Lenten Choices: Sadness or Joy?

From Palm Sunday’s “Hosanna!” to Good Friday’s “Crucify him!” to Easter Sunday’s “Hallelujah!” this week is filled with powerful emotion. Holy Week takes us from the waving of our palm branches, to the washing of our feet, into the heavy forbearing of the betrayal, denial, arrest, flogging, mockery and crucifixion of Christ, and eventually to the amazement of standing by the open grave in absolute astonishment and wonder. He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

The emotional ups and downs of Holy Week take us from joy to sadness and back to joy once more. The swing of reactions toward all that Jesus is experiencing has us tossed internally from one extreme to the other. What are we to feel when we go from the exuberance of Palm Sunday to the depth of frustration at his beating and crucifixion, all the while knowing “the rest of the story” when he will conquer the grave and rise victoriously back into eternal life?

I find sadness and joy co-residing in my heart on many occasions, but not as poignantly as in Holy Week. The season of Lent prepares us for this eventuality. And yet, year after year, our souls expand and contract with the powerful truths expressed in the final week of earthly life for our Lord Jesus. Like his first disciples, we too are engrossed in the reality of each segment of the journey to the cross, each dramatic moment toward the empty tomb and his post-resurrection appearances.

There are many figures who stand out among the crowd of followers who experience this full range of emotion. Judas: who betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and then ends up hanging himself when it’s too late to return his fatal pocketful of change. Peter: who denies that he would be the one to deny and then denies Jesus three times before the cock crows and who eventually comes to Jesus’ aid with sword in hand. Mary: who is bewildered by the turn of events and follows her son lovingly to the foot of the cross. John: who is the beloved disciple, leaning on the breast of Christ at the Last Supper and who earns the right to care for Jesus’ mother as he dies. The crowd: who usher Jesus into Jerusalem as a celebrity and then kick him out of town to suffer a criminal’s death.

Like those who were there, we too share the same mix of emotions…joy and sadness. Both can co-exist side by side this week. Both are very real. Both are important for us to feel. Both are legitimate emotions for serious Christ followers. Give yourself permission to suffer the anguish of the crucifixion and the delight of the resurrection. To ignore one and ignite the other may in fact steal from your soul the deep work of the Spirit that God Himself invites you to experience fully this week. Let joy and sadness blend together in ways that will deepen your faith and renew your hunger for the Crucified and Resurrected Christ. And, may these emotions help accentuate the power of the Incarnate Word…

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2: 6-11).


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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.