A friend asked me a question about (in part) whether I think religion is a struggle that just happens to have friends along to hang out with. Here's more or less what popped out in reply.
I'd say religion is a struggle, period. Because when I think of religion, I think of rules. And that's what I lived under a lot of my life-- just another set of rules that happened to have "GOD" stamped across them. But when I really encountered God, I found He wanted a relationship, not a bunch of rules. and that's what I find in the Bible as well. It's pretty well summed up when the lawyers (what a great translation of a word that means "the religious leaders who worried about the law all the time") asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. "Love God with everything in you. And the next greatest is just like it-- love your neighbor."
When you really get who God is and how much he loves you, when you really get how he sees you (his child that he loves like crazy, a part of the Church that's going to be the perfect bride for his perfect son), then it suddenly gets a whole lot easier to love him, and to love each other. The rest of it-- a great deal of typical, modern Christianity-- in my personal opinion is just a recipe for disaster.
Are there rules? Sure. But they're secondary, and they're there for our protection, not to lock us down. The more we recognize God's love, the more we love in return, the more we grow in love for one another, the less the rules matter, because we honor and cherish one another, and want only the best for each other. If I truly love my wife, I don't need a rule to tell me not to murder her, or not to cheat on her. If I truly love my neighbor, I don't need a rule to not steal from him, or lie about him in court.
I realize there are many who will disagree with me. There were many who disagreed with Jesus as well. (I know that will sound arrogant to some people. Oh, well.) Those who love the law for its own sake, or who are simply bound up in it, for instance, will think me mad, foolish, downright perfidious, maybe even evil. Law and Rules (Religion) any more.