This is another question I've thought about many times over the last few years. I can come up with pat little answers: "Suffering teaches you lessons"; "It makes you stronger"; "It brings you closer to God"; etc. And while these are probably true, at least in part, those answers never seem like enough to satisfy.
Almost as soon as I hit the "send" button after the last posting, a Bible verse came to mind -- one that I have not thought of in years. I remember I HATED trying to memorize this verse as a child, because it seemed like so much of a tongue-twister to me. And yet, in this time of unsettledness in my life and the lives of so many around me, God brought THIS particular verse to mind.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)-- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
As I was typing this verse, I decided to do an internet search on it, and turned up this wonderful paraphrase:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 -- What a wonderful God we have - He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.
I don't know if this is an official "version" of the Bible, but that paraphrase makes it so clear to me. By going through those difficult times, whatever they might be, I become more compassionate to those around me who are going through suffering. It makes me able to cry with my client going through labor to deliver a baby who is already gone; it makes me WILLING to pray for MckMama and Stellan and family, a family I've never even met; it urges and compels me to go seek out our pastor whose mother died and give him a hug after church yesterday. I can FEEL their pain, because I've been in their place, walked that same path, felt the same grief and anguish myself.
Do I WANT to suffer? Oh, NO -- not for a moment!! But I pray that when those times come -- and I KNOW they WILL come again -- I pray that I can thank God for the opportunity to learn more about trusting Him and that I can use those times to learn how to share even more compassionately with those around me who are suffering. Oh God, make me willing to learn.......