Challenges, Love, Unity

Tragedy, Community, and the Church Being the Church

Tuesday night I visited the family of a high school friend, Matt, in the hospital. Matt was hospitalized the Sunday prior because of an unknown congenital heart defect that resulted in catastrophic heart failure.

I got to visit him in his room that night I went to visit. We prayed with him briefly and just stood beside the bed trying to make sense of everything. What could even be said?

There laid Matt, a guy I always recalled as a strong athlete, gentle in spirit, and a genuine friend. His laugh was truly the contagious kind; I can clearly hear it in my mind as I remember.

By the time we heard of what had happened, Matt’s community of friends had already mobilized in prayer and support. I remained informed via a group text between a small group of guys from our high school class.

Everyone clung to hope as the week continued on. Lot’s of prayer, lot’s of hope, very few answers.

Thursday morning I learned that Matt passed away.

I don’t know the exact medical circumstances that lead to his death, but when Jeff called to let me know, my heart dropped. “He’s gone.”, Jeff said.

No more words to say. Just like that, Matt is gone.

Matt was 33 years old, a loving husband, and a father of a sweet baby girl the same age as our daughter, Dela. And they have another baby on the way in a few short months.

How is this even fair? I can’t fathom how Matt’s family is hurting right now. There’s just no way.

Matt’s community of friends is shaken to it’s core. Even more so, we’ve all been stirred to action. Real action.

This is the verse that keeps ringing in my head as we try to find justice in a situation that just seems so unfair.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:27

Orphans and widows.

Aren’t orphans and widows supposed to be far-off concepts or personas to be discussed by pastors from the pulpit? Aren’t orphans and widows supposed to be just ideas of people we should help as Christians?

Surely they’re not supposed to be actual people with familiar names and voices we know.

Selena and I, along with countless others, have been deeply affected by Matt’s death.

Too soon. Too close. Too sudden.

The church being the church

One bright spot in this story is seeing how the church has surrounded Matt’s family in their loss.

I haven’t gone a moment the past few days without thinking of them; and I know hundreds – rather, thousands – of others in Matt’s community who would say the same.

More importantly, I have never seen the church mobilize to support a family in need quite like I have the past few days. Matt’s best friend, Eli, started a special campaign to help the family out.

The goal was $10k, but at the time of my writing this (1 day into the campaign), the total is $15,473 and counting.

What a testimony of the power of community, and the community of believers driven to compassion by the love of Christ.

That’s why I’m writing to you, our Fierce Marriage readers.

You are the Church. You may not know the family personally, but you are brothers and sisters in Christ. You, along with me and Selena, are called to “visit orphans and widows in their affliction”. 

Marriage as ministry

This is how we let our marriages be our ministries. Matt’s story and stories like his are exactly how we show the love of Christ and act as his hands and feet in our day to day lives.

I honestly don’t know what I’m expecting from this blog post. I have no specific idea why I’m up at 10:15pm writing it on a Friday night.

I just know that I feel deep sorrow for losing a friend, and clear compassion for Matt’s family in their loss. I guess needed to write to process everything.

I also feel inexplicable joy as I watch Christ’s love pour into Matt’s family from around the world as the church simply acts as the church should.

I guess that’s it.

That’s why I’m writing this: to celebrate Matt’s impact in the lives of those around him and bear witness to the work God is doing in the midst of this inexplicable loss.

I’m also writing to urge you, married couples seeking hard after Christ, to relentlessly help those in your community who need it. Rise up when need is present. Be Christ’s hands and feet in your world.

Let your marriage be your ministry, and don’t waste a second in doing so.


If you feel compelled to help Matt’s family in their need, please do so below. No amount is too little, and no kind word is wasted. They need our love, church, so let’s show it.

Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?

Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?

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