But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
My friend Godwin Sathianathan once preached at Middletown Church on Mark 12:28-34, and one particular thing he said in his introduction landed on me especially heavily. He was talking about an old friend of his who was very strong for many years in church activities, discipleship groups, Christian conferences, and the like, but who ultimately left the faith, deciding Christianity was no longer for him. Godwin said that one thing that stood out to him about his friend was that his faith always seemed so burdensome to him.
Should it always be so? We all usually agree that to follow Jesus is to take up one's cross, to constantly be doing battle against the flesh, to constantly be denying one's self and resisting temptation and pursuing repentance. This is all hard work. Cross-carrying is not "happy go lucky" stuff. And yet, the love of Christ—love for Christ—for the Christian is seen as a more delightful experience than all the world's charms and flesh-feedings. The very reason we take up our cross is not because dutiful religion is more fun than no religion but because we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, that taking up our cross is better; it's more freeing, not less. The yoke and burden Christ offers is easy and light.
Discipleship to Christ is very difficult. But it is incomparably joyful. Or ought to be. And the more we walk with Christ, the more sin we find to repent of, but the more joy we experience too. There is fullness of joy in him. The Spirit actually grows joy in us! So if my Christian life has no joy in it—ever—perhaps it is not the Christian life I'm living.