Yesterday I revised Surah al Ghashiyah (88) from the Quraan, (made a few mistakes, which are corrected now alhamdulilah). Its a beautiful chapter, a small one with very short verses, but which you could ponder upon forever and learn so much from.
The begining part talks of two groups of people on the Last Day, according to their deeds, ones with humiliated, downcast faces and others with bright, joyful ones. But the thing that cast terror in my heart is the two lines in which Allah says how both the groups strove really hard in this life, but one of them only got tiredness out of it, while the other is seen so lively and their freshness is obvious from their countenances.
"Has there come to you the news of the overwhelming calamity ?
Some faces on that day will be downcast;
They shall enter a blazing Fire,
And will be made to drink from a boiling spring.
They will have no food save that of dry, bitter and thorny herbage,
Which will neither nourish nor satisfy hunger.
And some faces on that day will be joyful;
Well-pleased with their past striving,
In a lofty Garden."
Obviously there was a difference in the striving of the two, the striving of the first group got them nothing but regrets and weariness on the Day of Judgement, because their striving was in acts of disobedience to Allah.
Also at times we may not actually be disobeying Allah but doing good deeds with wrong intentions, and not to please Allah, those kind of deeds will also be of no value and would just come out to be as disappointments over time wasted.
Other times it could be none of these but doing things that bring no benefit either of this world or the hereafter, just 'killing' the precious time that we are given to invest in, so that at the end it is profitable. Just as the Prophet (peace be upon him) likened this world to tillage for the hereafter, and we are here to sow the seeds of good deeds, work by plowing so we can raise crops to be harvested later.
And seeing our rewards at the end will make our faces light up with joy, as we all know how pleasing it is to see something accomplished after we have taken great pains for it. On the other hand, we also know the pain of having regrets and hopelessness for not using the time and resources properly and being empty handed at the end, and having no time and chance for changing things to good.