If you’ve ever been miserable as a Christian, the reason may be simpler than you realize: disobedience.
This truth is a corollary to Jesus’ words in John 15:9–11:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
According to Jesus, there is a link between our obedience and our joy. We experience the joy of Christ when we abide in His love, but this abiding requires whole-hearted obedience.
Since joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), this makes sense. We are to live by the Spirit and not quench the Spirit by breaking God’s laws (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Our Spirit-given joy dries up when we quench the Spirit through disobedience.
D.A. Carson’s words on these verses are illuminating:
“No one is more miserable than the Christian who for a time hedges in his obedience. He does not love sin enough to enjoy its pleasures, and he does not love Christ enough to relish holiness. He perceives that his rebellion is iniquitous, but obedience seems distasteful. He does not feel at home any longer in the world, but the memory of his past associations and the tantalizing lyrics of his old music prevent him from singing with the saints. He is a man most to be pitied…”
How do we overcome this? Delight in the law of the Lord.
“The joy Jesus promises is therefore not merely some cheap glow that depends on outward circumstances. It is the profound delight of the godly person who “delights in the law of the LORD” (Psalm 1:2), the sublime gladness of wholehearted obedience. Every Christian who has traveled any distance on his pilgrimage knows this to be so. His deepest joy springs from periods in his life when he obeys Christ with unreserved commitment.”
I’ve seen this in my own life. I have endured miserable seasons of spiritual wandering and self-pity in which I refused (albeit unconsciously) to pursue contentment and a thankful heart.
The Lord has called my attention a few times when people asked me, “Where is the real Kevin?” What they meant, consciously or not, was: “Where is the Kevin who finds His joy in the Lord and loves to obey Him even when life is hard?”
These comments stung and alerted me to my disobedience. They also helped show me that seeking joy in circumstances is the fast track to a miserable life. Seeking joy in God by obeying Him is not only blessed (see Psalm 119:1–8); it is the fast track to knowing and experiencing Him more. Consider Jesus’ words in John 14:21 below (emphasis added):
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
God is gracious. His commandments are not burdensome, they are a gift (1 John 5:3; Psalm 19:7–11). When we lose sight of this, we lose the joy He created us for.
 D.A. Carson in The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Evangelical Exposition of John 14–17, page 116.
 Ibid, 115–116.