A Pastor, His Dying Wife, and Their Church—A Group Text
My friend Brad is a pastor in England. His wife, Megan, is lying in a hospital bed, unconscious, a few days or even hours from death.
The story began last Friday, when she, almost nine months pregnant and healthy, got a small cut, leading to a Group A Strep infection. Her brain swelled, causing catastrophic damage. She declined precipitously on Saturday, and the doctors determined to immediately remove the child by C-section. Beautiful E. was born, the seventh child God gave to Brad and Megan in the last thirteen years. Praise God! Yet her decline continued. On Sunday, doctors declared Megan brain dead and placed her on life support. They give her a few days before her heart stops beating.
I belong to a What’sApp messaging group with scores (or more) of Brad and Megan’s family, friends, and fellow church members. Brad offers updates, which alternate between the grieving and the inspiring. His friends offer encouragements and prayers.
On Wednesday morning—five days after normal ended—Brad shared the following (lightly edited, including removing children and church’s names):
Another morning, another 4 or so hours of sleep. Another morning waking up crying. Another morning of [son] grabbing my hand. This is so hard. I’ve tried to say this to you over the last few days. I profoundly love Megan. We had 14 years of marriage, and we crammed a lot into those 14 years. Our lives are so interwoven. I can’t even begin to separate how intertwined our lives have been. What’s Megan’s is mine. What’s mine is Megan’s. Every aspect of our lives and ministry. How do I deal with that? Not a question to be answered today.
Then these encouraging words about their marriage: “There’s no unresolved conflict between us. None. I sinned against Megan, she sinned against me. But, by God’s grace, we asked for and forgave each other. Truly. What a gift from God.”
And these comments about her:
Megan has, under God, had a profound impact on the lives of people. Many of you have said this over this group. I appreciate that right now more than ever. She unwaveringly loves Jesus Christ, his Word, and other people. The children and I all know this. How many of us have profited either from food Megan has prepared in love or a conversation she had with us about God’s Word? Who of us hasn’t watched her life and seen a reflection of Christ (imperfect, yes; but clear nonetheless)? You saw it out there, the children and I saw it at home.
On Thursday morning, Brad put on his preacher hat and talked about the church, which is what prompted my desire to share it on the 9Marks platform. Naturally, I asked Brad for permission to share them with you. He’s always been an open-book kind of guy, happy to live in this fallen world by God’s grace in view of others. He writes,
Megan, the only love of my life, is fading. We pray for a miracle, yes. And I have not given up. But God hasn’t done it yet. To prolong this by keeping her on life support (waiting for that miracle) or to pretend Megan’s getting better when she’s not; this may be selfish. I don’t want to keep Megan from Jesus.
I feel more numb surrounding all of this today. The situation has grown graver. Hear me clearly though: I am/we are struck down, but we are not destroyed. Christ lives, and this changes everything.
I went to bed telling myself I wasn’t going to write one of these again. I know my own sinful heart. I’ve asked my brothers in Christ to help me in this. Can I be honest? I’m doing this for myself as much as anybody else. I’ve always been this way. I figure out what I’m thinking by talking to others.
God has made all his people, in part, to be a “group project.” God made his people for the local church, hasn’t he? I need my family (especially my children) and Megan’s family now, of course, but please understand me: I need the folks from [name of church] just as much, if not more. I think the Bible bears this reality out.
I also need the folks from the universal body of Christ. If you’re a Christian, and you’re reading this, are you a member of a local church? Not a video church, not a satellite campus where the pastor doesn’t know you, not your own “church” at home, not a solo Christian. A “solo Christian” is an oxymoron, like warm ice cream or a likeable Arsenal [football] supporter (sorry about that Ali S., the Jacks, and little W. Brodie!).
As an aside, I hadn’t checked the news in 4 days. But it did warm my heart that Spurs beat Cardiff a day or two ago. You know what’s weird, I felt guilty checking the score. Like I was betraying Megan. It seems wrong to look at such trivial things. But I’m a real person. I need to remember that.
What was I saying? Ah, yes, the local church. Have I beat that drum enough? I really need the church right now. And they have been there! I don’t mean just one or two of the paid staff team. I mean everybody. One couple (with a relatively new baby themselves) is watching our dog. Many are making meals. Others have watched our children, texted, prayed, sat with me, and pointed me to Christ. Another couple (who used to be members, but moved to Northern Ireland) are bringing a pizza meal from Belfast. Might get cold flying across the Irish Sea with it.
Guys, this is the local church: a group of people, saved by Jesus who live in roughly the same location (that’s key,) and are committed to each other for each other’s spiritual and practical good to the glory of God. It’s like a little outpost of heaven on earth. I can’t help but plead pastorally with all of you: be an actual, committed, formal member of a local church. You need it to obey Jesus. You need it to be more like Jesus. You need it for moments like the one I’m in.
The nurses around Megan see this. They can’t believe the reality of our church. My children right now love our church, because our church obviously loves us. Do you love the church? Enough to inconvenience yourself for her and commit to her? It pays off. Exhibit A: the nurses caring for my wife and child are seeing the glory of God.
Brad then takes off the preacher’s hat and becomes the grieving husband again, but cannot leave the church far behind:
On a different tack: Megan and I went away in 2015 to Athens for 5 days (church folks watched our then 5 children!). We stayed in a flat connected to a church (thanks again, Georgios) in Athens. A really sweet 10-year anniversary. We started saving when we got back: a pound or two a week (in cash). It’s in a mug in a secret location in our kitchen, by the way. Kids, if you read this, don’t go get it down. We are saving for our 20-year anniversary getaway. Megan wants to go to Central Europe. We have like £250-300. That’s a lot for us. But what on earth do I do with that money now if Megan goes home to the Lord? To spend it on a pair of Bluetooth headphones?! I know God’s grace is deeper still. It is, right?
Beginning to think about a funeral. Please don’t see this as a lack of faith. Pray that Megan’s nurses come. They’ve said they will. I can think of a few things I’d like to happen at this funeral, the first being God’s people (with sad but joyful hearts) belting out praise to our great God and Saviour. We want the attention to be on him now, then and forever.
Brad next asks for prayer for his own loneliness without Megan and for the ability to raise the seven children (especially the newborn) alone. He also implores the women of the church concerning his daughter: “[Daughter]’s going to need some Titus 2 women. On that note, how sweet a thought that some of you women (Megan’s “Titus 2 Club”) could be that kind of women for her?”
He spends a paragraph unpacking Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
And he concludes by bringing it all together (you might think about how different his words are from so many false prosperity and word-of-faith preachers):
Guys, God may still miraculously heal my wife. Pray that he does. But have his miraculous power and glory not already been displayed—in the church and in Christ over these last few days through so many of you? You, my fellow saints, have been born again by a work of the Holy Spirit—a miracle! You have trusted in a glorious Saviour who died for your sins—a miracle! You have lived together as a believing community and inconvenienced yourselves for each other—yep, miracle again! Starting to see the picture? Megan would want me to talk about her healing, but even more she would want me to talk about the miracles we see every day (and forget) to the glory of God. God has, is, and will be glorified in his church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and ever! Even here in our hospital ward. Amen.
Amen, indeed. Pray now for Brad, his family, his church, and all those who are watching, that God might be glorified through Brad, Megan, and their church.
Pray finally for yourself and your fellow church members, that God would be so glorified in you, whether in life or in death.
Sunday afternoon, January 6, nine days after everything began, one of Brad’s fellow elders announced on the group text that Megan passed away. Friends and church members replied with a host of prayers and encouragement. One phone number, unknown to me, offered this:
The following was written by Matthew Henry, and was found after his death.
Would you know where I am? I am at home in my Father’s house—in the mansion Jesus prepared for me there. I am where I want to be—where I have long and often desired to be. I am no longer on a stormy sea—but in a safe and quiet harbor. My working time is done—I am resting! My sowing time is done—I am reaping! My joy is as the joy of harvest!
Would you know how it is with me? I am perfect in holiness; grace is swallowed up in glory!
Would you know what I am doing? I see God; I see Him as He is; not as through a glass darkly, but face to face. The sight is transforming, it makes me like Him! I am in the sweet enjoyment of my blessed Redeemer, whom my soul loved, and for whose sake I was willing to part with all. I am here bathing myself at the spring-head of heavenly pleasures and unutterable joys; and, therefore, weep not for me. I am here singing hallelujahs incessantly to Him who sits upon the throne, and rest not day or night from praising Him!
Would you know what company I have? Blessed company—better than the best on earth; here are holy angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. I am here with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God; with blessed Paul, and Peter, and James, and John, and all the saints. And here I meet with many old acquaintances that I fasted and prayed with, who came here before me.
And, lastly, would you consider how long this is to continue? It is a garland that never withers; a crown of glory that never fades away; after millions of millions of ages, it will be as fresh as it is now; and, therefore, weep not for me!