Based on "Salvifici Doloris", (The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, Pope John Paul II)
Colossians 1:24 "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church,". St Paul knew that his 'sufferings' could be Grace for himself and others! [Pope John Paul II] "As a result of Christ's salvific work, man exists on earth with the hope of eternal life and holiness. And even though the victory over sin and death achieved by Christ in his Cross and Resurrection does not abolish temporal suffering from human life, nor free from suffering the whole historical dimension of human existence, it nevertheless throws a new light upon this dimension and upon every suffering: the light of salvation. This is the light of the Gospel, that is, of the Good News." (Salvifici Doloris = SD) So, everyone, can share in the redemptive suffering of Christ. With the 'Fall', Adam & Eve caused Death & Suffering to enter into our world. With the Redemption, Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Mediatrix of all Graces; caused Grace to enter the World. Death & Suffering didn't cease to exist - they were Redeemed! When Christ died and rose from the dead, all of Creation was Renewed - and this Renewal will be completed at the Second Coming! Rev 21:1 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, " Death & Suffering does not exist in Heaven. Rev 21:4 "he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."
(COME HOLY SPIRIT)
In man's quest for the meaning of suffering we need to acknowledge certain points: First of all, we need to acknowledge the aspect of PUNISHMENT: Death and suffering are part of the 'Fall of Adam & Eve'. Gen 3:16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children," 17 And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." In the Book of Job we see Job's 'buddies', his buddies are trying to convince Job that his afflictions are due to Job's sinfulness. (With friends like that who needs enemies) "The story of this just man, who without any fault of his own is tried by innumerable sufferings, is well known. He loses his possessions, his sons and daughters, and finally he himself is afflicted by a grave sickness. In this horrible situation three old acquaintances come to his house, and each one in his own way tries to convince him that since he has been struck down by such varied and terrible sufferings, he must have done something seriously wrong. For suffering--they say--always strikes a man as punishment for a crime; it is sent by the absolutely just God and finds its reason in the order of justice. It can be said that Job's old friends wish not only to convince him of the moral justice of the evil, but in a certain sense they attempt to justify to themselves the moral meaning of suffering. In their eyes suffering can have a meaning only as a punishment for sin, therefore only on the level of God's justice, who repays good with good and evil with evil." (SD) 11." Job however challenges the truth of the principle that identifies suffering with punishment for sin. And he does this on the basis of his own opinion. For he is aware that he has not deserved such punishment, and in fact he speaks of the good that he has done during his life. In the end, God himself reproves Job's friends for their accusations and recognizes that Job is not guilty. His suffering is the suffering of someone who is innocent and it must be accepted as a mystery (heresy), which the individual is unable to penetrate completely by his own intelligence." (SD) So, this would be our FIRST POINT: "While it is true that suffering has a meaning as punishment, when it is connected with a fault, (such as 'The Fall'), it is not true that all suffering is a consequence of a fault and has the nature of a punishment." (SD) "Already in the Old Testament we note an orientation that begins to go beyond the concept according to which suffering has a meaning only as a punishment for sin, insofar as it emphasizes at the same time the educational value of suffering as a punishment. Thus in the sufferings inflicted by God upon the Chosen People there is included an invitation of his mercy, which corrects in order to lead to conversion: "... these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people"26 [2 Maccabees 6:12]. (SD)
So, the SECOND POINT, would be CORRECTION: As our Holy Father states it: "Thus the personal dimension of punishment is affirmed. According to this dimension, punishment has a meaning not only because it serves to repay the objective evil of the transgression with another evil, but first and foremost because it creates the possibility of rebuilding goodness in the subject who suffers." (SD) Suffering comes from sin. But not all suffering comes from direct personal sin. 'Human suffering has reached its culmination in the Passion of Christ. And at the same time it has entered into a completely new dimension and a new order: it has been linked to love, to that love of which Christ spoke to Nicodemus [John 3:16], to that love which creates good, drawing it out by means of suffering, just as the supreme good of the Redemption of the world was drawn from the Cross of Christ, and from that Cross constantly takes its beginning. The Cross of Christ has become a source from which flow rivers of living water 52. In it we must also pose anew the question about the meaning of suffering, and read in it, to its very depths, the answer to this question.' (SD) "With these and similar words the witnesses of the New Covenant speak of the greatness of the Redemption, accomplished through the suffering of Christ. The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ." (SD) Death didn't end with Christ's Redemption of mankind but Death was Redeemed. 1Cor 15:55 "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" Instead of Death being an end, with Christ's Death & Resurrection; Death now became a 'Doorway' that can lead to Heaven. Before Christ's Redemption; Suffering just caused pain with no benefit. Now, in Christ Jesus, Suffering is also Redeemed. Our suffering now joined to Christ's can actually become an 'avenue' of Grace for ourselves and others!
THIS IS THE THIRD POINT AND THE POINT THAT WE STARTED WITH!
Suffering as REDEMPTION: "I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" So, Suffering & Death didn't end with the Redemption but both were indeed Redeemed in that they now could produce life! It is said; "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: It is a megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (C. S. Lewis) Suffering is all about opportunity. It can be beneficial, or, if we choose, detrimental. It has the potential for growth; spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. It can deepen our concepts of love, sacrifice and redemption. It also holds the potential for destruction, selfishness and for loss. How you use the 'opportunity' of suffering depends on how you view your relationship with God. If you, as so many Christians today, think that 'Christ died and suffered so that (Christians) don't have to'. Or, if you see life as independent of a higher power. If you think that your life is based solely on what is experienced here and now, you will see suffering as an experience that interferes with living. As seen from Job, suffering can be a mystery. If you join your sufferings with Christ, offering them up in faith, perhaps a loved one will come home to the Church or maybe a stranger in another country will find the hope to live. If we join our suffering love to God's who can be against us? Romans 8:31 "What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us?" I will end with the words of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II: "Saint Paul writes: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake". The joy comes from the discovery of the meaning of suffering, and this discovery, even if it is most personally shared in by Paul of Tarsus who wrote these words, is at the same time valid for others. The Apostle shares his own discovery and rejoices in it because of all those whom it can help--just as it helped him--to understand the salvific meaning of suffering." (SD)
* This doesn't mean that we shouldn't pray for relief from pain and adversity. 2Cor 12:8 "Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me;" St. Paul a sincerely devout man of God prayed for relief from some problem and received none. So, it could not be wrong to pray for God's healing Grace, but while there is pain we can 'Rejoice in our sufferings' as Paul did!
We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.