There is a story told by the great chassidic teachers, and it goes like this.
There was once a simple villager who won the lottery. In the olden days, this meant literally winning a pot of gold. So with excitement and anticipation, he set out on foot for a three day journey to the big city to collect his winnings.
When he came to the lottery office and saw his prize, he realized he could not possibly carry such a heavy pot of gold home. So with some of his new wealth he hired a wagon driver with a strong horse to carry him and his pot back to the village.
The journey took several hours. Along the way they stopped off at the side of the road for a little rest. The wagon driver parked the wagon in what seemed to be a safe spot and the villager had a little nap under a tree.
Refreshed and ready to go, they jumped back onto the wagon to continue the journey. But after a short while the wagon driver stopped and said, “I think your pot of gold has been stolen.” The villager quickly went to check. To his great distress he saw that indeed the pot was gone.
The villager immediately turned suspiciously to the wagon driver and asked him accusingly, “How did you know that the pot was stolen without even looking into the back of the wagon?”
The wagon driver answered, “It was obvious. When we were traveling earlier, before we stopped for a break, the horse was struggling under the heavy load. But since we resumed our journey the horse is galloping so easily and effortlessly, I could tell that he’s not pulling a heavy weight any more. Only an empty load is easy to carry. When you have a pot of gold in your wagon, it takes effort to carry it.”
The same applies to us. When life seems tough, when we need to put in effort and struggle to keep on moving, it means that we are carrying a treasure on our backs. The smooth and easy times may be pleasant, but they are not as rewarding. The riches of life come from hard work.
So keep pulling the load. And be thankful for it. Only a horse is happy with an empty wagon. A life of Torah and Mitzvot is a full life, like carrying a pot of gold.
Mendel (Menachem) Bluming and Rabbi A”M and other sources