In an imperfect, cursed world, death and suffering are facts of life. There is no way to completely avoid either. One can however profit from the experiences by allowing suffering to accomplish its intended purposes. Suffering is a creation of God's grace. Most, if not all, suffering is the result of loss of something temporal. Suffering serves us by putting our focus on the eternal aspects of life and helping us fulfill our purposes of knowing and glorifying God and serving others.
Reminder - that we live in an imperfect world, that this world is not all there is. It prevents us from securely and snugly settling down and missing out on our purpose and our ultimate good.
Refiner - of impure motives and desires, of lives and character, and helps us set our hope and aspiration on the eternal. Suffering gets our attention on harmful or beneficial things that we would otherwise ignore. C.S. Lewis: "God whispers in our joy but shouts in our pain." Suffering turns on the heat to cause the impurities to rise to the surface so they can be skimmed off and we can better reflect the character of God. We're rewarded for our RESPONSE to trials (Psalm 11)
Remover - of barriers to knowing God and serving others. (Splinter from Finger, Success syndrome from our soul)
Refurbisher - Builds us up for service to others. I Thess comfort others with the comfort we've received. Adds authenticity to our lives. Paves the way for ministry to others (someone who has lost a child)
Restrainer - Just like the moderate pain of a burn keeps us from holding on to a hot pot that could burn right through our skin, so suffering keeps us from heading in the wrong direction or continuing to engage in behavior which will yield disasterous consequences. (Lepers, Micah's Mixed Mercy)
Retribution - Shows that a just God has set up the rules for now and the hereafter. Displays His justice to the world and us. Law of cause and effect is in operation. Occasionally God intervenes, most often He does not. Lung cancer from smoking could be viewed as retribution in an age where the consequences are known and people willfully ignore them. However, even in such a case God's grace could be displayed if the parallel were drawn between the consequences of willful neglect of the warnings against smoking and willful neglect of the warnings of God's world. Eternal benefit is hourly sacrificed on the altar of temporal pleasure.
Redemption - (as in the case of Christ) His suffering opened the door to the greatest benefit the world has ever experienced. I Cor 12 Paul's sufferings enabled others to enter that benefit by means of his ministry and epistles.
Renewer - Deeper Experience with God and His word. Drives us back to the SOURCE for STRENGTH
Revealer of the Glory of God to others. We are a display case for His power to be shown at work: either by supernaturally intervening as in the case of the man born blind or in supernaturally intervening in enabling us to face apparent disaster with peace and strength.
Revealer of the grace and character of God to us. It not only demonstrates that God can be relied upon, but acquaits us more intimately with the sufferings of Christ, the strengthening of the Spirit and the splendor of the Father's person.
To understand God's purposes it's important to go back to the beginning.
Suffering is as essential for full wise living as are nerves for sensation.