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Pastor with ALS Truly Understands Good Friday

Around his 50th birthday, Pastor Ed Dobson was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Over time, the disease attacks neurons that control voluntary muscles. As nerve cells degenerate, muscles atrophy. There's no known cure. Eventually, the body just gives out. Shortly after the diagnosis Dobson wrote, "I felt like I was sinking into the darkness … my life was over. I felt like I had been buried alive."

Now, 13 years later, Dobson says he has a very different outlook on life and on what it means to follow Christ. Before the disease, he basically focused on the resurrected Jesus. Now he can also focus on the suffering Jesus. "Even when my body doesn't work," Dobson says, "I remember the Jesus who created the universe limited himself to the human body. I find encouragement in Good Friday. I want to get to Sunday, but I'm more focused on the suffering."

Editor's Note: You can stop the illustration right here, or you can add the following two paragraphs to emphasize how suffering helps us comfort others in their pain.

Through his pain, he's learning how to meet others in their pain. Shortly after the diagnosis, he visited a woman in the final stages of ALS. The patient's husband stood in the doorway and politely explained that his wife didn't want to see anybody. But feeling urgent, he walked past the man into the woman's bedroom. Dobson spoke to her, but she remained silent. He returned for more visits, but each time she would just roll over and face the wall, never saying a word.

He always prayed with her, even though she didn't give a rip about God. He wrote a prayer to Christ on a note card, and her husband taped it to the wall where she would always see it. The weekend she died, she asked her husband to carry her into the living room. She wanted to watch Dobson preach on TV. After she had listened, she told her husband to tell Dobson he prayed the prayer—that she was ready to die. And the next day she did.

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