And today I finally got the picture to go with it.
Selfies with the wife are hard to come by when one of us is always holding or entertaining one of the littles…
Okay Matt…get to the point…
So most of you know already that I’m not shy about telling the world that I love my wife.
Here’s a big part of the reason why…
Recently I connected with someone who expressed some sincere interest in my story and more specifically, my book.
As I shared some of the details, this individual curiously asked if my wife had supported me in following this call to write and share, very transparently, my journey in mental health and faith…
I responded immediately with 100%. Why wouldn’t she?
And then it hit me…this is actually a legitimate question for many…
But it’s one that I’ve never had to be concerned with in my marriage.
My wife has always had my back.
And I guess, by the standards of most, that’s not a small ask…
Look, we’ve done some crazy stuff…
A South Florida ocean sunrise elopement…that ruffled a few feathers!
6 moves in 9 years…so long comfort zone!
3 kiddos in 49 months…blessings in bunches!
So is it really any surprise that we went 10 months in the middle of a pandemic with two kids and no income chasing a book project inspired by God? Confronting the devil?!
The answer is no.
We will continue to do that.
In fact, don’t be surprised if we turn it up a notch or two…
Because we have each other’s backs, and we are “crazy” enough by the standards of this world to do what doesn’t make ANY sense to our friends and family for the sake of what we believe God is calling us to pursue…for each other, for our children and most importantly, for Him.
I love my wife because she loves and trusts God enough to go (with me) wherever He leads us…no hesitation.
She trusts me, because I trust Him. And that feeling is mutual. It’s the foundation of our marriage.
I am so grateful that God gave me this woman…
Listen, I have nothing figured out. No five year plan. I mean I’ll be honest I rarely have a five day plan…
And that’s actually quite intentional, as “crazy” (seeing a pattern here?) as that sounds…
It’s intentional, because I don’t want to lead, I want the Holy Spirit to show me the way, 24 hours at a time.
And this little wife of mine (like what I did there 😉) well she just lets it SHINE…
There is no panic. No worry. She just gets up every day, grinds as a mama and rides with me…
Demons seek to exploit and prey on our vulnerabilities.
My vice was money, amplified by debt.
I began chasing in 2005.
I used credit to make a single large purchase…a purchase I planned to pay off over a longer period of time through disciplined monthly payments.
But the weight of the debt immediately consumed me. My OCD became fixated on it. I wanted out. But I was fresh out of college, making less than $30K a year. I had no quick fix.
So I thought, well, during college I had some luck gambling on sports here and there…perhaps that could generate some additional income…?
Soon after I began placing wagers in an online sportsbook.
The sportsbook then became my gateway to the online casino. If you wanted fast money, it was a great fix.
But as fast as it ran up, it ran back down.
I started with debit and then moved to credit.
When I exhausted traditional credit (ie, Visa/MasterCard) I used store credit (Home Depot, Lowe’s). In times of desperation, I would buy $500 gift cards on store credit and sell them via Craigslist for $400 cash (sometimes $350)…
I was quite literally an addict standing on the corner at Home Depot shaking with nervous anticipation, waiting to hand off the card and get my fix. Sometimes I took the cash from that transaction and went straight to the casino.
But why allow it to go this far, and for so long…?
Well, I didn’t always lose…the devil was always clever about baiting me deeper into bondage…
There were times when I accumulated thousands in winnings. Once over $42,000 in an online casino with an initial deposit of probably less than $100…
…but I gave it back. All of it. And then some.
It was devastating. The shame. The weight. My mind tormenting me. The what if’s…all I wanted was to rid myself of this debt monster and when given the prime opportunity, I couldn’t break the addiction…
This ugly cycle repeated itself until July 2011 when God intervened in my life. It was a wake up call I could not ignore. I quit cold turkey the next day. That’s also when I began blogging (setback2comeback.com) and sharing my journey with the world.
In the years that followed, I turned back to a familiar friend, the stock market. I had toyed with it in years prior, but never got too intimately involved because my fast money habit always came from the casino…
But I made a promise to The Lord that I intended to keep, and so I refused to go back to my usual fix, and instead I conveniently justified the creation of a new one…one more “acceptable”, on the up and up…
From pennies, to start ups, to biotech and then ultimately options of all shapes and sizes I went in big, and I lost big over several years…
And I learned the intricacies of the market… For those unaware, it’s a pit of evil manipulation. It’s ugly. And the reality is that your small change (I mean no offense by this) will never have a say in the outcome of anything…
Thankfully, I gave up the stock market for good several years ago. It wasn’t easy, because I loved trying to figure it out and stay ahead of the curve. I felt some sort of superior identity in it. And that was deeply unhealthy. Trading became an obsession almost overnight. It consumed my thoughts and robbed me of focus and sleep.
The losses that I accumulated trading still haunt me.
Every tax season, I see a $3,000 credit applied for my short term capital loss carryover – the balance began around $160,000 and it is now down to $145,580 (see photo below).
I can’t begin to estimate the total amount I lost gambling in casinos/sportsbooks/etc prior to 2011 as I don’t have any record of it. It was significant. I’m sure between 2005-2011 it was close to another $100K there (maybe more)….
Meaning, when coupled with my verified stock market losses, I dropped over a quarter million dollars to these demons over a little more than a decade.
Imagine what could be done with $250,000…?
I believe the devil wanted me dead.
To push me to a breaking point under the weight of such heavy debt that I took my own life (if the stress alone didn’t kill me first).
But God was writing a different story.
A story of redemption.
Not by my strength, but by His.
All I ever needed to do was let go and put my life in His Hands…
…and that’s what I’m doing here today, as I’ve done with virtually every other facet of my life in recent years, I’m turning it up a notch…disclosing it all.
I fear the judgment of no man.
I trust God.
He is my chain breaker and my way maker.
And He has blessed me beyond what I can fathom.
Yes, I still carry this debt thorn in my flesh. But I am stronger for it because I now rely on God. He makes me full…
…and He has done so with an amazing abundance of blessings in my life. My wife and children are gifts of which I am truly unworthy. PRICELESS gifts that I would have never received if the devil had his wish.
God is still on the throne.
And He will always be the Victor.
Let go and choose Him.
You are never too far gone.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 KJV)
My Dad as a coach loved the words “finish strong”…
Over the years, those words were a true gift to me.
In life, when my back has been against the wall and I’ve been faced with the temptation to quit, I’ve repeatedly felt my father’s voice of inspiration tugging at my heart… “Keep going, Matt.” Finish the race. “FINISH STRONG.”
When I was a young athlete, “finish strong” to me meant digging deep and gutting out that last sprint, giving more effort than you did on the first…
In my mind, I somehow believed it was that simple. As if finishing was something you could turn on and off.
But I’ve l learned over the years that my father had a broader message in mind…
“Finish strong” is a daily mindset.
We cannot predict when The Lord will call us home. That’s on His watch, not ours.
So we should prepare to compete for the crown each and every day as though it is our last because tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone.
We must “leave it all on the field”…another favorite saying of my father’s…
Blood, sweat, tears of pain and tears of joy…and put it on repeat.
Outcome not in your favor today?
If the sun shines on your face tomorrow, rise with gratitude, trust in God and get up and play another down.
Finishing strong isn’t about flipping a switch, it’s about defining a different standard of living. One rooted in faith and not fear. One where you move boldly in the direction that God calls without hesitation.
The only way to make a deposit on finishing strong in a life where your expiration date is unknown is by living in that mindset daily.
My Dad did that.
He never did anything half hearted. He gave his all to everything.
Every day, he played it out. I admire him so much for that. What an amazing example he set as a father.
Would I love to be celebrating with him on his 73rd birthday? Of course…
But my Dad lived a heck of a life. And it wasn’t a life half lived. He was all in. And let me tell you, that man finished strong.
I pray that today, Dad you are reminded repeatedly, “well done good and faithful servant.”
Cheers to you. I’ll be looking up to the sky and toasting your amazing life.
For 38 years, you gave me everything you had in the tank. I’m so grateful for the time we had with each other.
Some people view Christians as though they walk around with a bit of a chip on their shoulders…as though they have everything figured out, and that they are superior to those around them.
Let me be clear with you on this… that type of self-righteousness or arrogance does not live in the heart of a true Christian.
A true Christian is humble. He is aware of his sin and he understands his need for repentance.
He fully recognizes the inadequacy of his flesh. That’s why his reliance is so deeply rooted in his faith. He has accepted the fact that he cannot navigate his life’s journey on his own. And therefore, he has called on The Good Shepherd to lead him.
A true Christian understands the nature of the spiritual war that we face. And his loyalty is not to man, but to God.
He lives with an eternal mindset rooted in The Truth of God’s Word.
Every day he is tasked with disposing of the relentless temptations of his tormenting flesh.
Until the moment of his last breath, he dedicates his life to fighting the good fight, to finishing the race and keeping the faith.
That is not a light commitment. Because he remains a prime target of the evil one. Satan is always seeking to lure him away.
A true Christian does not travel an easy path…
And a true Christian is far from perfect…
But he can rest in the understanding that his ultimate destination is secure. Because Jesus Christ is his Victor. And that is his Peace.
New episodes of the Delivering Dunamis Podcast air the week of June 28th. Tune in for an inside look at the walk of this imperfect Christian as we continue to fight the good fight of faith…
Click the link to purchase my new book, The Devil and the Children of God at the End of the World, available now on Amazon! For one week only, my publisher has agreed to discount the Kindle version of the book from its full list price down to $0.99 so that I can share it with my network inexpensively. If you do not have a Kindle or if you’d prefer to hold a physical copy, the hardcover and paperback versions are also available.
Thank you all for your love and support of my mission.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview with my friend, Mher Mardoyan to record a few inspiring messages for job seekers. Mher is from British Columbia, Canada and he is an HR Associate Recruiter with Conagra Brands. He runs a wonderful series that highlights “Tips for Hiring and Getting Hired” on YouTube – I encourage you to check him out.
Below are links to the five videos that we recorded…