Which is better, to live a life of ease or to live a life with hardship? I am convinced that the hardship is more important than the ease. While it is nice to have a break from a hard life, it is the hardships of mortality that we are here to experience and to learn from. We do not fully understand the importance of pain, sadness, loss, and death. We may have clues to their importance, but the full value is yet to be revealed to us.
Which leads me to the title, the trade-off between ease and hardship. The grand, Faustian bargain that we all face: do we choose to avoid hardship or to endure it? Do we escape to luxury, or do we make sacrifices? And by luxury, I don’t mean enjoying a few days off from one’s work. I mean a life in which there is little or no work. I know of few paths to luxury that do not involve a crime or great sin of some sort, and none that involve compassion for one’s fellow man. If we have compassion, we work – and work is hardship.
I know of men of great means that nevertheless devote themselves to long hours of service. They know that the hardships they endure on behalf of others are much more important than enjoying their riches. I know of men of little means that will use whatever they can get their hands on to get substances that will remove them from their hardships. I say those things to show that appearances do not always give a glimpse into the hearts of others. We have all kinds of people in the world.
The diversity in the world to come, however, will be limited. Heaven is not known for its broad spectrum of inhabitants. They tend to be people that undertook hardships and not those that escaped them. It is here on this earth, away from God and His perfection, that we are able to experience the deep lessons of mortality. These lessons, in turn, prepare us to return to God.
When we avoid the pain by running to the arms of pleasure, we do not do the things we are meant to do here and set ourselves up for a true hell – regret. After this life, we have memory of things unatoned for, and that is why I choose to work and endure other hardships. That is why I want to do the work of God here, so that I can do the work of God later on. Life here is not supposed to be heaven. If it were, then it would not be here, it would be in heaven.
Trading mortal experiences for a counterfeit of heaven is the great trade-off that we are offered. To accept is to live without pain. To reject that exchange is to life eternally without regret.