I am slowly making my way through Philip Yancey's book, Where Is God When It Hurts. This is a real mulling-over book, because much as we would all like it, there are no easy answers about pain and its role in the lives of so many we know. Pain is not always a consequence for wrongdoing or some great cosmic joke, and many times we don't know the reason for it or the many reasons are complex. A trite, holy answer will almost never suffice.
Our response to the difficulties in our lives seem to really determine our success in managing them. In the midst of pain and problems, it's often hard to see His purpose. I found this quote to be a real encouragement to be patient and wait to see how He will use hardship:
"The symphony he is composing includes minor chords, disonance, and tiresome fugal passages. But those of us who follow his conducting through early movements will, with renewed strength, someday burst into song."
God does love us immensely, but His purposes are not the same as ours. Yancey earlier in the book made the point that we often view God as a sort of benevolent grandfather rather than a heavenly father. Seeing my parents and in-laws as grandparents, and being a parent myself, that was a very vivid illustration for me. We often feel sorry that God isn't giving us more and more good things and pleasure, but He knows us like no other. He'd rather give us the best things--whether it be through good times or bad--than let us settle for the comforts of ease all the time.