Changed by our children: God’s plans in our parenting

Written by Jen Forsthoff
Published on December 31, 2021

So much of our efforts as parents go towards supporting and helping our children. From the moment they are born, we work tirelessly to help them reach developmental stages and make gains to keep in line with benchmarks and standards of typical development. 

And for a parent of a child with special needs, our efforts are intensified as we are striving to help our children overcome limitations caused by a diagnosis. 

For my daughter Charlie, we have been fighting her whole life to help her develop and progress to overcome the cognitive and physical delays that were caused by Trisomy 21. We are in a continual pursuit of best speech therapists, educational environments, and programming to support her current needs.

We have been on a nine year journey to change Charlie. 

God’s plan 

But just recently, I have taken a moment to consider a new perspective. What if I’m missing the bigger picture? What if a greater purpose in raising my children, a greater change, was intended for me? 

In all my efforts to support my daughter and help her reach her fullest potential, what if the change that God wants to happen is on the inside of me? 

Dear friends, I encourage you to pause for a moment and recognize the reality that God’s plan for your life included your child. God had a plan for your life from the beginning of time, and your child is an integral part of that plan. 

We’ve heard Jeremiah 29:11 many times, “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…” Your child was his plan. Your child was his design for you and your family. And as part of his plan, your child is a part of God’s ways “to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

In all your efforts to support and change your child for the better, how are you being changed? What are you allowing God to do in you to make you a better woman or man of God? 

Changed by Charlie

I have been changed by my Charlie. From the moment we knew the possibility of the diagnosis of Down Syndrome, our future was changed. The picture of what I imagined life would look like was changed in a moment. 

But because of the grace and goodness of God to sustain and carry us, this life we are living has been changed for the better. Charlie changed our family, bringing us closer together and being thankful for the small moments and every day blessings. 

Charlie changed my marriage. The Lord has taught us how to parent, pray, and persevere together in a greater way as we trust in God. 

Charlie has changed the way I pray. As I pray for her each day according to my limited understanding, I rest in the truth that his ways are higher (Isaiah 55:8). In God’s perfect timing and power, he will do all things according to his glory and his ways. 

Charlie has changed the way I see others. I have been changed to see people with eyes of tenderness and compassion, not letting physical differences determine my ability to connect and engage in a meaningful way. 

A changing and transforming work

I could go on and on about how I am being changed by my child as God works in my life. 

How about you? As you turn your attention toward your own life, how are you allowing God to work in you through your child? 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that we are being transformed from glory to glory. 

I believe God planned for our children to be a part of that ever changing and transforming work on the inside of us. Let God change you from glory to glory as you fulfill your calling to love and care for your child. 

If we aren’t careful, we can be changed by our children, but not for the better. We can become busy, stressed, fearful, overwhelmed, overcome, discouraged—the list goes on as I imagine what it would be like for those who don’t know the Lord and are parenting without his love and daily provision. 

But as we stay in the hands of our heavenly Father, allowing him to form and shape us, we can change for the better. 

Full of heaviness or hope?

As the years go on with your child—

Are you becoming bitter or better? Are you defensive or dependent?Are you full of heaviness or hope? Are you tired and weary or drawing from the Lord’s provision of strength and wisdom? Are you trying to be it all and do it all for everyone, or are you letting the all in all be your source? 

I pray that your eyes would begin to open to the change that God is bringing into your life through the gift of your child. In all our efforts to continually support our children, may we be aware and yield to the transforming work of our Savior on the inside of us as we continue to be changed by our children for his glory. 


Consider a few extra resources:

Practical Help for Parents Raising Teens

‘Meet them with Jesus’: Responding Biblically to Our Kids’ Problems

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Jen Forsthoff

Jen Forsthoff is the author of Chosen for Charlie: When God Gifts You With a Special- Needs Child and Champion For Charlie: Rise Up and Advocate For Your Child. Jen and her pastor-husband, Lucas, live in Michigan with their three children. Their oldest, Charlie, was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 at birth and has opened their eyes to the needs of families just like theirs. Raising Charlie, along with her experience as a classroom teacher and in ministry, has fueled Jen’s passion to positively impact families who face the challenge of parenting a child with special needs.  She writes, speaks, and advocates for families who need a message of hope and biblical truth to shape the everyday perspective of their role as the parent and champion for their child. In both ministry and educational platforms, Jen is a voice for parents raising a special-needs child. As God has opened doors through radio, television, community events/organizations, and ministry partnerships, she continues to bring a message of hope to families. You can connect with Jen at jenforsthoff.com and on Instagram @jforsthoff.

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