Recently, a group of yeshiva students from the northern Israeli town of Naharia visited Rav Chaim Kanievsky at his home in Bnei Brak. The bochurim were at all different stages of strengthening themselves in Yiddishkeit, and their rebbi, who had helped them find a life of devotion to Torah and mitzvos, told Rav Chaim that many of the boys found it difficult to spend long hours engaged in Torah learning.
According to a report in Yated Ne’eman, Rav Chaim smiled and said, “Today, people think that it is easy to learn. When I was a child, it was often hard for me to learn all the time. Once, my father, the Steipler Gaon, put me on his lap and related a story about two of his friends from yeshiva during his own youth. There came a time when one of them decided that it was time for him to leave yeshiva and seek a way to earn a living. When his friend tried to dissuade him from leaving yeshiva, he said, ‘I find learning so difficult.'”
The friend who remained in yeshiva found him later digging up a field with a shovel and asked him, “Tell me, this work is not harder than learning in yeshiva?” The friend replied, “Learning is much harder.”
Several weeks later, the yeshiva bochur found his friend laying bricks. “Do you think laying bricks on a high scaffold in the boiling sun is easier than learning in yeshiva?” The friend replied that learning is still harder.
A month later, the yeshiva bochur found his friend carrying a very heavy burden on his back and asked him, “That, too, is easier than learning in yeshiva?” The former yeshiva bochur answered, “This is just beginning to approach the difficulty of learning.”
When Rav Chaim finished the story, he gave chizuk to the bochurim saying, “Of course learning is difficult, but after working hard at it, it becomes much easier.”