Motherhood. It’s been the most satisfying–and most difficult–part of my life, and even though my children are adults, I’m still learning how to tackle it. Recently I learned a lesson from the encounter Jesus had with the mother of James and John.

Last year I wrote a full account of this story (found in Matthew 20:20-28) for a new book based on the questions of Jesus. But in a nutshell, this mother requests for her sons to sit at Jesus’ right and left side in his future kingdom. Jesus then asks the brothers if they are willing to suffer, the way he himself will.

I can relate to the mother of James and John, pushing for her sons to have the seats of honour in Christ’s kingdom. Let’s be honest, having ‘successful’ children makes us look pretty good. I’ve had my fair share of proud-mom moments as my academically inclined daughter walked off the stage with an armful of trophies.

Other than making us look good, it’s a rare parent who doesn’t want the best for their children. A great education, leading to a successful career. A wonderful relationship leading to a happy marriage. A lovely, secure home and a settled life. It’s not necessarily wrong to hope for these things for ourselves or our children, and God grants many of these blessings, but this mother’s encounter with Christ teaches me that what we think is ‘best’ for our children is not necessarily what God considers best.

This mother didn’t understand the cost and sacrifice involved for Christ or the ones who followed him. Her son James would become the first of the twelve disciples to die for his faith (Acts 12:1). That kind of suffering is definitely not what we’d want for our children. We want their lives to be free of pain, filled only with ‘good’ things. Yet, this was the path Jesus foresaw when he said, ‘you will indeed drink from my cup’.

One of her sons would die a martyr. The other would be persecuted and imprisoned on the island of Patmos. Yet, what a legacy their lives left, teaching generations of believers about sacrificial faith and obedience to God. John’s gospel is one of the most read and loved books of the Bible, and the book he wrote in exile, Revelation, grants us a sweeping view of the end times and Christ’s second coming.

We, with our limited view on life, don’t understand God’s great plans. We cannot foresee that the possibly difficult path our children walk can lead to their growth and sanctification, and lives that are a witness and blessing to others.

So, instead of seeking their ‘worldly’ comfort and success, let us entrust our children to God and pray that their lives will not be comfortable, but rather powerful and purposeful for God’s kingdom.