Amy, you have answered well, and left open room for more, so I'll jump in too. The thing about suffering that continues to amaze me, is that it is so central, yet so not understood; a think to be understood when we see God face to face, and all our suffering is over; I trust then that it will be clear, and we will understand. For now, it's a struggle we "suffer" through.
...in the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus asked God "if you are willing, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, let thy will be done." If suffering is a blessing, then why would he ask that? Wouldn't he realize God was trying to bless him? I think he'd know, if anyone would.
Take this to the next logical step. Jesus knows what God is doing because Jesus is God. The sacrifice of the cross was how God chose to reconcile man to a relationship with God. Not as a mere creature, not as a servant, not even as a friend, but as a beloved child of God. Only God could restore this, and it is true that He could have done this by simply willing it, He did something so extravagent that even the hardest hearts would melt in the face of His love for you; He was willing to die for you, in the most abject and humble and horrid way.
Now, I know that as a parent I feel strongly that I would die to save my children, but I would not look forward to it. God took our nature, in order that we could be united to him; and here is what I think is a key to understanding this; Jesus said "I AM THE WAY." If he is the way, he must show us the way. On the cross, he shows us the consumation of a love that gives all to the beloved; God gives us His son; too many turn away. But He has shown us the way because he has gone their first; he has said "pick up your daily cross and follow me." It's no fun, granted, but how much have we all done that wasn't fun, in order to get something we want? Well, as CS Lewis put it, our greed is not enlightened enough; we will suffer for many things with no eternal value, if we turn our hearts and minds towards Christ and eternity, then the suffering has merit, because we accept it, not as what we want, but as what we have received. And we recieve absolutely nothing which God has not permitted. In accepting it, we turn it from something with no benefit to anyone, into something beneficial for eternity.
This is not easy stuff, but God bless you for turning your mind to it.
I don't mean to be flippant, but I have to ask this question: What about how Jesus suffered? He didn't seem to thrilled about it and He KNEW why he was suffering! Is it being suggested that if only Jesus had remember to "remain calm, serene and patient," he wouldn't have sweat blood on Gethsemane? Even Jesus questioned God on the cross: “At three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46). So if the Son of Man felt this way about suffering, is it being suggested that we should "do better" than Jesus?!?!
There are a couple things here. Remember that Jesus is no ordinary man; he is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, who has taken our human nature, and shown us the fullness of "man". Now I think we all know that we only use a tiny fraction of our brain, so perhaps this is not so difficult to imagine. But consider: Jesus died for each of us, he suffered for each of us, he loved each of us on the cross.You cannot love someone you do not know
in the abstract; you must know them, to love them; it's personal. Jesus, as he prayed in the garden, had before him, as man, the lives of every person whose sins he was taking to the cross. The blood of the martyrs, which would flow so copiously from then to the end of time, is prefigured in his sweat of blood. At that time, he knew you and me better than we know ourselves, for God's knowlege of us is perfect, even as ours is imperfect (Were God to grant us this knowledge now, I don't think we'd merely sweat blood, but die; is not the suffering of those we love, an anguish that at times is hardly bearable?).
No one is suggesting that we do better in our suffering than Jesus did; he showed us the Way. Much ink has been spilled about when Jesus cried out ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani’ from the cross. This is difficult material, and there are many ways that have been proposed to consider it's meaning. However, think about this; if you were somewhere, say at the scene of a grisly car accident, with people dying all around you, and all of a sudden a loud voice called out "OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN" would you not continue with "hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come... etc?" Well, at the time Jesus cried out, his hearers would have continued the well known prayer, psalm 22; "Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?" - and we would have been shocked to see the prophetic words of David fulfilled before our very eyes! The thing is, sin separates us from God, and God took our sins to the cross, and that suffering he endured, was for the separation we inflicted, for in reality we are Christ's mystical body.
Whenever I ask these questions, the response I always get is "Well, Jesus' sufferings were worse than yours so quit whining because you are showing you have no faith." I personally don't believe that Jesus would respond that way--dodge questions by minimizing someone--and it doesn't answer my questions.
Scott Hahn on one of his recorded lectures, says that this is the standard type of answer given by someone who doesn't know the answer. What a blessing that you are looking. You may have to keep knocking, but He has said that He will open the door of understanding; it takes time, I know, it's a feature of the journey on the way.
In the heat of World War II, when the world was ripping itself apart, inflicting suffering in ways never before dreamed, Pope Pius XII offered the salve of Truth as solace to the world with his Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi
, here and like places you will find answers you can depend on, without the belittling snipes you have experienced in other places.