Everything in this universe is created in the best form and sustained with the utmost care and mercy. It is only in exceptional cases that divine mercy may not be apparent to the casual eye. We may at times find ourselves in hardship or may observe others suffering from calamities. How does a believer view such scenarios?
Firstly, every being was given a fixed status from the start of their creation. They do not have the capacity to improve themselves and rise to a higher status before God. Humans and jinns are an exception to this rule. By giving us free will, God has offered us an opportunity which no other creature was offered. He has enabled us to to choose right from wrong and thus to develop ourselves and rise in status. However, in order for us to utilize our free will and choose right from wrong, we have to be tested. Hence, there is a certain beauty behind calamities however rough they may seem. They last only temporarily but offer an everlasting blessing. Essentially, this world was created to be a field of examination; the permanent reward for the choices we make will be given to us in the afterlife.1
Secondly, a world with no hardship would limit our understanding of God and His names and attributes. Such things as poverty, illness, weakness and so on would not exist in a “perfect” world. The absence of poverty would imply that everybody possesses the same amount of wealth. Since everything is best understood through its opposite, the absence of poverty would limit our understanding of the concept of wealth/poverty. This would in turn limit our understanding of what it means for God to be The Sufficient (al-Ghani). Similarly, the absence of weakness would limit our understanding of God’s power. Also, with the absence of illnesses, we would not be able to understand what it means for God to be The Healer (al-Shafi) since we would not feel the need for God to heal anything, and so on. We would thus have a very limited understanding of who our Creator really is.
Finally, our viewpoint of what constitutes as a calamity is based on our self-centeredness. Volcanic eruptions, for instance, may be viewed as a calamity. However these eruptions bring many benefits to the earth and play a vital role in the environment. When looked at the whole picture, the benefits far outweigh the suffering. The reason it is classified as a calamity is because we often fail to see the whole picture and, due to our self-centeredness and pessimism, focus only its the negative immediate effects on humans.2
The more our ego increases, the more we focus only on ourselves forgetting the whole picture. Due to our pessimism, we are only able to see the negative sides to such events. As faith in God increases, these feelings begin to dissappear. In the place of submitting to our ego, we submit to God and His will. Our individual personal desires become less important to us.
1 The Twelfth Letter, Your Second Question
2 The Words, The Eighteenth Word, Second Point