Viewing all of life's woes as a victim doesn't get a person very far. When C. S. Lewis said that "Christians benefit from their suffering but non-Christians waste their suffering", that is not all he said in that statement. He implied that all people suffer, and that suffering is.
Our adolescent view of life was that life should be an existence of unbridled happiness and unmitigated self. But somewhere along the line, that rosy view that crashed. We had to recalibrate. What is life anyway? C. S. Lewis also said, (loosely updated) that if "we view life as a five-star hotel we'll be disappointed. If we view it as a quick trip through the ghetto, any little positive thing that happens to us is a bonus!"
Somewhere in the past eons of time, God must have had a flicker of a thought that suffering might be good for His creation and His people. From the evidence, He apparently fanned the flicker into a flame. Even the created order currently groans in eager expectation (Romans 8:28-23) for something different. The mountains and the hills suffer; every human being suffers. Humans suffer physically and relationally. No one escapes it. Apparently bouts of suffering sanctify and kosher us and the rocks!
There are two responses to suffering: One is to view it through the eyes of victimization. The other is to handle it with gratefulness.
When we view ourselves as victimized, we try to get relief by mentally shifting the focus off from our own emotional mismanagements and responsibilities to those around us. Our coping strategy is to privately (and often not so privately) attack two entities:
—we grow irritated with others
—and we blame God.
When we blame others for our current sufferings, we find it impossible to separate our sufferings from the vague foggy notion that somehow others caused our suffering and therefore are responsible to get us out of it. We fail to separate our sufferings from attachment to people, or from a mature understanding of the purpose of socialization: companionship, appreciation, a gentle knowing of one another, a shared humanity, a selflessness toward others rather than a grabbing for ourselves. In fact, we find (much to our surprise) that it is in learning to love that we get the ultimate relief from ourselves. Selfless love stands in stark contrast to clobbering the beloved for our own ends—which makes us ever more miserable as others fail to perform for us just exactly as our shifting and engulfing demands would like.
Instead, when we are feeling victimized we want others to own our problems. We want to straddle them with our lives. We do this as a cathartic. When we are irritated with others over our own woes we forget that they suffer, too. It is a selective amnesia. We forget that their world is as big to them as ours is to us. Do we really believe that people were created as venting stations for ourselves? We forget that relationships are fragile. If our goal is to catch butterflies to trap them in our jars, we shall have to be satisfied with butterflies stripped of their beauty—or dead butterflies—or no butterflies at all.
We forget how tenuous all of our close associates could be, and that closeness is a fragile gift. Our collected friends and family could be part of a distant 7-billion "people-throng" and not be interested in our lives at all. All of those other people are at least an arm’s length outside of our control: we couldn't control them if we wanted to—or blame them—or grow irritated by their behaviors. But for those closer in, we think it is somehow our right to demand of them relief for ourselves.
This is a misunderstanding of the reasons why people are in our lives. Relating to others helps us experience the self-sacrifice of love. The objective is not to wrest from others fullness for ourselves. If that happens, it is a plus, but it is no guarantee. It has been said that "people care more about their own headache than if you die." All genuine "companionship-relationship" is aroused by our love, not by our demands, nor by our leaning upon others to bail us out. When we show irritation with others, that is a sure sign of a social miscalibration.
As for blaming God, it doesn't get us much further. What we are, in effect, really saying by resorting to that thought is that "I could write a better story for myself." As a parent, what kind of a better story do we think our four-year old would write for himself?
Suffering produces endurance. All trials, even five-minute ones, seem too long. When suffering hits, we all look for escapes. Some long for the ultimate escape—that it would come earlier than it does. We are all shackled by impatience.
To handle suffering with gratefulness means we change our posture and embrace real life with all its vicissitudes with the expectation that we shall grow in some meaningful way by the relinquishment. We allow others to be others. We humbly acknowledge that we do not know the whole story; we are not privy to its eternal workings, behind the scenes. Attempting to "command" the length and the amount of the suffering becomes meaningless.
Oddly, strangely and slowly, if we are believers we come to understand that praising God in the trial renews us. The Scriptures indicate that we can be quite far into the fire and still come out smelling like a rose, as did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Proverbs 24:16: "Though the righteous fall seven times—but [loosely translated] they rebound!" If you get under the umbrella of praise, however momentary, one finds it a sure place of abiding relief. Trust will be rewarded. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17, KJV). Believe it, and it mitigates the suffering. Suffering is inevitable. It comes to all mankind. When we examine the lives of those who suffer well, we find that gratefulness was their route of choice; it is a kind of "way out". It takes the experience and puts it beyond just coping.
Suffering often escorts us to a corner in life where an entirely new vista opens up, if we'll let it. Suffering often is the very highway of our most intimate personal direction. And certainly suffering is the sure door to increased fellowship with our Creator. A deep believer of old once said he "never knew of anyone who became spiritually mature without it."