Your child’s purpose vs. your child’s potential

Written by Jen Forsthoff
Published on March 10, 2023

It’s that time of year again. The IEP is scheduled to review my daughter’s goals and progress over the past year. I will meet with a group of teachers to discuss recent development, percentages and data, and I will come with my questions and observations, voicing my desires for my daughter. As I prepare for this annual meeting, I find myself reflecting and asking the question, Is my child meeting their potential? In what areas do we need to push harder? Is there more potential on the other side of more effort on our part as parents?

Redirecting our prayers

I wonder if you have ever had these same thoughts about your child. You wonder how you can maximize their potential. As a parent who wants what’s best for your child, you carefully consider their academics, athletic ability, talents and skills, and wonder how you can help these areas become even better.

As I was praying for my children, specifically this desire to know my daughter’s potential and asking God for wisdom to lead her in the right direction, I was confronted with a different thought. Rather than praying for her potential, I felt redirected to pray for something else. To focus my efforts and perspective on something that carries greater weight. Something that is not about achievements or success in the world’s eyes. I felt the Lord direct me to change my prayer from, God, help my daughter reach her potential, to God, help my daughter fulfill her purpose. I believe this was the Holy Spirit showing me how to pray according to his will and not my own. 

Potential vs. purpose

There is a big difference between potential and purpose. Potential is all about our goals, while purpose is all about God’s will. Potential focuses on our accomplishments and growth, while purpose focuses on impacting others and living for something bigger than ourselves. Potential is limited to what we can see and what we want, and purpose goes beyond what we can imagine to accomplish God’s perfect plan to advance his kingdom here on earth.

It is good to help our children reach their potential. It’s our responsibility as parents to help our children grow and meet milestones. But this potential is a stepping stone toward something greater: their purpose. Potential is not the ultimate goal, rather, is it God’s purpose and his will.

A shift in focus

When we shift our focus and prayers from, God, help my child to reach their potential to God, help my child fulfill their purpose, it enlarges our perspective to see the bigger picture and not fret over the small things. We don’t allow one setback or one area of weakness to define our child’s destiny. Rather, we step back and consider more than just what our child is trying to accomplish. To help you shift your focus from potential to purpose, consider these things:

  1. What God-given abilities do you see in your child? 
  2. Who has God brought into your life through your child? How can you be a light for Jesus with this person?
  3. What is God doing in your family as a whole as you walk through this season together?
  4. What is God teaching you as a parent as you help your child each day?

Revealing God’s glory

These questions will help you to consider the truth in John 9:3 when the disciples asked Jesus about why a man was born blind. They wanted to know the purpose and cause of this man’s condition. Jesus’ reply encouraged them to see the bigger picture of this man’s life: “He was born this way so that God’s glory might be revealed through him.” God made your child not so they could reach their potential, but so his glory could be seen through their life. Though potential is important, God’s purpose is of far greater worth and value. 

Next time you pray for your child, ask God for his ultimate purpose and glory to be revealed through their life. Trust him with the details of their needs and progress, and keep focused on the greater picture of what God has planned for their life. He has a great purpose for you child! 

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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 and on Instagram @jforsthoff.

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