The effect of suffering on us depends on what we love. If we love ourselves, suffering is hateful and we will do everything we can to fight it, and avoid it. And worse, if one loves himself and learns that suffering cannot be avoided, he may take pleasure in the suffering; it becomes a love/hate thing. If we love ourselves, suffering brings out our selfishness and drives us to make us even worse.
If we love others, suffering can bring out good for the time being. But, in the end suffering cannot prevent from destroying us and all that we love.
If we love God and suffer, we are glad to let suffering destroy within us what God seeks to destroy, because we know that all that is destroyed is unimportant. If we love God, then Christ in us, his love, his Passion in us, is what we care about first and foremost. Pain enables Christ, the Son of God, to suffer in us and give glory to Almighty God, Creator of all things. Loving God in the midst of suffering allows Him to be in the proper place of our lives, becoming far greater than our suffering could ever be.
The cross is salvation. To know Christ’s work on the cross, is to know the love of Christ who went through suffering and death in order to offer you salvation. Love Christ first through your suffering, and your suffering will not overtake you. For it was through His own suffering, Christ set you free! Know Him in the midst of your suffering and you will know freedom.
(Thoughts after reading Thomas Merton, To Know the Cross)