parent. Oftentimes, the more demanding the child, the more likely the parent is to give in to the child’s desire. After all, it might seem much more convenient and time-efficient to the parent to simply place the item in the cart rather than risk further public embarrassment or take the time to reinforce a negative decision to the child. However, is this parental response really establishing a pattern of behavior that is intended for the child’s ultimate good? In other words, is this response encouraging Christ-likeness (i.e. humility, gratefulness, submission, etc.) in a child or is it encouraging a sinful response from the child (i.e. pride, selfishness, rebellion, etc.)?
Like our heavenly Father, we, as parents, must always keep our child’s ultimate good (i.e. Christ-likeness) in mind. We must place every decision, compromise, experience, deprivation, and indulgence that we extend to our children in line with that end-goal. Anything that falls outside of that line, should be forsaken. All things that encourage growth toward that end-goal, should be pursued. As a litmus test, we should constantly be asking ourselves, “Is this going to encourage my child to be more like Christ or will this become a stumbling block to them?”
Like our heavenly Father, we must also be willing to use “all things” to encourage our children toward Christ-likeness. This includes blessings as well as trials. For example, while it is certainly permissible to bless a child with a new candy or toy, as appropriate, if the child’s heart should grow so proud to the point where he should ever come to expect such a blessing (or even worse, demand it), then it would be entirely appropriate for the parent to withhold such a blessing until the child is able to cultivate a Christ-like response to the situation (i.e. humbly submit to the parent’s decision regarding the situation without grumbling or complaining). In this way, the parent is using “all things” (i.e. “blessings and trials”) to encourage Christ-likeness in the child.
Finally, like our heavenly Father, all of this should be done in love. If a parent truly seeks to practice this principle in a God-honoring way, then a child should come to find much comfort in knowing that his parent is truly seeking his best and striving to use “all things” for his good. Even though the parent may introduce a trial into the child’s life at times, if the child is assured by the parent’s love that the trial is for his ultimate good then it will certainly make it easier for him to respond in a Christ-like manner. After all, isn’t this the way in which we respond to our heavenly Father?