Dawn Eden's blog has been added to the Pantheon of Links (which is now the Nonpareil Nine) - she has an excellent, quite recent post on Ms. Schiavo that reflects on Terri's sufferings in light of the Christian Holy Week.
A co-worker of mine mentioned this just today, and while puttering about I've been considering it. Even St. Paul said that in his own suffering he makes up what is lacking in Christ's suffering for us (Colossians 1:24). I've thought about what that could mean, and the only conclusion that makes any sense to me is this: when we suffer, we have a link to Christ through this shared pain; even our bodies are allowed a share in redemption, even as our minds and hearts cooperate with God through understanding and faith.
But even animals can feel pain; therefore the material order of creation sharing in the redemption extends through us and links us not only to Heaven but also Earth. (This is consistent with passages calling us the stewards of creation.) In a way, then, our suffering can also be thought of as on behalf of those placed under our care and protection, even as Christ's suffering is on our behalf before the Father.