In an article that appears in today's National Post, Barbara Kay discusses the topic of redemptive suffering. She is unequivocally opposed to the Christian view of God: "A God who deems suffering redemptive is unacceptable."
In her article, she quotes a Catholic who embraced the holocaust as a way of participating in the suffering of Christ. I share her concern over this particular Catholic emphasis.
It is a peculiarly Catholic belief that human suffering, whether it be sickness or worse, is somehow redemptive. Usually and mostly it is not. The clearest example to the Christian always must be Christ -- who "went about doing good, and healing those who were sick and oppressed of the devil". Not once did Christ say, "it's God's will for you to be sick, he's teaching you a lesson, it's redemptive"! He healed all who came to Him.
However Catholics and Protestants are united in agreeing that Christ's suffering was redemptive because it was a divinely-instituted and voluntarily offered suffering on someone else's -- humanity's -- behalf.
Just like you as a parent might be willing to pay a penalty, a fine, imprisonment, or worse, on behalf of a wayward child whom you nonetheless loved. Both justice and mercy would be served, justice because the penalty would be paid, mercy because the child is spared punishment. And, it would certainly be redemptive to the child freed from the penalty!
But there are two caveats.
Firstly, the child would be free to reject the offer, which might be the case if he was stubbornly estranged from their parent.
Secondly, what if the child accepted the offer, but didn't turn from his wayward ways? The substitution would be monstrous -- it would simply free the child to continue in his wayward, destructive ways -- suffering the punishment would have been more appropriate.
God deals with both of these situations in the gospel.
God provides the way in Christ, leaves the sinner free to reject it, and predicates acceptance of it on a condition -- repentance.
Repent and believe the gospel -- the kingdom of God is at hand.