“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Why does she fight me so hard?”

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I wandered the grocery store aisles, cell phone pressed to my ear. Another long, wearisome day with an iron-willed four year old was drawing to a close, and as I loaded my cart with the week’s essentials, I also unloaded my burdens onto my mother’s proverbial shoulders.

“I know it’s hard right now,” she commiserated on the other end. “But remember that this child was given to you for such a time as this. The world is going to need that iron will someday … you just have to remain faithful in its shaping in the meantime.”

Daniel 2:21 features a profound statement on God’s sovereignty, reminding us that “He controls the course of world events” (NLT). Yet while many of us are quick to recognize God’s supremacy in the big-picture events of daily life, I wonder how often we stop to consider His purpose in crafting those traits in our children who push us to our limits?

In her excellent book You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded), Cynthia Tobias argues that what most annoys us about our children today will almost certainly be an important key to their success as an adult. But it’s up to us to reframe those challenges into positive identity elements. With big-picture vision, we can move beyond thoughts of “This child is driving me crazy!” to gospel-centered reflections such as “I wonder what amazing purpose this iron will (stubbornness, sensitivity, competitiveness, etc.) is going to accomplish someday?”

My mother’s gentle admonition that night in the grocery store was a reminder that when we pray to see our kids through spiritual eyes, we begin to grasp God’s big-picture plan for their lives. And with a big-picture mindset, we can look beyond today’s challenges to see tomorrow’s triumphs.


Family life is far from perfect. But when we choose to see God’s beauty in its sin-flawed bearers, to look on His creation (from the tantrum-throwing toddler to the smart-mouthed teenager) and use our spiritual vision to see its glorious potential, we practice a powerful form of worship.

As a family, read Proverbs 18:21 (“Death and life are in the power of the tongue”[KJV]). Discuss together (even with your young ones) ways you can speak life over each other—even in your most unlovable moments. Then commit to do so.


“You’re too emotional” becomes “I love your ability to feel things so deeply.”

“You did it wrong” becomes “You have such a unique way of looking at things.”

“I don’t understand you” becomes “I value our relationship. Help me understand.”

As our words of life echo onward onto the paths set before us, may we be daily, profoundly amazed by the discipline of seeing our loved ones as individuals created in the image of God—iron wills and all. And may we recognize by doing so we are giving honor and glory to our Creator.