When things are great, we say "this is heaven on earth". When things are really bad we say "I am going through hell".
Neither is true.
Our lives are a mixture of pain and sorrow, pleasure and joy. We work to move closer to the good and further from the bad, but we know that bad things of one sort or another will dog us to the end of our days on earth. When life is particularly difficult, we may despair, yet the sun rises each day, flowers grow, children laugh. We could not survive if all things were evil.
We exist somewhere between the worst and the best we can imagine. We may rest easy at a spot where the hellish events on this earth seem to be far from us, but we know that in a single moment, terrible suffering may beset us.
Recently a friend and five of her seven children were in a van, on a freeway, returning from a vacation. Her son was driving and made a common mistake for a new driver, he over corrected the steering in response to a small difficulty. Even at the legal speed limit, that one error was enough to cause the van to careen and then roll several times. The friend and four of her children were battered badly, but sustained no serious injury. However, one daughter repeatedly struck the pavement. When all movement stopped, she was badly injured and pinned under the weight of the van.
Disease. Accidents. Financial ruin. Each can occur at any time. I thank God that I have enjoyed a life where such difficulties have been the punctuation in sentences, rather than the body of the story. There are some who struggle to see the few bright spots in their otherwise bleak existence.
Optimists and pessimists are both frequently correct. However, both are fallible and unable to predict the future accurately. From conception to death, we live poised between heaven and hell. Our best efforts may not succeed in moving us closer to heaven. Our personal failures and our worst enemies may not be able to move us closer to hell.
God knows the troubles we experience. He became a man and walked the earth. He suffered and died. He has not forgotten a single one of us. He calls us to him, that we may be assured a home with him for all eternity. We must focus on what is ahead as we endure what is here. We can be thankful for the good things in this life. Better is yet to come.
Do not pray for an easy life. Pray to be stronger. Pray to serve better.