Photo by Zach Lezniewicz on Unsplash

My kids have a classic children’s book called the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco. And that story only seems to get better and better for me. You know those books that are not really written for the children but to the worn-out parents? This is one of them. It’s about kids’ toys, but really, it’s about suffering and what it’s all for. Just look at this:

“Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn't happen all at once,”said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”

And I can’t help but hear the echoes of the gospel here. Why else does God call us into things we couldn’t possibly shoulder alone? Why else would He allow us to suffer so deeply in ways that make no sense to us? Could it be Him loving us well?

Our suffering, as dark and terrible as it gets, is not permanent. Suffering doesn’t happen all at once, but it will end all at once. All of it, as well as death and sin, will be swallowed up in victory. Imagine it, suffering literally incorporated into His victory! He was cast into the worst of it, so that He could lead us out of it.

It will not remain. But you know what will? What He worked in us through it.

Our faith and hard won hope. We will remain with Him forever — maybe our eyes will be falling out and we’ll be loose in the joints and really quite shabby before He makes us new — but we’re loved and beautiful to Him every step of the way. Because He understands. He suffered too.


And knowing that there is purpose in the pain makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

For all the mommas reading children’s books to their kids at night while they grapple with burdens and questions bigger than they thought possible; for all the grieving grandmas and hurting sisters and for everyone else called and known by Him:

He’s not abandoning or neglecting or abusing us in our need, sister. He’s leading us into it.

He’s loving us Real.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory?
 O death, where is your sting?”” (1 Cor 15: 54-55).