Guest Speaker












Joy might not be the word that describes your emotional life right now. I can’t imagine what you have been going through, but after 21 of a global pandemic, rampant racial injustice, job loss and financial hardship, mental health struggles, and everyday sufferings that come with living in a broken world…well, let’s just say joy might not be the emotion any of us are feeling right now. 

But hear me out—we can be joyful, even in the midst of hardship. 

Ed Welch describes this intermingling of emotions well when he writes, “Joy is not…a denial of pain. Because God’s splendor ascends over the sorrow of life, joy is possible” (Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness; pg. 247).  

What is this splendor? What could possibly carry us above the sorrow we experience, the sin that tempts us, and the suffering we see around us?

His name is Jesus

The season of advent helps us to embrace these mixed emotions. On one hand, we rejoice—Christ has come! He lived a perfect life on earth, and bore our sin and shame on the cross. We are a redeemed people and can be genuinely joyful. And yet, our lives remain embedded in a world marked by sin and suffering. We grieve the loss we experience and the injustices we witness. 

In a profound way, we can say that the season of advent extends outside of the time limits we give it in our regular calendar year. In fact, our experience this side of heaven most closely aligns with the reality that we live in a perpetual season of advent that is characterized by waiting for our King to return. 

What, then, does this mean for our joy today? 

It means that it’s okay that our joy does not always translate into feelings of happiness. We do not have to hide our tears and deny the pain we see in order to experience joy. This side of heaven, the Christian life is a life marked by an intermingling of joy and sorrow. 

It also means that we can be authentically joyful, even in the midst of experiencing darkness. We can have true joy that is rooted in God’s unending and enduring faithfulness to us that is most clearly seen in the first coming of our Savior. Indeed, we need this joy that is rooted in Christ. With it we acknowledge that all is not lost—there is hope. The sorrow that surrounds us, that can feel so overwhelming at times, cannot eclipse the radiant joy we’ve found with Christ. We have salvation now. Our sins, right this moment, are forgiven. We can rejoice! 

And yet, we wait, acknowledging that we live during a period of history where joy and sorrow coexist. We celebrate that Jesus has come, and we eagerly anticipate his coming once again. 

The prophet Isaiah gives us a glimmer of what that day will be like. He writes: 

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return And come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Is. 35:10)

This is the day we have in store for us as Christians, a day of everlasting joy where  “sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” A day where we will be reunited with our Savior and see him face to face. When our faith will finally be sight, every tear will be wiped away by God himself, and there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, and no more pain.

On that day our joy will be full.

I’ll leave you with the last stanza of one of my favorite poems. I encourage you to read it slowly. 

“When tears are banished from mine eye;

When fairer worlds than these are nigh;

When heaven shall fill my ravished sight;

When I shall bathe in sweet delight,

One joy all joys shall far excel,

To see Thy face, Immanuel.”

-Charles Spurgeon | Immanuel

Joy marked with sorrow may be our present experience, but with Christ, a joy that surpasses all other joys is our guaranteed future.

Merry Christmas, my friends. 



Having two kids that are starting to understand Christmas is a new and fun experience. It turns out that kids really do have a unique perspective on the world. For our kids, their joy is easily observed during car rides at dusk, and it revolves around a newer phenomenon: giant lawn inflatables. Snowmen, Santa, Mickey Mouse, it honestly doesn’t matter. If they catch a glimpse of a staked-down, wind-prone lawn decoration, they are ecstatic. But we drive past, and the inflatable goes out of sight and the next plea is always “more snowman, more Mickey”. The joy of that experience is temporary and fleeting, and it leaves the kids wanting more.

CS Lewis distinguishes pleasure from true joy by defining the latter as an unsatisfied desire or longing for God. He writes “the fact that anyone who has experienced [joy] will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.” Like my children longing for another glimpse of a blown over giant snowman during an evening drive, our hearts long for true joy. Many of us have, as Lewis wrote, experienced joy and want it again. Whether our longing is for the next life stage, a career, or the next Amazon purchase, we know all too well that true and lasting joy isn’t found in the temporal things of this world. There are not enough Amazon deliveries in the world that could satisfy our longings.

So, if joy is not just getting all the things or experiences you want, then what is it? Psalm 16:11 paints a beautiful picture for us of what joy is and where we find it:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Joy is the satisfaction and contentment that transcends our circumstances because the focus of our joy is not an object, but a person. We find true joy – fullness of joy even! – and satisfaction in God alone through Christ. And we experience that joy in God’s presence, that is, in spending time with Him and knowing him. My prayer this season for my family and yours is that every heart prepare him room (as the famous hymn goes) so that Jesus Christ would permeate our thoughts and words and deeds to reorient our focus from the ‘seasonal inflatables’ of the world to the gift of Christ entering our world to bring us back to God.


​​During the American civil war, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the following words that would later become the Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Earlier that year, Longfellow’s son had been seriously wounded in the Battle of Mine Run, and just two years earlier he had lost his second wife when an accidental fire in their home left her with fatal burns. Previously, his first wife had passed away following a miscarriage. Longfellow was someone acquainted with loss and sorrow.

And indeed, when we face sorrow and suffering in life, we too may feel like hanging our heads in despair. When we look around and see a broken world, when family and loved ones pass away before we had hoped, when our bodies fail us, when our careers seem stuck, and when things simply aren’t proceeding as we’d long hoped, we can be tempted to feel perhaps a little bit hopeless.

But friend, we have “good news of great joy”! As the poem continues:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Indeed, God is not dead. He does not sleep! He is the same God today who said to Moses:

“I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey […]”

Exodus 3:7-8

He has seen our sufferings and our afflictions. And indeed, at Christmastime we celebrate that He has come down to deliver us! The angels announced the arrival of Jesus, saying:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Luke 2:10-11

 And He came to deliver us from something far worse than even the ancient Egyptian taskmasters. He came to deliver us from our slavery to sin, to pay the penalty for our unrighteousness, and to give all who receive Him “the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). This is great news! Jesus is the perfect King, the prophesied “root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples” whose “resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10). In Him we have a real, lasting hope that can enable us to “rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3). God’s not dead. He does not sleep.

Friend, this Christmas season as we reflect on Immanuel (God with us!), let us pray that God may “enlighten the eyes of our hearts” so that we may deeply know “the hope to which He has called us” (Ephesians 1:18) and that we may “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2) no matter our present circumstances, with thankful hearts for all He has done and all He has promised. May he strengthen us to proclaim the great hope we have to the world around us.



These past couple years have been filled with sorrow, unrest, and hardship. If each of us were to reflect for a moment, we could all testify about the hardships we have had.

To share on a more personal note, for almost two years I have been sick. It has manifested itself in many different ways, but the most humbling and challenging aspect is not knowing day to day whether I will be feeling good or bad. I have struggled with this physical weakness and have cried out to the Lord for mercy and healing on a daily basis. For the first time in my life, I have asked the Lord, “how much more, O Lord?”

I have only been able to find real and lasting hope when the Holy Spirit reminds me about Jesus and His powerful words of hope found in the Bible. The Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines hope as the following: to trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone. I would like to encourage us with some words of hope from Jesus as we celebrate Jesus in this Christmas season. 

We can hope because: 

Jesus does not grow weary of our cries for help.

Jesus is a refuge to the broken-hearted.

Jesus Christ is our ultimate future hope.

First, Jesus does not grow weary of hearing our cries for help. Psalm 71:3 says, “Be to me a rock of refuge; to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me; for you are my rock and my fortress.” Jesus never tires of hearing from us. When everyone else around us doesn’t want to listen, Jesus welcomes our prayers and our cries for mercy. 

Second, Jesus is a refuge to the broken-hearted. Psalm 34:18-22 says these words, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.” 

All throughout Scripture, time after time, we see broken and sinful people finding comfort and hope in Jesus. He restores them. He spends time with them. He transforms their lives. And the amazing thing is, he doesn’t always change their circumstances. Jesus uses those circumstances as a way for us to hope in Him.

Lastly, we can have hope because Jesus Christ is our ultimate future hope. Psalm 27:13-14 says this, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage, wait for the Lord!” As we reflect on the hardships of these past couple years, let’s cast our eyes upon Jesus as we wait upon Him, our ultimate hope. There will be times when we struggle to see what Jesus is doing, but our hope lies in waiting upon Jesus and looking to Jesus who is our ultimate hope and Savior.  

For me personally, I am still waiting and pleading with Jesus to heal me. By God’s grace, I am learning (very slowly) that Jesus is better than any physical healing I may desire. Last Christmas I wrote a song called, “In the Waiting.” The final verse summarizes the tension and worship I have been feeling through the process of learning to hope.

When my heart can feel his power making all things new

When my waiting sees his grace already pushing through

So my heart cries, “Worthy, worthy are you Jesus!”

 Praising out loud! You are my King of Kings!

Friends, as we enter into this Christmas season, let’s take the time as a church to hope, to worship, and to wait upon Him.


This week’s Christmas word is hope. Sadly, hope is something that often gets crushed in our world. You have hope that you are finally going to make the team, you are finally going to get that job or promotion, your crush is finally going to respond to your charming winks and amazing pick up lines, or the Sixers are finally going to make it out of the second round of the playoffs. But then…it doesn’t happen. We have probably each had a hope crushed at some point in our lives. It seems that one of the most frequent ways you will hear the word hope used in our culture is in the phrase “don’t get your hopes up.” Many people become weathered by life and numb to hope. We as Christians can even be tempted to put away the excitement and wonder of our hope in the gospel in an attempt to protect ourselves from being hurt or disappointed.

Consider Revelation 21:3-5: “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” When you read and think about a promise like this one, you may start to feel something. There is an excitement, an anticipation, a thrill, a wonder…that is hope!

Hope in this world is often a shaky thing. For example, I often have hopes for the characters in the movies and TV shows that I watch. I tend to get so sucked into what I am watching that I often have no awareness of what my body is doing. I will sit there with my eyes glued to the screen and my mouth hanging wide open in anticipation of what is going to happen to a character. Meanwhile, Steph gets more amusement out of watching me than watching the screen. Hope, in a worldly sense, is often just wishful thinking that can leave you full of anxiety until the end is made sure. Steph often whispers over to me, “You know there is a sequel to this movie, so the main character must survive!” Unlike worldly hopes, our hope to know God and live with Him forever in His Kingdom is certain because it is based on Christ’s faithfulness and not our own. Christ fulfills our side of the covenant so that all the promises of God find their yes in him! (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Do not rob yourself of the joy that comes from having hope. Hebrews 6:19 calls this hope “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” You see, hope in God is not something that can be crushed. In fact, hope in God protects you from being crushed by anything that can possibly be thrown at you in life. This Christmas, let yourself get excited about what the birth of Christ means for us. Let your knowledge of Christ allow you to be filled with wonder in your soul. This Christmas, let yourself get caught up in hope.


Dear brothers and sisters,

How would you define love? Ask ten people to define it and you may get eleven (or more!) different definitions.

Let’s consider what Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 

Here, love is given many characteristics, but we don’t see the gooey words we often hear in romantic songs that make love look so easy. In fact, many of Paul’s descriptions only seem applicable in particularly difficult situations: love truly shines when a challenging person requires patience, a hurtful lie requires truth, a hard situation needs endurance, etc.  

This does not mean it’s wrong to enjoy the excited feelings of love in relation with others; these are a good gift of God! But God’s love does not seem to be based on our emotions. I don’t know about you, but my emotions are so fleeting and flaky, and—in my selfishness—I often don’t “feel” like loving those around me. Thankfully, love is more than feelings. Paul says here that even knowledge itself will pass away when compared to true love. Our temporary feelings don’t stand a chance when compared to God’s everlasting love!

This is such an encouragement, especially for those who struggle this time of year with loneliness, loss, uncomfortable family relations, or simply feeling unloved. Recall, friends, that love is greater than a feeling and that the truth of God’s love is more satisfying than anything the world can give. As Pastor Matt shared this weekend, God is love and He gave His only son for us!

Sinclair Ferguson illustrates the sacrificial and satisfying love of God in Christ at the cross: “When we think of Christ’s dying on the cross, we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to Himself…The cross is the heart of the gospel; it makes the gospel good news. Christ died for us; He has stood in our place before God’s judgement seat; He has borne our sins. God has done something on the cross which we could never do for ourselves. But God does something to us as well as for us through the cross. He persuades us that He loves us.”

God’s greatest affection for you is seen through Christ on the cross. And even when we do not feel loved or feel as though we can love, we trust the truth that Christ does love us and is sanctifying us to love others as he loves us.

Take some time this advent to explore the satisfying love of Christ through His Word. You may consider Ephesians 3:14-21, John 15:1-17, or Psalm 136 to start. Consider also what hard situations or persons the Lord is calling you to reach out to—despite your feelings—in selfless love. In this time of stress and busyness, pray for the Lord to grow in you His attributes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (patience, kindness, etc.) and rely on His strength to move you in the action of love.

Abiding with you in that love,

Alli Hoover


As I sat down to pray and think through how I wanted to share my reflections on love, I could not help but hear a familiar sound in our house: the sound of a sleepy pup snoring. It’s one of the most soothing sounds I have come to know. If you know me, you know I share a special bond with my pups. I have the privilege of walking through life with a guide dog by my side: a partnership that changed my life and helped me to begin to comprehend what love is. If you’re not a dog person or are thinking “wow, she sounds like one of those dog people”, bear with me. 🙂 

You may or may not know this about me, but I am one of those people who loves love. I love loving on people, I love the feeling of being loved, and I love the somewhat cheesy, romantic kind of love, as well as the type of love that comes with deep friendship. However, I really struggle with the idea of God equating to love. I have a difficult time seeing myself as worthy of love from an all-knowing, all-powerful God, a self-sacrificing Jesus who loves me and you so much that he gave His life for us. I grew up in a church that taught God as an authoritarian being, but I did not learn about the sheer love and adoration God has for His people.

When I was 15 years old, amidst a bit of a faith and identity crisis, I learned I was accepted to train with my very first service dog. I had no idea what to expect or what life would look like with a dog by my side. However, my world was forever changed when I met my first pup. Instantly, all of my trust and safety was placed in the four paws of a dog who I quite literally needed to trust with my life. Together, we navigated high school, college, jobs, and new cities. She loyally guided me through many phases of life for eight years until I was paired with my second pup who you see me with in church today. These dogs, as silly as it may sound, helped me begin to understand the meaning of love. Their unconditional affection and love made the idea of a loving God more realistic in my mind. These dogs, who comfort me when I am sad, who quite literally lead me home when I am lost, who are so full of joy to just be with me, and who journey through the adventures of life with me, have allowed me to grow in my understanding of love. They help me to understand how I am loved by my Creator and how possible it is to show others the same love I have been shown. I have certainly not been easy to love over the past 11 years, yet I am consistently and wholeheartedly loved by my service dogs. Their love and faithfulness to me is a mere fraction of the love our God has for us.

For anyone struggling to operationalize love, to receive and feel worthy of Jesus’ love for us, please know you are not alone, but please know you are beloved, treasured, known, and worthy to God.


Love is something I believe we are always growing in. Our understanding of it, our capacity for it, how we experience it with others, and even how to receive it well is something we inherently long for. Yet the love we see, defined by our broken world, often falls short and often disappoints, leaving us wondering and questioning.

Thankfully, the Bible tells of a different kind of love. 1 John 4 tells us that God is love and that this love was revealed to us by sending his only Son into the world: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Should this feel incomprehensible to our minds, be reassured that we’re told this love is knowledge surpassing. Ephesians 3 reveals Paul’s prayer for the church — that we would be strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being, to ultimately know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Sometimes this feels far off and intangible. It will take a glorious eternity to fully know, but there is enough for us here. We’re told how love might look in our lives in 1 Corinthians 13 — that it issues out patience and kindness; that it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; that it rejoices with the truth; and that it never ends. It does not look like envy, boastfulness, arrogance, irritability, resentfulness, pride, or fear.

I think A.W. Tozer worded it well: “The love of God is one of the greatest realities of the universe, a pillar upon which the hope of the world rests. But it is a personal, intimate thing, too. He loves us all with a mighty love that has no beginning and can have no end.”

This season, may our hearts truly know the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ more. If we truly want to know and experience love, we need to know Christ. Then subsequently, we also ought to love one another, as God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. As we see glimpses of this love in our world, and even more evidently amongst our brothers and sisters in Christ, may our eyes be redirected to our Lord – our fountain and source of love eternal. We love because He first loved us.


Dear Reader,

The Christmas season is often marked by an uptick of stress, exhaustion, and a burst of busyness. So much to do, with so little time. Or perhaps it is even a time of relational conflict with friends or family. Maybe some are even experiencing loss or mourning. Whatever you are going through, now, more than ever, we could use peace.

Peace I leave with you;  my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

Of all the things Jesus could assure his disciples of before he left them, he reminded them of His peace. Why do you think Jesus chose to remind us of this? Friends, it is because we are troubled and fearful. Our hearts are tossed to and fro by the transient, painful things of this world. That is exactly why Jesus said …”in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

The peace of Jesus is permanent, lasting peace that is unchanged and unwavering despite life’s circumstances, because it rests on that which the world cannot change. It rests on Jesus’s finished work on the cross. So we can have peace, even in our greatest tribulations, because we know Jesus is with us and for us. We can rest in the fact that Jesus is in control and that his victory, is our victory.

Jesus doesn’t give peace as the world does. But how does the world give peace? The peace of this world is frequently a distraction or deliberate blindness to reality – an escape, a temporary comfort. Friends, do not fall for this cheap knock-off ‘peace’ our culture feeds you. Seek the Lord and find true peace.

Jesus even goes as far to say MY peace. Jesus who is in complete oneness and unity with God the father gives us HIS peace, the perfect peace he and the father have with one another. How is it that Jesus has perfect peace with the Father? It is because there is no sin in their relationship. Our ultimate source of conflict, and thus our need for peace, is not our difficult circumstances, but standing guilty before a holy God. We can’t experience the peace of God until we first have peace with God.

Jesus died on the cross, in our place, for our sins – ALL of our sins: past, present, and future – , so that we might have peace with God.  If Jesus has satisfied our most dire need for peace with God, how much more is He able to bring peace into whatever you are going through?

So, put off any cheap, knock-off peace you might be seeking and come to Jesus for true peace. God loves you more than to see you saved from your circumstances but remain dead in your sin.

Let us give thanks to God for sending Jesus to bring us peace – . Ppeace with God and a peace that keeps us anchored in this life as we look to the next.

-Pastor Nick


The Advent season provides an opportunity to take time to reflect on the fact that God brings peace to His people. This peace is one for which we as believers can revel in, specifically the truth that we are saved through the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This peace that we are afforded as Christians is a manifestation of the truth that, although we are all sinners, we are saved and that the debt has been paid through Christ. The incredible part of this truth is that, because of His sacrifice on the cross, God sees us as righteous and we are now no longer enemies of God. 

Not only are we saved, but all can be united with God and can be cleansed of our sins. This is clearly reflected in Romans 3:22 where Paul writes that “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” We do not need to worry about where we are from, how much we do, or how hard we work; we are all able to be reconciled back to God. What a blessing! We are no longer separated from God; we are now in community with God. As such, we experience real peace, peace that only comes if we admit that we cannot attain salvation by our own moral goodness. 

We can now serve God without the fear that we need to earn our salvation. , wWe can instead revel in the fact that Christ enables us to experience true peace with God. No longer do we build up our own achievements, kind actions, and good works to be justified by God; , we can instead dwell in the peace that Paul writes in Philippians 4:6: “the peace that surpasses all understanding”. This peace reminds us that God can, and does, meet all our needs every moment of every day regardless of our own works. Our works are not enough to attain this peace because this peace is something that can only be bestowed by our Creator and giver of life.

We acknowledge that we are undeserving, inherently selfish, and unable to earn our salvation through any works of our own, and, as such, gracefully accept redemption through Christ our savior. During this Advent season, we have the pleasure to not only celebrate in our new status with God but to also share the truth of this Good News with others! It is imperative that we love others well because we have been given life through Christ! This should encourage us and spark in us a desire to share the Gospel message, this Good News, so that everyone has a chance to learn of their need for a savior. What a wonderful gift to have and share with others. , Glory to God in the highest!


What does that mean? When we think of peace, we often think of the absence of conflict. However, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt.10:34 NKJV). So what did He mean when he said, ”Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27 NASB).

Fifteen years ago, we received a phone call from a physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver. He said, “Your son Jason (our oldest in his senior year of college) has contracted a rare condition known as Guillian-Barre’. He is currently paralyzed from the waist down, and the paralysis is spreading. You need to get on a plane and get out here now!”

We immediately began to pray and seek God. However, the severity of the situation had not completely sunk in.

When we arrived at the hospital, we found that Jason was losing the use of his arms, and we were told that, if he did not respond to treatment soon, he would lose the use of his lungs as well.

Our son was 21 years old, 6’3”, a top level competitor at national and international fencing tournaments. He had been the picture of health and strength, with a quick wit and a big heart. Now, there he was, barely able to move; even his voice was low and weak. Our hearts were broken to see him like this. Our prayers became more desperate.

Over the next week, we watched him sink lower and lower. He was placed on a ventilator when he could no longer breath, and they sedated him as the emotional strain was too great.

We had no more tears left to shed, and our hearts were ripped wide open, yet we still had peace. At this point, our times of prayer were mostly silent. We had said everything that was in our hearts a thousand times. There was nothing left to say; all we could do was sit in the presence of God. Here there was a peace;, here was the only place of comfort (Phil 4:7).

The physicians said they would try an alternate treatment. They didn’t know if this would be any better, but within a few days, Jason began to get stronger. It took months for him to regain the full use of his body. Today, he still has a few lingering effects, but for the most part, he lives a normal life.

Our precious Lord has given us a wonderful gift of peace (Jn 14:27, Gal 5:22). This peace is a gift that we need to accept and wrap around our hearts (Col 3:15). Jesus does not promise peace without a storm. Quite the opposite: He warns that storms will come, but He will show us how to survive the storm if we keep our eyes on Him (Is 26:3).

Life is full of difficult situations. As we walk along, we can choose to walk by fear or by faith. If we walk by faith, we get to see a side of God and His perspective that we would not see otherwise. We get to experience a peace that endures and comforts, not just in times of trials but always.

May His Peace reign forever in our hearts.

-Jef and Roxanne


Dear downhearted,

What is making you want to flee or fight today? Maybe regime change, debilitating illness, home eviction, or dying family is no longer a looming threat but your reality as we close 2020.

Mephibosheth feared and endured similar troubles. For him, regime change included the death of his grandfather, King Saul, and father, Jonathan (2 Sam 1:17). At five, he was crippled for life in a fall (2 Sam 4:4). To avoid the new regime, he fled far from home (2 Sam 9:4). 

Yet before Mephibosheth’s birth, David had lovingly promised his friend Jonathan, Mephibosheth’s father, to do good to his offspring (1 Sam 20:42). When he became King of Israel, David sought to find one of Jonathan’s family to whom he “may show the kindness of God” (2 Sam 9:3). 

Ziba, Saul’s servant, told King David of crippled Mephibosheth (9:4). David had him brought from afar to his palace in Jerusalem. Mephibosheth knew he was “a dead dog” before his grandfather’s sworn enemy (9:8). 

David’s first words to him were “Mephibosheth! … Do not fear…” (9:6-7). Instead of execution, David declared that Mephibosheth would eat at his own table always, “like one of the king’s sons” (9:11).

Fearful one, like Mephibosheth, you also were dead in sin before the righteous King of kings (Eph 2:3). Yet a promise between God the Father and King Jesus “to show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us” in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is your certain hope of eternal deliverance from the most dreadful thing: separation from God (Eph 2:7, 2 Thess 1:9). 

If you are a Christian, consider the kindness of God in transferring you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col 1:13). In Christ, “you have not been give a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have been given the Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” amidst all the tribulations endured in this enemy territory (Rom 8:13).

Like you, Mephibosheth’s troubles didn’t end even after years of fellowshipping with the king. One of David’s sons usurped the throne, and Ziba, Mephibosheth’s servant, saw an opportunity to consolidate power by betraying his master (2 Sam 15-16:4). Nevertheless, Mephibosheth remained loyal to David in steadfast love by grieving as he awaited the return of his king. 

When David safely returned to Jerusalem, he questioned this son of a promise saying, “Why did you not come with me?” (19:25). With an unkempt beard, unwashed clothes, and ungroomed feet, Mephibosheth’s obvious mourning confirmed his response: Ziba had betrayed him (19:24). Nevertheless, he entrusted himself to David saying, “Do therefore what seems good to you” (19:27). 

David granted Mephibosheth and his betrayer each half of the possessions Ziba had craved in their entirety. In response, Mephibosheth attested to his deepest fear and truest love by responding, Oh, let [Ziba] take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home” (19:30).

Fear exposes what we love perhaps more pointedly than any other emotion (Groves & Smith, Untangling Emotions). Years of dwelling in the king’s presence had formed Mephibosheth’s heart to love the king who had shown him the kindness of God more than he feared losing power, provision, or pride. 

May your love for God abound more and more that you may increasingly not fear the loss of any earthly thing, even your very life (Phi 1:9). May you thus bear “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” until the day of the safe return of our True King, Jesus (Phi 1:10).

With certain hope of his safe return,

A Member of Citylight


Dear downhearted, 

As we approach the turn of a calendar, perhaps you feel the weight of a long year. Maybe these lengthy winter nights epitomize the emotional darkness of your days. 

“Afflicted saint, to Christ draw near”, you may read hopelessly for the pall of exhaustion that envelopes the way to him. Yet these very words offer light on the path, for even in writing to you I have sung them.

God has graciously given songs, especially the book of Psalms, to his people as aids in communing with him. Certainly, many anthems are authored on great days of victory (e.g., Ps 92), yet many of the psalms were written for times of distress (e.g., Ps 130). 

After being betrayed, beaten, and crucified, Jesus Christ demonstrated the power of songs as expressions of prayerful trust in weakness (Matt 26:47-27:56). While bearing the unimaginable burden of the sins of all who would believe in him, Jesus uttered the words of a psalm he had likely sung in synagogue year after year (Matt 27:46). 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1). Christ intended the meaning of the entirety of this psalm from the cross in the same way that the first line of the hymn above alluded to the promises proclaimed in its remainder:

“Afflicted saint, to Christ draw near,

Your Savior’s gracious promise hear;

His faithful Word you can believe:

That as your days your strength shall be.”

Long before Christ cried out this psalm on the cross, God had promised to take away his judgements against his people, to strengthen them in weakness, and to sing victoriously over them (Zeph 3:14-17). When Christ was resurrected and glorified, he sent the Spirit to those who trust Christ’s finished work, which fulfilled his promise to be in the midst of his people, now the church.

Perhaps, like me, your weariness is sometimes heightened by singing the anthems of this world. Let us forsake exalting unattainable wealth, security, and romance in song. Rather, let us exalt the One who has finished the work we could never have completed. Even in our weariness, let Paul and Silas, who sang hymns in prison after being tortured, serve as our examples (Acts 16:25). 

If you are a Christian, your exultant praise of God follows after what he will loudly sing over you as a member of his church, his blood-bought bride, when Christ returns victoriously.

“So, sing with joy, afflicted one;

The battle’s fierce, but the victory’s won!

God shall supply all that you need;

Yes, as your days your strength shall be.”

(John Fawcett, 1782; Constance Dever, 2018)


Singing with you,

A Member of Citylight


Dear downhearted,

In writing to you about discontentment, I am writing about a familiar foe of my own, and it usually shows itself in the form of envy or covetousness. I see good things someone else has, especially if they have more of it than I, and my heart sinks. However discontentment shows itself in your life, I thought for this final letter on it I’d focus on one passage on contentment that has not yet been directly referenced.

In 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Paul writes, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Discontentment obviously reveals what we consider “great gain.” To desire great gain is to be human. We all want to be happy, and there is nothing wrong with that. What Paul does here, however, is he shows us what truly is great gain: Godliness with contentment.

Why? Earlier in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul explained the great value of godliness: “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Godliness is of great value because it is the one thing you can train yourself for now that will actually still benefit you in the life to come. What about contentment? Again, Paul broadens our horizons: “for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” It is simple, isn’t it? Yet how often do we lose sight of the relative impermanence of the things we wish we had?

The best way to live in this world is with contentment with the things genuinely necessary in this world, which Paul mentions next in our passage: food and clothing (which many take to include shelter). When you really think about it, what else do you need in this life? Maybe you say, “Ok fine; I don’t need the things I’m discontent about, but it sure would be nice to have them.” Maybe, but for how long? Will you take them out of this world with you? Do they hold hope for the life to come? How great then is the gain that comes with them?

It is small in comparison to the gain that comes from godliness, which holds promise for the life to come, and contentment, which enables us to live happily in the present life with only the things necessary for the present life. We have a Savior in Jesus Christ who contented Himself with the loss of even His food and clothing for us, and He has gained for us eternal life in the world to come. Fix your eyes there, and it will reorient what you call “gain.”



Dear downhearted,

I know that this time of year can be one of the loneliest seasons. That’s true any year, but especially in this year of lockdowns, social distancing, and isolation. I think we are all feeling a bit lonely. If you already struggle with feelings of loneliness, then this year is even tougher. Did you know that the Bible speaks directly to those feelings? 

Psalm 139 speaks to this in such a beautiful way. God is intimately aware of his people. He is near them, thinking of them, and watching over them. Look what the Psalmist says:

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?

    Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

 even there your hand shall lead me,

    and your right hand shall hold me.”

There is nowhere you can go that God is not near. He does not social distance. He is not afraid of catching anything from you. He loves you and loves being with you. I love the way the NLT translation translates verses 17 and 18.

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.

    They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them;

    they outnumber the grains of sand!

And when I wake up,

    you are still with me!”

Christian, because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection in your place, this is true about you. God thinks so many thoughts about you that you could not even count them. In fact, for those who trust in Jesus, God sees you like his perfect son. 

When you feel lonely this season, I encourage you to read Psalm 139. Read it over and over. Let the truth and message of God’s great love for you sink deep into your soul. I love you and am praying for you.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Andy


My downhearted, 

Grief is an inevitable side effect of the brokenness of our world, but it is unique to each of us.  For me, the grief I carry is the loss of a pregnancy. Suffering through a miscarriage is the single most grief-imbued experience of my life. The grief of my loss brought me to my knees. God never felt so unloving and cruel as in the darkest moments of my loss. 

While I was hurt and angry with God, actively questioning his goodness, our Father sent his Spirit to be my comforter and support. He met me in the depths of grief and wove the words of Lamentations 3:22-23 into my heart. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” I pray these verses speak to you as they did me and lead you to an understanding of our glorious Father even while you suffer. These words came as my broken heart demanded answers from God, but he knew answers would never satisfy and instead sent the Holy Spirit to comfort me with the truth of the Father’s love, mercy, and faithfulness.  

As I meditated on Lamentations 3:22-23 in the midst of my intense grief, I realized suffering is a terrible consequence of this broken world and God will always love me through the pain. The Creator’s love does not cease; it is the firm foundation of God’s character, and nothing in this world can change that. At the start of creation, grief did not exist, and it will not be present when God makes all things new (Revelation 21:4-5), but the existence of grief does not and cannot change the Father’s love. How amazing is it to know you are loved by the One who will always be with you through the darkest moments of your life? And yet, when you are grieving, it is hard to remember that the Fall is the fault of humanity alone and God is not to blame for the suffering in the world. Not only is God blameless, he offers his love to you and promises to never break your heart, for all eternity. How amazing is that? The Creator and Savior of all loves you, and, no matter how broken and helpless you feel while drowning in suffering and grief, the Father’s steadfast love for you never ends.  

While I perceived God’s love to be distant, my miscarriage felt like a punishment, even though I know Christ died for my sins and that the Father does not punish his children. By His mercy he withholds the retribution we all deserve – death – through the incredible grace of Jesus. So then why is there still grief? Because we live in a broken world. And when grief becomes your lens for the world, it is easy to interpret the pain as a punishment from God, but it is not. It was the words of Lamentations 3:22 (“his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning”) that helped me fight the lies and accept the truth that the Father is still merciful in light of the loss of my baby. This grief you are experiencing cannot be a punishment because our heavenly Father is unendingly merciful. Though it is underserved, through Christ you are offered mercies that are new every morning and God’s endless, steadfast love is applied to your heart by the Comforter.

In those dark times when I could not feel God’s love or mercy, his words gently humbled me with the knowledge that the Father is always faithful. As my world fell apart, the Creator God whispered to my soul that I was never alone. And no truth was more encouraging in the loneliness of my grief. When your grief is overpowering and isolating, know that the Savior, who faced the sin of all creation alone on a cross, wants to comfort you. This world is broken and that brokenness makes grief inescapable, but you never have to face it alone. The Spirit is always beside you, remaining faithful even as you fight and question the Father. Take heart and know our Savior is always faithful to you.  

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” These words changed my grief. They did not lessen the pain, but they made it more bearable by reminding me that I am loved, that my life is full of God’s mercy, and that I am never alone regardless of what dark road I walk. There is no cure, only an invitation from our Savior to focus our eyes on him and not on the pain of broken hearts. Whatever the cause of your grief, it is not too big or too small for God. Your grief is real and valid, but do not let it define you. Speak the truth of Lamentations 3:22-23 into your heart as often as you need and remind yourself that it is the steadfast love, unending mercy, and incredible faithfulness of Christ that will see you through the grief. 

Peace and joy,

Emily Ronca

Compassion Initiative Coordinator


Dear downhearted,

I understand how you feel. I have dealt with loneliness much of my life. Even in the midst of friends and family, we can feel misunderstood, ignored, unknown, and even unloved.  Sometimes we look at others and wish we had the friends and family they have; behind the veil though, they deal with these same issues at times.

Did you know that Christ Himself dealt with loneliness? In Isaiah 53:3 we read, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”  Imagine that. The Lord of all the universe, full of infinite love and compassion for His people,  despised. He was rejected. He was held in low esteem – a nobody that people couldn’t care less about. And yet these things did not define Him. While people rejected Him, He knew who He was. 

Do you know who you are? If you are in Christ, you are a precious child of God, one whom the Lord of the heavens would do anything – anything – to have communion with.  You are known, understood, precious, and dearly loved by God (See John 3:16, Romans 8:37-39). Do you really believe that? I know there are times when I struggle to own this truth. I may acknowledge it, but I don’t really make my union with Christ my identity.

I encourage you at this time to look beyond the brokenness of this world and past the human relationships that at their best pale in comparison to communion with our Savior. I pray that you will find all your identity in Christ. No matter how good our relationships are in this world, they fail in light of the love of God. I pray that this fundamental Gospel truth – that you are dearly loved and fully known – would pass from mere assent to heartfelt conviction. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  You may have but a glimpse of the love of God for you; you will one day know this fully, just as your God knows you fully, even now. You are dearly loved and fully known.

Yours in Christ,

Citylight Member

P.S. I would encourage you to pick up a small book by John Owen called “Communion with God.”  Get the version by Puritan Paperbacks. Read it. Meditate on it. And know that while loneliness is at its core a human condition, intimacy and communion with our Lord is both now and forever our truth and the meaning of our lives.


Dear downhearted,

Jesus knows the pain of grief.

It is true that God has a purpose for all of our pain and all of our grief. In Christ, we can rejoice that one day all of our tears will be wiped away and we will no longer know the pain of grief. However, acknowledging that God has a purpose in all of our grief does not remove the sting that comes along with the loss of something that or someone whom you dearly love. During his earthly life, Jesus grieved and was known as a man of sorrows. He intimately knew the sting of grief and loss. Isaiah 53:3-5, speaking of Jesus, reads: 

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

When one of Jesus’ dear friends, Lazarus, died of a seemingly preventable illness, Jesus knew that there was a purpose in it. But when he approached Lazarus’ grieving sisters and finally his grave, Jesus was brought to tears. In his head, Jesus knew that, in just a few moments, the pain that he and his friends were experiencing was going to be reversed. Yet, in his spirit, he was deeply moved and greatly troubled. He wept moments before raising his friend from the dead. God was glorified both in Jesus’ tears and in Jesus’ action of raising Lazarus from the dead.

A second experience in the life of Jesus came in the Garden of Gethsemane as he grieved his own upcoming death. Again, Jesus knew that there was a purpose for the pain and loss that he was about to experience. He even knew that his pain would be undone and that he would be raised from the dead in power and glory. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, it was determined that God would become a man and undergo great pain and suffering in order to rescue His people from their sins. Yet, in that dreadful garden, Jesus bitterly wept and cried out in agony to his Father. Although Jesus was certain that there was a purpose in the suffering that he was about to undergo, he still felt the sting of grief. 

The passage from Isaiah also highlights the interpersonal effects of grief. The emotional toll of losing something that or someone who is dear to us is more than enough, but grief can also change the way that people look at us. Others may look at you differently after you experience material loss or lose a loved one. Jesus knew that feeling very well. During his earthly life, culminating in the ultimate humiliating loss that was his death on the cross, he lived as one from whom men hide their faces. He knows the feeling of isolation that grief brings.

What then can you do with the sting of grief? When all you want to do is hide from the world, hide yourself in him. Jesus experienced grief so that he could sympathize with the pain that his people feel as sufferers living in a broken world. When everything on earth fails to comfort your grieving heart, look to heaven. The One who sits on the throne is the one who has come down to suffer, just like you and me. He is not coldhearted and far away; he is near to the brokenhearted and grieving. 

Yours in Christ,



Dear downhearted,

Are you struggling with a heightened sense of uncertainty in this season? I don’t blame you if you do. There is a lot of uncertainty right now. We don’t know what’s coming next. There’s been so much uncertainty and change in 2020 that is has become almost like a joke at this point. But it’s not a joke. It’s very real, and it can cause us great distress and fear. I know personally the distress that can come from fear and uncertainty.

I wanted to share a verse with you that the Lord has used over and over again in my life, especially in seasons like this: Matthew 6:25-34. In this passage, Jesus is talking to worriers like me! He’s speaking to those who are anxious and overcome by uncertainty, and he uses an object lesson to teach us. He says “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Jesus points us to God’s love and care for creation, in the image of a little bird. The bird does not wake up each morning wondering what new problem will arise. He doesn’t have a bank account that he seeks to fill to the brim. He doesn’t have contingency plans for every situation life could throw at him. He lives each day trusting that he will have what he needs. And the beautiful part is that God makes sure he does! If God cares for this little bird, why wouldn’t he care for us? 

God shows his love for his creation in simple acts like caring for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. But he also shows his love and care for us in grander ways. The greatest of those ways is on the cross. Jesus Christ lived the life you and I were called to live but failed and died the death we deserve for our sin. He then rose from the dead defeating sin and death for all those who trust in him. If he handled our biggest problem, he can be trusted with everything else. He is the God of the little bird and the God who defeats death. When you are feeling uncertain, remember that God is not. He is in control and he loves you. God is your good Father and he’s also the powerful King. What a secure place to live!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Andy


Dear downhearted,

You’re not alone. I’m weary too. Sometimes just knowing that helps. What’s making you weary? Not sure? That’s when you really know you’re weary. You’re exhausted and overwhelmed and don’t even know why. Slow down for a moment; it will probably come to you. Me? I think that I am weary from all the unknown and the seemingly endless stream of decisions that attend this season. I think that the decisions are the most challenging part for me. It’s wearying to make so many decisions, and I tend to trouble my troubles by wondering if I’ve made the right ones. But enough about me. Has it come to you yet? Do you have an idea why you’re weary? Whatever it is, I want to share with you my favorite weariness passage: Isaiah 40:27-31.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the LORD,

and my right is disregarded by my God”?


Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.


He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might he increases strength.


Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;


but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint.

In Isaiah 40:27-31, the Lord has three things to say to both of us in our weariness.

Your way is not hidden from the Lord. Verse 27 is a response to the voice that you hear in your head when you’re weary: “The Lord doesn’t see me. I’m alone.” My weary friend, let’s not trouble our troubles by believing the lie that God is distant or disinterested. He sees us in our weariness, he loves us in our weariness, and he’s near to us in our weariness. Your way isn’t hidden from him.

He’s not weary. He’s everlasting; he has no beginning and isn’t going anywhere. He’s the creator; he’s never had to depend on anyone for anything, ever. He’s never faint or weary; he never has to catch his breath or get a good night’s sleep. His understanding is unsearchable; He’s never confused, nothing is unknown for him, and he works out everything perfectly. He’s not weary. 

He loves to give power to the weary. As Ray Ortlund Jr. says, “God never suffers setbacks, and he helps those who do.” The Lord loves to give strength to weary people who wait upon him. Waiting on the Lord is savoring God’s promise by faith until the time of fulfillment (Ortlund). My weary friend, let’s take our weariness to the Lord and wait upon him. He is strong and he loves to provide endless supplies of strength to weary people. 

Your weary and strengthened friend,

Pastor Matt 


Dear downhearted,

Discontentment is a problem that is as old as the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were discontent; they ached over the forbidden fruit that she didn’t have and were willing to be done with God in order to have it. 

What is contentment? In The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 17th century Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs defines content as “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition” (19). 

How can we, by the grace of God, pursue the rare jewel of Christian contentment? 

Treasure Jesus

In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul writes, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him [Christ] who strengthens me.” Jesus himself is the secret of contentment because in Jesus you’ve received mercy that is far weightier than anything you lack. With Jesus as your shepherd, you have all and have no lack (Psalm 23:1). Treasure Jesus.

Treasure Lowliness

In Psalm 131, David writes, “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Contentment comes when we keep our eyes low, where Jesus is (Matthew 11:29), rather than lifting them up to compare ourselves with others or to look at what we do not have. Treasure lowliness.

Treasure Holiness

In Colossians 3:5, Paul writes, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” There is no sweetness of frame in our souls while we treasure sin. When we attack sin with grace, we attack discontentment at its core. Treasure holiness. 

Treasure God’s Sovereignty

There is nothing in your life that comes apart from your good Father. Jeremiah Burroughs writes, “The Lord knows how to order things better than I. The Lord sees further than I do; I only see things at present but the Lord sees a great while from now. And how do I know but that had it not been for this affliction, I should have been undone” (36). Treasure God’s sovereignty.

Treasure The Future

The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the eternal weight of glory that awaits all who belong to Jesus (2 Cor. 4:17). Treasure your future, and the afflictions of this life will begin to seem light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that will be yours with Jesus. Treasure the future.

Yours in Christ,



Dear downhearted,

Did you know that in the beginning of the Bible, after God created light and darkness, sun and moon, water, sky, land, plants, animals, and the first human being, there was still something about His creation that was not good? Genesis 2:18 begins by saying, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’” Think about that for a moment. At that point in the story, one man existed and that man knew God. Yet it was not good for that man to be alone.

God’s design for humans is that we live in relationship not only with Him but with other human beings. Nonetheless, the COVID-19 pandemic and the concomitant stay-at-home orders have made this much more difficult. If you feel lonely then and you don’t like that feeling, it’s not necessarily because there is anything wrong with you. You simply weren’t made to live in these conditions. 

Nonetheless, here we are. That’s the sad truth. But it’s not the whole truth. In Isaiah 43:2, God says to His people: 

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.”

Humans were not created to pass through stormy waters and flames anymore than they were created to be alone, and yet even as we now go through such things, God says: “I will be with you.” And indeed, in Christ Jesus He is with us. One of Jesus’ names is Immanuel, God with us (Matt 1:23), and on the cross, He was truly with us in our loneliness. Not only did His friends and family leave Him all alone, but He even cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46)

Because He did this, you need not ever ultimately be alone. Repent and believe in Him, and He will be with you always. Not only that, if you are a Christian, you are also part of a new human family called the church, which, though presently scattered, remains and will prevail against all the forces arrayed against it (Matt 16:19). Do you know you still have a church family like that right now if you are a member at Citylight? And if you aren’t a member, why not join us? 

God will sustain you through this season of loneliness. It almost definitely will get better when we can actually be around each other again. It will certainly get better when Jesus comes again. In that day He will not come alone but “with all his saints” (1 Thess 3:13), and we (not you or I alone) will always be with the Lord (1 Thess 4:17).

May he bless you and keep you,



Dear downhearted,

Jesus gives a curious word of consolation to his disciples in Matthew 5:4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Mourning can be understood as grief and sorrow caused by profound loss. Certainly when I reflect on how the troubles of this year have impacted us, this is a fitting response. This has been a year filled with sorrow caused by the devastating effects of the pandemic, overt racial injustice, hostility and rioting, and an extremely divisive political climate, just to name a few. You may have also been hit personally with the loss of something or someone you love. This extends to hopes and desires you did not see realized this year: walking at graduation, celebrating the wedding you planned for, pursuing your career. These each have their own unique heartache. So how can Jesus call those who experience mourning blessed? 

“… for they will be comforted.” Those who mourn are called blessed because they will have the comfort of God himself. Jesus speaks these words in the first section of his famous sermon on the mount. In the opening beatitudes, Jesus is sharing who it is that belongs to his kingdom. These are the ones he calls his own – the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the meek, etc. Grieving the brokenness of this world and the condition of your own poverty and need before Christ is the path that leads to comfort. My fellow believer, I want to encourage you to invite Jesus into the losses you are grieving, that you might receive his care and comfort for you. 

There are a number of ways you may find God’s comfort in mourning, such as receiving prayer from a friend who cares for you, being reassured God is with you in your pain, or knowing Christ is one who can sympathize with your experience, having shared in our human condition. I want to particularly encourage you in this advent season with the comfort of God that can be found in hope.

This is how Isaiah speaks of Jesus’ coming:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

    because the Lord has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

    to proclaim freedom for the captives

    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

    and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

3     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

    instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

    instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

    instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

    a planting of the Lord

    for the display of his splendor.

– Isaiah 61:1-3

Jesus has come and will fulfill what was foretold about his coming; he will bind up the brokenhearted, comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve. Instead, he has a crown of beauty instead of ashes, oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. This is the secure hope you stand on in Christ Jesus. What a beautiful truth to behold!

I pray in this season that the pain of your grief might be lightened by the comfort of this hope. 


With love, 

Chris Torchia

Citylight Resident Counselor


Dear Downhearted,

Contentment is not out of reach because Christ is not out of reach.

If you are anything like me, contentment is a state of being that always seems to be a few inches out of your grasp. Contentment for me feels like it lies right on the other side of my next career advancement or life stage. Even during seasons that are relatively normal, something inside of me looks at what God has given to me and, without fail, says “this is not enough, I want more.” It always feels like contentment is out of reach where I am right now, but if I just work a little harder, exert myself a little more, and accomplish one more goal, then I will finally reach that elusive state of being. 

If this is true in normal times, how much stronger is our discontentment in a season like this? In this season, where decisions made by others have an even more pronounced impact on our lives and we are hearing the words “sorry, no” more than ever before, the temptation toward discontentment may be as strong as you have ever felt it. 

In his devotional book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Puritan author Jeremiah Burroughs defines Christian contentment as “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” Imagine how it would feel to look at what God has given to you and, instead of thinking “this is not enough, I want more,” to think  “this is exactly what God intends for me to have in this moment and I’m thankful for it.” That kind of contentment is reminiscent of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11 when he writes: For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Philippians is a letter of joy written to a downhearted people. Paul wrote this letter of joy from a jail cell, absolutely content with what God had given to him.

Paul was able to be content even in the most challenging of situations, and yet even this apostle needed to learn how to be content. If Paul needed to learn how to be content, it only makes sense that we ourselves also need to learn to be content. My encouragement for you is to remember that learning to be content is not out of your reach because Christ is not out of your reach. 

Contentment is accessible right where you are, even at home, because Jesus is present with you right where you are. Jesus is not waiting for you to get a promotion before he loves you. He is not waiting for you to enter the next stage of life before he begins seeking your good. He isn’t even waiting for you to clean yourself up of all your selfish ambition and desire. He loves you right where you are, in the midst of your discontentment and imperfection. Draw near to Jesus, share the desires of your heart with him, and he will draw near to you. Jesus is the one who can make us truly content, even more than the right career or life stage.

My prayer for you and for me is that we would see God’s provision in our lives for what it really is – wise, fatherly, and ultimately for our good and His glory.

In Christ,



Dear downhearted,

Grief is the emotional pain that accompanies loss. 2020 has been a year of grief for many of us. We’ve lost jobs, relationships, money, dreams, traditions, experiences, a sense of normalcy, and some of us have even lost loved ones. When the waves of grief are crashing on your life or the dark sadness will not lift, there are three unshakeable truths that can sustain our intimacy with, and even joy in, the Lord.


Psalm 34:8 says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” When grief rises, we remember that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and he loves to lift up the crushed in spirit. The Lord is spatially everywhere, but he is especially with the grieving, to bless and protect them. In fact, the gospel message itself is the good news that, far from standing at a distance from our pain, the Lord entered into our fallen world to rescue us. The Bible says that Jesus himself was a man who was acquainted with much grief (Isaiah 53:4), so he can sympathize with our grief. My grieving friend, the Lord is no absentee divinity. He is near to you!


The Lord is near to hear you. In Hosea 7:14a, speaking about his grieving people, the Lord says, “They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds…” The Lord is not rebuking his suffering people for crying. Rather, the Lord says that they are crying in the wrong direction. Everyone cries; the question is in what direction. Remember, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven.” “Our Father” communicates warmth and “in heaven” communicates power. The Father that we cry to is as compassionate as he is capable. He stoops to hear the cries of his grieving people. My grieving friend, the Lord hears your laments. He hears your prayers in pain. Cry to Him!


Grieve and cry as those who have hope. Perhaps my favorite passage on grief comes from 1 Peter 1, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:3-6). My grieving friend, you have been born again through faith in the resurrected Christ. You’ve been born into a future family inheritance that is imperishable. Set your hope fully on the day when Jesus will return and grief will be no more, and rejoice. Your season of grief is not worth comparing with the eternal weight of glory that is coming to all who love Jesus. Grieve, but not as those who have no hope, because your future is incredibly bright. 

Yours in Christ,



Dear Downhearted,

This year, 2020, has been one of the toughest and most troubling. It doesn’t seem to be ending well either. We are seeing a far greater number of Covid-19 cases than before. With new lockdown measures in Philadelphia, many have new concerns about their job security. It seems that the waves of troubles are far from over. It can be all too easy to slip into fear.

In Matthew 8:23-25, we see the following events: 23 And when he (Jesus) got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

This is a terrifying storm, one that strikes fear in even the most experienced fisherman among the disciples. It is in this storm that they have fear on their faces and terror in their eyes that they cry out to their Messiah: “Save us, Lord; WE ARE PERISHING!” Then we see Jesus rebuke them for their fear. Why? What was so wrong with their statement? We know that crying out for salvation from Christ is always the right thing to do. It wasn’t the first part that is the issue; the issue is with the second part of their plea. It is with the certainty they had of their fate, “We are perishing.” Their fear led them to believe that they were about to enter a deep dark abyss, lost forever. Fear can make us think that the worst of the worst possible outcomes is going to happen. 

But they had Christ in the boat with them. It is through this same Christ that all things have been created (Hebrews 1:2). We also see in John 3:35 that, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” When we have Christ with us, we have nothing to fear because we can have comfort knowing that the King of kings and the Lord of Lords is with us. Neither waves, nor a virus, nor a storm can escape his authority.

It is also interesting to see that the disciples were shocked at how Jesus rescued them. When they asked for his help, did they think he was going to help them swim to shore? Perhaps he had stellar rowing abilities that would get them to land? Whatever they thought, having the power to stop the storm was not one of them. Friend, Christ is far more powerful than you and I can possibly imagine.

Does this mean that we are free from storms with terrifying waves? No, because, even with Christ in the boat, the disciples still went through the storm. The waves still crashed against them. But with Christ in your boat, in your heart and in your life, there is no need to fear an impending doom. Christ is far more powerful than we realize.

In Christ,



Dear downhearted, 

I have been thinking about you… how Christmas is normally your favorite time of the year and how much you love the hustle and bustle of the season. However, the uncertainty and stress of this year have contributed to you feeling tired, stressed, and worn out. So many areas of life seem hard right now: work, relationships, health, finances, political and racial division, and significant events being rescheduled or cancelled. You feel isolated and alone. You are exhausted and weary.

Weary One, you have been on my heart since our conversation last week, the fatigue and sadness in your voice… and now you can’t see your family this Christmas, everyone uninvited because of the pandemic. I am sorry, I know how much you were longing to be with your family. Please know that I am praying for you as I write you this letter.

Since we spoke I have been thinking about your family Christmas plans and the anomaly this year of being “uninvited” to events, the disappointment we feel when plans are cancelled and our expectations are crushed, especially when we are hungry for the familiar. I found myself reflecting. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to receive an invitation that we can wholeheartedly accept without even the lingering possibility of being uninvited, knowing this invitation would not be revoked?

The truth is that we have that invitation from Jesus. He says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

Weary One, I want to encourage you to reflect on how you might respond today to Jesus’ invitation, “Come to Me. He longs for you to come as you are, with your weariness and suffering, in your brokenness, shame, and sin. Accept His invitation for true rest, the salvation of your soul. Take a minute to remember who invites you: the One who gave sight to the blind and caused the deaf to hear and the lame to walk; the One who cleansed the leper, raised the dead to life, and brought the good news to the poor (Matthew 11:5-6).

He is able to save, but He does not stop there; He invites you to more. The very Son of God wants to have an intimate relationship with you. He doesn’t want you to just know about Him.  He invites you to come to Him, sit with Him, listen to Him, and abide in Him. He loves you.

He invites you to intentionally connect yourself to Him daily, so you might learn from His gentle and lowly heart and learn to embrace the gift of limits, His yoke.

May our Lord still your weary heart with His steadfast love.


Dear Downhearted,

I’m sorry that you’re experiencing discontentment in this season. I’m sorry as well for the potentially accompanying disappointments, unmet hopes, or even grief. I’d like to encourage you today with some truth from Psalm 73:21-26. 

Psalm 73 describes one of Asaph’s bouts with discontentment. The psalmist had become envious of the evildoers around him who seemed to be living at ease, and the result was bitterness toward God in his heart. In the Psalm, Asaph gains some eternal perspective, and it helps him to see his own heart and circumstances more clearly.  Here is part of his conclusion:

When my soul was embittered,

when I was pricked in heart,

I was brutish and ignorant;

I was like a beast toward you.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;

You hold my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

And afterward you will receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  (Psalm 73:21-26)

There are two things about these verses that I find particularly encouraging. First, I love the descriptions of God. The picture of God holding the psalmist’s hand and guiding him is really comforting to me. In the midst of whatever circumstances you’re facing, take a minute to picture God holding your right hand and guiding you through it. God is near, his word tells us what we need to know to move wisely through our time on earth, and someday he will receive us into glory. 

The second big encouragement I find in these verses is Asaph’s declaration that “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). Asaph was struggling not only with undesirable circumstances on the outside but also an “embittered” heart on the inside. His flesh and his heart failed so God strengthened it, and he can strengthen yours as well.

Bring your discontentment to him today. Come with your difficult circumstances on the outside and your heart issues on the inside, and ask him to help. He loves you, he is continually with you and guiding you, and someday, in glory, you’ll get to see him face to face. It is good for you to be near God (Psalm 73:28a). 


In Christ,

Kristin Kemmerer


Dear downhearted,

I remember that one very difficult period of loneliness in my life came as I was graduating seminary and transitioning into the work world. I had grown really close to a small group of friends in my program after spending three years together. We became like a little family. As graduation came near, I remember a familiar voice rising up in me: “Here we go again, another goodbye to people I care about; another transition; another time having to start all over again.” Admittedly, I had a bit of self-pity thinking about other painful experiences of my past, but I was dreading what I knew was the close of a significant chapter in my life. After graduation, our friend group dispersed and the dynamics of our relationships inevitably changed. 

In the loneliness that followed, God met me through a loving rebuke while reading the book Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer describes community as the “roses and lilies” of the Christian life, a gift from God that he bestows in accordance with his wisdom and providential care for us. This gift may vary in different seasons of our lives, but we must remember that all relationships with other believers are nothing less than a gift of grace from the hand of a loving and sovereign God. 

This began a shift in me from discontentment and sadness to gratitude for the gift of community he had given to me and a realization that God was drawing me closer to himself in this time.

I wonder what your struggle with loneliness looks like. 2020 has been a challenging year to say the least. The year of social distancing: stay at home orders, Zoom meetings, online church services, and extended periods of time away from those you love. Perhaps you struggled with loneliness long before COVID, and now the feelings have only intensified by these circumstances.

One of the most challenging aspects of loneliness is feeling like you don’t have anyone to share in the things you experience from day to day. No one truly “gets” you; even if you are regularly with others, you still feel isolated and alone. 

Christ was no stranger to this experience. In Matthew 26:36-46, we find Jesus in Gethsemane going off to pray during one of his darkest hours. After crying out to God in his sorrow concerning the pain he is to endure, he returns to his disciples only to find them sleeping in his greatest time of need. This doesn’t happen just once, but three times! Jesus was alone on the road to endure the cross on our behalf.

Will you cry out and invite him into your loneliness today? Although we are not guaranteed our ideal relationships or freedom from the pain of loneliness in this life, we are promised the intimate presence of God with us today and the future hope that he will one day bring us home. My prayer is that you would know God’s intimate care for you today.

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. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

– Romans 8:26-28

With love,

Chris Torchia,

Citylight Resident Counselor


Dear Downhearted, 

How do we continue to hope in the midst of uncertainty? This is a lesson the Lord has continued to teach me the past several years as my wife and I have pursued adoption. Perhaps most poignantly, it was a little over a year ago that we found ourselves once again asking, “Will it ever happen?,” as we walked out of the hospital with an empty car seat. The baby we thought we’d be adopting wasn’t coming home with us. From the moment we heard this little girl was born, and the 33 hours that passed until we walked out of the hospital empty-handed, I couldn’t tell you how many times the tide shifted from things looking good, to things looking not good. Uncertainty plagued us, and the outcome we’d feared had come to pass. This, after years of uncertainty in our desire to become parents. Will it ever happen? 

What uncertainties are you facing right now? How do you remain hopeful? By God’s grace, as we faced the heartbreak of our failed adoption last year, we were able to cling to what is certain. We did not grieve as those who had no hope, but instead we were able to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, knowing that in Jesus we have peace with God and that God is so much bigger than any circumstance we find ourselves in. We knew that this hope would not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. In the midst of heartbreak, this hope was a sure and steadfast anchor for our souls as we grieved. In the midst of all of this, we had hope because we knew that God is still good and God is still God (1 Thess. 4:13; Rom. 5:1-5; Heb. 6:19-20). 

Amid all the uncertainties of this life, the promises of God find their “yes” and “amen” in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). Even if what you fear comes to pass, in Jesus there is certainty, and in that certainty you can find hope. Cling to what you know to be true in Christ as you wade the waters of uncertainty in this life, “for this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Whatever happens in this brief life, eternity with Jesus awaits you, and that hope will not disappoint. Friend, entrust yourself and your future to the Lord because he is God and he is good, no matter what. 

In Christ, 


PS: By God’s grace, our adoption story has a happy ending. Five months after the failed adoption mentioned above, the Lord saw fit to bless us with beautiful twin girls whom we have welcomed into our home as our daughters. Yet even this comes with new uncertainties – desires for our daughters that may or may not come to pass – and we know that whatever happens in this life, Jesus is sufficient for us and hope in him does not disappoint. I pray you find that same hope in Jesus!


Dear Downhearted,

You are not alone in feeling weariness in this season. This year has been uniquely challenging, and the holidays have a way of bringing this pain to the surface. Thank you for persevering, for pressing on, and for seeking encouragement. I want to encourage you that, when you feel crushed, fatigued, reluctant to go on, these are times to press into Jesus and His comfort.

This year has been very difficult for me as well. I have been feeling the weight of loneliness, temptation, anxiety, and hurt by people I’m close to. I’ve felt overwhelmed and that my yoke is too heavy. In November, feeling the weight of these burdens, I decided to read through the book of Psalms. I journaled through it each day during the month, writing down verses that offered hope and even committing some to memory to meditate on. Friend, I hope I can encourage you by sharing some of the verses that spoke to me in my weariness.

These three verses in particular nourished my soul:

1) Psalm 31:7: “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul.”

God cares about the anguish of our souls! He sees our troubles. We can rejoice in having a Father who sees us, who knows us, and who cares about us on an intimate level. A huge encouragement for me in my suffering is feeling known, and what a privilege it is to know God sees us and our troubles.

2) Psalm 31:14: “But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands.”

When I feel despondent, this verse reminds me that my future is in God’s hands. I may not feel strong or know if or how things will get better, but what I do know is that Jesus is my God and my future is securely in His hands.

3) Psalm 61:2: “I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.”

One of the beautiful aspects of the book of Psalms is the authors’ transparency with bringing to light how they are feeling. Yes, I am overwhelmed! And I have the freedom to share this with Jesus. 

The book of Psalms reveals other characteristics of Jesus that show we are not alone in our weariness. Jesus:

  • Is close to the broken-hearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed (Psalm 34:18)
  • Delights in every detail of our lives (Psalm 37:23)
  • Holds us by the hand (Psalm 37:24)
  • Knows what we long for and hears our every sigh (Psalm 38:9)
  • Holds our head high (Psalm 3:3)
  • Is our refuge (Psalm 62:58)

The Psalms paint a beautiful picture of our Savior. He hears us, is close to us, and rescues us when we are downhearted. The invitation has been extended to receive His comfort. 

In addition to how the Psalms reveal God’s character, I noticed two themes for how we can respond in our weariness. 

1) Pour your heart out to God.

Psalm 27:7-8 says, “Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’”

We are invited to pour our hearts out to Jesus (Psalm 62:8) and to seek His help to free us from our troubles (Psalm 4:2). Will you accept the invitation? For me, this has looked like reading God’s word, praying, and journaling. In transparency, my heart was despondent at first, but I continued to say, “Lord, I am coming,” and to turn to Jesus with my burdens.

2) Offer thankfulness and praise as a sacrifice.

Psalm 69:30-31 says, “Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing cattle…”

Friend, I know when you’re in the midst of despair and hopelessness that the last thing you may want to do is to put on a smile and express gratitude. I agree! Can I ask though, if you’re willing, to give it a try? This will honor God (Psalm 50:23). Thankfulness is a sacrifice (Psalm 50:14), and sacrifices in their nature are an act of surrender. Coming to Jesus with our broken and repentant hearts is what He desires (Psalm 51:16-17). What in this season are you thankful for? What about Jesus’ character has blessed you?

It is okay to feel worn out waiting for Jesus’ rescue. But we can continue to put our hope in His word and how He has revealed Himself to us (Psalm 119:51). 

Friend, I will be praying for your comfort. While it hurts and can feel futile, continue to press onward in steadfastness amidst your weariness and accept the invitation for Jesus’ encouragement.

With love,



Dear Downhearted,

You’re experiencing grief in this season. The holidays can make this experience more poignant. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, maybe this is the first Christmas season you have gone through without them. However you’re experiencing it, grief is a complex process.

In light of that, I do not want to take a deep dive, but rather I want to share a passage of scripture with you to give you hope in your grief.

John 11:32–36 (ESV)

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 

Here is a very simple observation about a complex emotion: God grieves.

This is a mysterious reality because God never changes (Mal 3:6). Whatever it means for God to “never change”, it clearly does not mean that he has no emotion! In this short passage, we see Jesus deeply moved by the loss of a loved one. God weeps.

What does it mean that God grieves? Here are a few things, and I hope they encourage you.

First, grief is good.

We tend to think of hard emotions like grief as “bad” emotions, but when God grieves, like everything else he does, it is good. It can only be good. This means grief does not have its ultimate source in sin, but in the very character of God.

Second, grief is purposeful.

Unlike us, God knows everything that is going to happen. The death of Lazarus did not catch Jesus by surprise! He chose to grieve, I believe, because grief is a rich expression of love. Grief honors the beloved by mourning their death. The greater the love, the greater the grief. To grieve someone who has passed, is to continue expressing your love for them.

Third, grief will be redeemed.

Grief is an expression of loss. It sometimes makes me wonder though, “when has God ever experienced loss?” I can only think of the death of Jesus on the cross. At the cross, God the Father counted the sins of the world against his Son Jesus, and turned his face away from his Son. Jesus cries out, piercing the air, quoting a Psalm of lament “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

You and I can’t fathom the sheer oceanic depth of love God the Father has for his son Jesus. But I can only imagine in that moment when he turned away, that the Father’s heart was also stricken with great grief at the death of his only Son. 

Because Jesus died, God no longer responds to his children’s sin with anger. Rather, His Spirit grieves. God’s grief is wrapped up in the death of his son. Yet, the Father, Son and Spirit know death is not the final chapter of the story.

I encourage you to pull out your Bible and turn to John 11 and read the rest of this particular story of Jesus. He goes on to raise Lazarus from the dead! This is no small hint at a future death and resurrection that is to come – Jesus’ own death would be followed by his triumphant resurrection on the third day. Death stings now! But the day is coming when there will be no more sting. Christ will return, and all sorrow and death will be undone.

As you grieve, may you remember God’s grief and be comforted. If you know Jesus, a day is coming when you too will experience resurrection life, and your grief will be turned to glory. 

Grieving with you,





Dear Downhearted,

There are times and seasons in life that make you feel the burden of your humanness. Often there seems to be more questions than there are answers, more worries than there are joys, and more uncertainties than there are assurances. Fear and uncertainty come natural to us.

I recall a certain season not too long ago where I was gripped by fear and crippled by the unknown of the future—it was debilitating. One evening, I explained to a brother what I was going through and I will never forget the question he asked in light of all of it: “In spite of all you’re thinking and feeling, fearing and dreading, what do you know to be true of God?” He didn’t minimize my struggle or invalidate my feelings, but he drew me out of the whirlwind into a shelter of truth. Without knowing the intimate details of your own struggle, let me encourage you to consider a similar question: In spite of all you’re thinking and feeling, fearing and dreading, what does God’s Word say to be true? 

The words of King David in Psalm 138 provide rock-solid truth to cling to when the winds of fear and uncertainty blow their strongest. He says, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (vv. 7-8 ESV). 

We can find solace in David’s song on a few levels. 

First, God is the one who preserves your life in the midst of trouble. When hardship comes, our tendency is to either turn inward to muster up enough gusto to make it through to the other side or to lay down defeated until a brighter day comes. Yet, the truth is that none other than God holds our life in His capable hands! 

Second, God always achieves His purposes. When difficulties arise, we tend to fear that God’s purposes for us have been thwarted. Yet, because God is both good and in control, we can hold fast that even when we don’t see the path ahead, God is leading us to conform us to the image of Jesus! We cling to the promise that the Lord is working all things for our good and His glory (cf. Rom 8:28)

Finally, God will not forsake you because Christ was forsaken in your place. The glorious news of the Gospel is that Christ Jesus cried the words of Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”, so that in him we can confidently cling to the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us (cf. Deut 31:8).

Friend, when the winds of fear and uncertainty rage against you, take shelter under the good promises the Father alone offers. He will see you through. 





Dear downhearted,

Jesus was weary too.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV)

I tend to forget that Jesus is truly able to sympathize with my weakness. I find it hard to imagine that Jesus would have gotten weary after a long day’s travel to preach the good news of the kingdom to other weary souls. It is almost as if I functionally believe Jesus floated along day by day, never experiencing any kind of pain, tiredness, or weakness. Yet, it really is true that Jesus, the eternal Son of God who took on flesh, got weary too. The Creator God of the universe became a man who got weary so that we could draw near to him with confidence, so we could receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.

In John chapter 4, Jesus is traveling from one town another and experiences weariness.

So Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. (John 4:6b)

Jesus was weary, so he sits beside a well and asks a woman to draw water for him. The conversation that Jesus and the woman at the well shared changed that woman’s life forever. Jesus personally revealed to her that he was the messiah that would not need to be worshiped on a mountain but instead will be worshiped in spirit and in truth. A woman was saved and God’s purpose in the universe advanced during that conversation, all because Jesus was weary and wanted to drink some water. The weariness of Jesus is what allowed this woman to draw near to him, and she received mercy and found grace to help in her time of need. God used the weariness of Jesus to comfort this woman at the well. Even today, God uses the comfort we receive in the midst of our weariness to extend His comfort out to others.

Jesus experienced the pains and weaknesses of this world, even suffering a painful death on the cross, all for the glory of God and so that we could draw near to him in the midst of our sins, pains, and weaknesses.

Are you in a time of need? You can confidently bring your weariness to Jesus, he knows how that feels. Jesus is not a far-off high priest. He is a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. Tell him how weary you are, how you long to be refreshed. When you bring your weariness to Jesus in your time of need, he is faithful to give you mercy and grace.


Dear downhearted,

A lot of us are feeling discontent this year. As I think about it, the feeling of discontentment, as common as it is to our human experience, is actually intimately connected to who we are as people created in the image of God. The reason we are discontent, at bottom, is because we live in a world that is not as it’s supposed to be. We were created for glory—for rich relationships, rewarding work, and intimacy with God—but since Genesis 3, the world as we know it does not give us those things – at least, never as much as or in the way we want. 

This year we are probably more prone to discontentment than ever. Maybe you are alone, struggling through lockdown with little or no companionship. Perhaps you gaze wistfully at the reverse-image wall of your apartment or house through your zoom webcam, longing for a better place to call home. Perhaps work has taken an unexpected turn—or there’s no work at all. For these reasons and more, we feel like what we have is not enough.

When we poke under the surface a little more, however, darker thoughts emerge. For we who believe in a loving and merciful God, “I don’t have what I want” quickly turns into “God isn’t giving me what I need.” We harbor hard thoughts of God, acknowledged consciously or not, and begin to accuse him of holding out on us.

Happily, the cure for discontented souls is the same as the cure for most everything else that ills us: repentance and faith. However, where discontentment is concerned, a couple of other steps actually help to fill out the process.

First, be thankful. Taking honest stock of all the rich and beautiful things that God has given us can often help get us unstuck, and move us to the place where we can repent and turn to him properly. The Apostle Paul writes, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Spend some time dwelling not on what you’re missing, but on what God graciously and freely has already given you – and watch how your thoughts begin to turn around.

Next, repent. Bring those hard, ugly thoughts of God into the light, and reject them for the lies they are. James writes, “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2-3). Not all desires are wrong, but many are, and many good desires get twisted by our never-ending obsession with ourselves. Give it all to Jesus. Receive afresh His forgiveness and cleansing (see 1 John 1:9-10).

Third, acknowledge (or believe) that God actually has already given you everything you need in Him! One of the most encouraging verses in the Bible to me is Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Look to the cross—the place where God once and for all proved His love for you. If He gave you Jesus, can’t you trust Him to give you everything else you need, and for the things he hasn’t given you, to believe that it’s for your good somehow? Replace those hard thoughts of God with true ones based on His good and gracious character.

Finally, rejoice! With a new-found appreciation for what God has given you, and a heart that thinks rightly about God and His ways, enjoy the freedom of walking humbly with Him, casting your cares on Him because he cares for you (See 1 Peter 5:6–7; Philippians 4:4–7).

If you’re anything like me, this little regimen can work wonders. Your situation may not change, but your perspective can, quickly—and the freedom this brings is worth more in the long run than any of the things you hope God might give you but hasn’t yet.

My friend, I pray that God encourages you by lifting you out of the discontentment and into the glorious freedom of the children of God.


 In Christ,

 Pastor Mark



At Citylight Church, we strive to be a culture shaped by the gospel. As a gospel culture, we look to the gospel for solutions to our problems and one of the most significant and common problems we face today is loneliness.


What is loneliness? 

Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Chicago, writes, “Loneliness is a state of mind characterized by a dissociation between what an individual wants or expects from a relationship and what that individual experiences in that relationship. Because loneliness is a state of mind, being physically alone is not a necessary…condition to experience loneliness.” 


Where does loneliness come from? 

We can trace the roots of loneliness all the way back to Genesis and the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 1-2, there was not a hint of loneliness in the Garden. The man and the woman were fully known and fully loved by God and one another. Genesis 2 concludes with these beautiful words, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:24). Sadly, things did not stay perfect in God’s world for long. Adam and Eve believed the terrible lie that God didn’t love them, ate the forbidden fruit, and alienation entered into our relationship with God and one another (Ephesians 2:1-3; Titus 3:3). Loneliness is a feature of this fallen world.


How does the gospel apply to loneliness? 

The gospel is the good news that the creator God is adopting sinners as his sons and daughters by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Adoption is the greatest benefit of the gospel. “In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:4-5). My lonely friend, the promise of the gospel is that all who receive and rest in Jesus Christ for salvation are not only forgiven, we are adopted. And since we are adopted on the basis of Christ’s merits, not our own, nothing can separate us from the love of our Father (Romans 8:31-39). No matter what is making you feel lonely, your Father is not far away. He will never leave or forsake you. Let his presence be your deep and abiding hope as you wait for the day when your faith shall be sight! 


Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me by night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is a light with you (Psalm 139:7-12).


Yours in Christ,




I’m thankful for Jesus.

I don’t mean to sound trite, or simplistic or self righteous. I want to pass along something simple God is teaching me this year.

In Colossians 1:12-14, Paul prays that the church would

“[give] thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Think of how grateful you are when you receive an extravagant gift. Or how grateful you are, although differently, when you deserve something terrible, but you are shown mercy.

Think again of the type of gratitude you feel when you arrive home after a long day of work. Or you’re starving and you sit down to a steak dinner. Or when the paycheck clears before the payment is called to account.

Or the kind of gratitude you felt when you saw your son or daughter for the first time. Or when a loved one sees you, knows you, and fully loves you. How do you thank someone who saved your life?

God is worthy of our whole lives and such expressions of gratitude please him. I’m not saying you can’t become more thankful through disciplines like keeping a gratitude journal; I’m saying that the most important thing is to stir your heart up to love for God and a knowledge of the gospel.

Yes, thank him for the little things – please! But don’t be a person who thanks him for the food on your plate and the money in your bank, but never for saving you from certain death!

Thank him for the sunshine, and the clouds, and the food on your table. But let those things point your heart to Jesus and find the welcome reminder – that all these small providences of God point to the crowning achievement – when he delivered you from Satan into the arms of your savior Jesus.

So when you’re thanking God for the beautiful fall leaves, it just so quickly moves to thanking him for Jesus. And when you smell the warm pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, it just moves to Jesus with so little effort. It’s like there’s this song of gratitude in our hearts already singing, and when the daily reminders of God’s presence and faithfulness come close to our hearts, that song is like a tuning fork that just picks up and starts to vibrate.

Remember that the Father saved you from certain death and delivered you to certain hope because of Jesus.

Happy Thanksgiving – we will get through this together.


I’ve lived in the United States of America my entire life. As a result, every year of my life, on the last Thursday of November, I’ve gathered with at least some family or friends and celebrated the holiday we call Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday in the Bible; you’re free to do nothing at all for it if you’d like. I’ve generally liked to do something for it, but, as we’ve now gotten used to saying, 2020 is different.

Due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia, I assume many of you have significantly modified Thanksgiving plans, if not totally cancelled them. That is cause for lamentation, as many things this year have been. Nonetheless, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” To refuse to give thanks in every circumstance is to live under the lie that we have nothing for which to be genuinely thankful, and that’s simply never true for a Christian (see Eph 1:3-14 or Hebrews 12:28, for examples). Though the holiday may be different this year, and whether you choose to celebrate it at all or not, don’t miss the opportunity for thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving as we know it today was instituted by President Abraham Lincoln, and every year around this time I like to share his words about it, not because there’s anything magical about him, but because there seems to be some wisdom in them, and every year, they seem to still apply to the situation we are in:

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

That’s the “what” of the holiday, and here is President Lincoln’s recommendation on how we should observe it:

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil [war] in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

There’s a lot there, but just a few things I want to commend to you whether you observe the holiday or not:

1. Offer up “ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings” – Take time to tell God how great He is and to recount what He’s done for you and for those around you. Maybe meditate on a passage like Ephesians 1:3-14 and offer to God thanks for such singular deliverances and blessings.

2. Do so “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience” – Thanksgiving is not a time to whitewash America’s past or present so we can all enjoy a meal and some football. It is a time to give thanks to God precisely because He’s been so good to us in spite of us, in spite of our national perverseness and disobedience, still alive today, which we all contribute to in some way. Let us not give thanks without an accompanying humble repentance. Consider using 1 Corinthians 13, which we’ve just finished preaching on, to confess the ways you fall short of the love it describes.

3. Commend widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers to “his tender care” – Lincoln, of course, in his words, referred to “those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil [war] in which we are unavoidably engaged…” We aren’t in a Civil War today, but there are people who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable COVID-19 pandemic in which we are unavoidably engaged. Commend them to God’s tender care in prayer. Ask Him to heal, comfort, and sustain. “Fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation…” – The nation had its wounds and divisions in Lincoln’s time. We saw ample evidence this year that the racial wounds of Lincoln’s day have still not been healed in 2020. And we’ve gotten some new wounds this year. But God is a God who heals. Let’s pray for Him to do so.

In closing, in the time we are in, the final words of Lincoln’s prayer still fit so well:

“Father, heal the wounds of this nation and restore it as soon as may be consistent with your purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”

Happy Thanksgiving!


Unprecedented times. A phrase I’m sure we’ve heard 1000 times over the past month. I understand why. In many ways, we have never experienced anything like this. In one sense, this really is a unique time in history. But I find myself thinking about how, in another sense, it’s not all that different after all; Easter Sunday is still our ultimate hope.

I think the Coronavirus crisis has had the effect of hooking an amplifier up to the same types of feelings that we had when life was “normal”. It has taken the volume knob of many thoughts, fears, worries, and bad habits from a 3 and cranked them up to a 10. While this season is unique in many ways, it is really not that different after all. Think about it. A few months ago you had things that worried you. You had relationships that were on the rocks. You had personal habits that were not healthy. Do you know why that is? It’s because sin and death in all their forms are universal. They are a result of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. In Genesis 3 we learn what happened. 

“therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” 

We were cut off from the source of life. We were removed from God’s presence. Our new reality was one of death and suffering; of sin and failure; of pain and brokenness. Things were bleak. However, if we backtrack for a moment, we see a glimmer of hope. Speaking to the Serpent, who tempted our first parents to sin, God says,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

     and between your offspring[e] and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

    and you shall bruise his heel.”

And then he takes animal skins and covers over the nakedness of Adam and Eve, foreshadowing what he would do in the future. This reminds me of my favorite book, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis. In the story, it is always winter, and never Christmas. Yet we get a similar glimmer of hope. Some of the snow starts to melt. A little blade of grass peaks through. And it all leads to the crescendo when one of the characters calls out,

“This is no Thaw… This is Spring”.

In Genesis we saw the first blade of Grass sticking out, showing us that there was hope. As the story of the Bible and of human history continues we see the hope become clearer until we can shout out “this is no thaw!”

It all culminates in the story of Easter. All of the whispers and shadows find their fulfilment in Jesus. All of our hopes and dreams come true on that glorious Sunday. Jesus died the death that we all deserve for turning our backs on God. He won the right to be back with God. He rose from the dead to prove that he was powerful even over death, and made sure our hope that one day all death would be put to an end. 

While that process has started, we haven’t made it to the end yet. There is still death. There is still sin. But Easter sunday screams with all of us, 

“This is no thaw, This is Spring”


As you’ve surely heard by now, Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States, after what has been one of the most divisive and acrimonious presidential elections in modern memory. This is Mark Giacobbe, one of of the pastors at Citylight, and I’m writing today to consider: What does this mean for us, the church of Jesus Christ?

Well, in one sense, nothing has changed since our previous email earlier this week: as Christians we are still, as always, called to pray, engage, build up, and hope. We must pray for our President, as commanded in Scripture, whether you were for him or against him (1 Tim 2:1-2). We must pray also for our country, that wounds might be healed, and justice might be done for the poor and marginalized (Prov 29:7). We must also continue to engage with issues of concern to us as believers, making our voices heard and speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15).

In light of how divisive this election has been, however, we want to particularly emphasize the Christian commands to build one another up and to hope. We your elders realize that some of you were pro-Trump, while others were pro-Clinton. Many others found grave problems with both candidates. But with the election behind us now, we want to encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to place our identity as brothers and sisters in Christ first and foremost in our minds and hearts. Whether you are Republican or Democrat or neither, whether you felt the Bern or were with her or wanted to make America great again, our citizenship is first and foremost in heaven (Phil 3:20), and we are all members of one another (Eph 4:25).

Let’s live this way. Let’s be careful, in our speech and social media interactions, to love one another and bear with one another (John 13:34; 1 Cor 13:7). Let’s try to understand where someone of another perspective is coming from, especially those who are hurting, angry, or afraid, being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:9). And let’s show the world, by our commitment to truly love one another, that we are disciples of Jesus, shining like stars in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation (John 13:35; Phil 2:15).

As John Piper has recently said, every president–and America itself–will one day be just a footnote in history. All human kingdoms will fall, but the Kingdom of God will stand forever (Rev 11:15). And Scripture says that we all, of various races, nations, and languages, called out of darkness and into his wonderful light in Christ Jesus, will be priests together in this Kingdom (1 Pet 2:9; Rev 1:6).

As God’s priestly people, throughout the next four years and beyond, let’s mediate the grace of God to a broken and dying world that so desperately needs it. For in the end there is no President, no party, no system, and no leader that can put the world to rights again. Only King Jesus can do this. Let our hope be fully in this, in the redemption of the world that comes through Him. And through our prayers, words, and deeds, let’s work together to see His Kingdom come, and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10).


P.S. There are many good Christian leaders writing now about the aftermath of this election. For further thoughts from a trusted source, see this piece by Russell Moore.


As strange as it may sound to some, Christians do actually believe Jesus rose from the dead. We believe there was really a Jesus of Nazareth, who walked on the earth, who died just as truly as any other human, who then came back to life and walked out of his tomb in a material, visible, body.

It’s entirely reasonable to respond to a claim that someone rose from the dead with skepticism. If the guy next to me on the subway today told me he saw someone rise from the dead, skepticism is a mild way of putting how I’d respond. I have never seen a dead person come back to life, nor has anyone I know and trust. Beyond that, I have good scientific reasons to believe that once the biological functions that sustain a living organism cease to function, there is no natural way for life to be restored.

So yeah, knowing what I know, I wouldn’t even give such a report a second thought. However, do I really know enough to rule out the possibility of anyone rising from the dead? Only if I’m prepared to state with certainty that no forces beyond natural forces exist. How could anyone state such a thing with certainty, though? It is not empirically provable, and it is certainly not self evident (on the contrary, for thousands of years of people and throughout the world today many find belief in God, a force beyond natural forces, to be self-evident). If this so, we cannot rationally rule out the possibility of resurrection.

Realizing this, we are free to actually examine this story of rising from the dead, Jesus’ story. When we do, we find that those who told the story intended to report real history. One gospel writer, Luke, says he intended to write an “orderly account” based on “eyewitnesses”, in order that his audience “may have certainty concerning the things [they] have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4). What does he report? He reports that Jesus died (Luke 23:46), was placed in a tomb (Luke 23:53), and then three days later he was not in a tomb, but had risen (Luke 24:6). He then reports that Jesus broke bread with his disciples (Luke 24:30), and ate with them (Luke 24:41-43).

Perhaps one can accuse Luke of lying, but he wasn’t alone in this story. In fact, another early Christian, Paul, writing only 15-20 years after Jesus’ life, says that Jesus appeared after rising from the dead to 500 people, many of whom were still alive at the time of his writing (1 Corinthians 15:6). It’s as if he’s saying, “Go ask them.” If you received such a challenge, what would you do? You’d either ignore it and not follow this religion, or you’d go ask people if they had in fact seen this risen person. If they said no, you’d go no further. If those 500 people who saw Jesus risen from the dead didn’t exist, but Paul said they did, odds of his message gaining a foothold seem incredibly low. Not only that, Paul and the other disciples demonstrated their confidence in the resurrection by their willingness to be put to death for proclaiming it. What are the odds they would do that if they knew they made it all up?