First, I just want to encourage you @Julia_Bracewell, that you are not alone in not feeling joy when you obey God. I too have wondered if I am not a “good christian” as I am not able to live in the joy that Jesus promised even while walking in obedience. When we fail to feel the joy, I think one reason can be because of our longing that world around us will conform to the truths of God that we are trying to conform to by our obedience. I think this experience is the expression of the groaning we experience as children of God and we join the groanings of this creation and the Spirit of God.
Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Sometimes, however, we may not feel joy because we have made the success of our obedience to God the source of joy or significance rather than God Himself as a means of joy and significance. It’s a daily battle I think to stay committed to deriving significance and therefore joy in God alone.
The experience of joy is not a passive process but an active process and that is why we have the command to “Consider it joy” because perseverance gives us hope of life with the Lord.
James 1: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
The book of James describes that the humbling before the Lord feels miserable not joyful but our joy can be in that the Lord exalts us.
James 4:9-10 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Now what did Jesus mean in John 15:10-11 that you bring up?
John 15: 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
I think this verse gives a description of the connection between morality and abiding in love which brings joy as a by-product. When we believe that God’s commands are good, we believe that obeying them will bring about good in others, in other words we are able to love them well. When we love well, we feel joyful. But if we don’t feel joy, it does not mean we didn’t obey well or love well. It can also mean we were not loved well in return, which I think is a legitimate desire. If that desire becomes our demand, then it could mean we have lost our focus of deriving our joy in the love of God.
I hope this is helpful in dealing with what you are going through. Julia, I am truly amazed with the challenging work that you are involved in and I am sure you are bringing an inspiration to many. God bless!