Back in the day, I was a Relay worker, which means I worked for a year as a volunteer alongside the Christian Union in Cambridge. It was, in retrospect, a great time, although I made a mess of it in many ways. But at the time it felt hard. Really hard. At the end of the year, we had a session where everyone stood up (there were about sixty of us, I think) and in turn gave a report on how the year had been. Turns out lots of people had had a hard year. There were tears. Yours truly cried like a baby. I remember about half way through the session one of the leaders saying something like 'if you've had a good year, you are allowed to say so!'
I've been wondering about the way we talk about the Christian life. My guess is that we're at one end of a pendulum swing. Used to be that you couldn't really express doubts, or talk about how hard you were finding the life of faith. Everyone in church was meant to smile. No doubt that was pretty unhealthy. Nowadays, it's the opposite. You read Christian blogs or just listen to sermons, and you'll hear a lot of 'wrestling', a lot of agonising, a lot of honesty about how hard things are. But I wonder if maybe we've gone a bit far (as the pendulum has a tendency to do). I wonder if it's become as hard to have simply joy in Christ as it used to be to express doubts and struggles.
If you've had a good week, you are allowed to say so!
The concern is that this new culture is just as damaging as the old one, in a subtly different way. Doubts and struggles which are not expressed grow and grow. In that old culture, no doubt repressed difficulties thrived underground and eventually destroyed many Christians. But joy and delight that is not expressed actually shrinks and withers. In the new culture, I worry that our lack of expression of joy will eventually make it impossible for us even to experience joy.
Can I recommend one small and seemingly insignificant step that has been making a big difference to me? I've been changing my music choices and putting on some of the Christian music I used to listen to back when I was a student. You know the stuff. It's cheerful, it's bouncy, it's full of Jesus. The temptation now is to write it off as hopelessly naive, and certainly it doesn't give the whole picture. But it might help to nudge the pendulum back towards the centre a little.