Once Narada, the divine sage, committed some transgression. Then, Vishnu, the Lord of Goloka or heaven, cursed him saying that Narada would be thrown into hell. At this Narada was greatly disturbed and prayed to the Lord singing songs of devotion and begging him to show where the hell was and how he could go there. Lord Vishnu then drew a map of the universe on the ground with a piece of chalk and showed in it the exact position of heaven and hell. Narada said pointing to the part marked ‘Hell’, “Is it like this? This is hell then!” So saying he rolled on the said spot and exclaimed that he had undergone all the sufferings of hell. Lord Vishnu smilingly asked him, how it was possible and Narada replied, “Why, Lord, are not heaven and hell Thy creation? When Thou didst draw the map of the universe Thyself and point out to me the hell in the plan, then that place became a real hell; and as I rolled myself there, my sufferings were intense. So I said that I have undergone the punishments of hell.” Narada said all these with great intensity and sincerity and hence Lord Vishnu was satisfied with the explanation. Thus Narada performed his penance to expiate for the sin or transgression committed by him.
Sri Ramakrishna used to narrate the above story to draw the attention of the devotees to the fact that everything in this world including our pleasure and pain are all directly controlled by the Lord Himself. So, if one is sincere and prayerful and tries to depend on God, it is possible that sufferings of many lives, in other words the sufferings of a very intense nature can be worked out in one life itself or with relative ease. Of course, some self-effort is absolutely necessary, but the most essential thing is the grace of God.