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Ed Dobson: How God Uses My Lou Gehrig's Disease for Good

Ed Dobson: How God Uses My Lou Gehrig's Disease for Good

The seasoned pastor connects Kim Newlen's story of battling breast cancer to his own battle with ALS

I love Christianity Today's new documentary film about breast-cancer survivor Kim Newlen. Even though I have never had cancer, have never had surgery to remove a tumor, and have never undergone chemotherapy, it spoke to me.

When I was diagnosed with ALS in 2000, doctors they gave me two to five years to live. And most of it would be in the disabled condition. They don't know what causes ALS, a disease where the electrical signals from the brain fail to reach the muscle, and the muscle begins to die. It's not a pleasant disease.

The theme of "Bolder as I Got Balder" is, of course, boldness. It appears that Newlen gets bolder as her cancer progresses. I've noticed the same thing in my life. Almost every week I meet with someone who has been recently diagnosed with ALS. When I meet with them I simply ask questions. I try to listen as much as possible. Toward the end of our conversation, I tell my own story. I always begin with what happened in Northern Ireland when I was 11 years old, when I got down on my knees by my bed one night and invited Jesus to be my Savior and my Lord. Before I was diagnosed with ALS when I met with someone going through a tough time, I don't know that I ever referred to my own journey. But now I've gotten bolder.

Newlen wondered if she would miss seeing her daughter walk down the aisle. That spoke to me. After I was diagnosed with ALS, people would say, "I bet you're thinking a lot about heaven." Actually, not really. I discovered how attached I am to my wife and kids down here. I want to be here as long as I can. When I was first diagnosed I thought, I want to at least walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to watch my first grandkid grow up. I want to grow old with my wife. After 11 years with the disease, I have walked my daughter down the aisle, seen four grandkids born, and am still hoping to grow old with my wife. The more time I have, the greedier I become. I want more and more time with my family.

Toward the end of the film, Kim talks about living your life with no regrets. Every day I try to live that way. One of the things I did early on was to make a list of everyone whom I know I had offended. I began working my way through the list and asking forgiveness. When I die I want people to know that my relationship with them was "without regrets." I didn't want to die with a broken relationship with other people.

The film demonstrates how God redeems our suffering. Kim Newlen is offered a horrible prognosis. But in the midst of her struggle, she begins making and distributing dresses for women who have been offered the same horrible prognosis.

Honestly, I would still rather be healthy and not go through this suffering. I would exchange all the life lessons and opportunities to be healthy again. But like Kim Newlen's breast cancer, my ALS has been used by God to accomplish wonderful things for the kingdom, where even the worst suffering opened the doors to a new heavens and earth.

Ed Dobson is pastor emeritus of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and author of The Year of Living Like Jesus (Zondervan). His story is documented in a film series at EdsStory.com.

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RT @MissionYear: A great collection of articles from @ct_city @CTmagazine http://t.co/OLmjHvUIfr

In honor of Kim Newlen, a friend of @ct_city who died Saturday, we share our story of her battle with cancer: http://t.co/S3FGKhVDuo

RT @CTmagazine: After three years, hundreds of stories, thousands of readers, our tribute to This Is Our City: http://t.co/Gz35NhAdqc @ct_c2026

The top 10 stories of @editor @KatelynBeaty picks her favorites and reflects on lessons learned in 3 years: http://t.co/BQxYdaoyD9

"As a community we have to do a better job of rescuing these young people." The newest (and last) City video: http://t.co/vZL0cRKO7H #RVA