A Review of
Seeing Through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart
Reviewed by Johnie Morgan
“This book is about hope” (18). This might seem like an obvious statement when looking at the title of this book, but it is the truth; Ed Dobson weaves a story that consists of pure hope with the hardships that he has gone through since the day he was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Not only does he include his stories, however, but the stories of other people he has known that spent their last days slowly deteriorating from this disease as well. As a result, the prevalent question that displays itself in different ways throughout this book is: Where is God when your world is falling apart?
In the introduction, Dobson makes the statement, “I have never been afraid of dying, but I was concerned about the process of getting there” (19). That is a declaration with which almost any Christian would be able to relate. Most of this story is made up of such statements and questions. With many of them, a non-Christian would be able to relate as well. Perhaps that was what Dobson intended by the honesty with which this story is saturated; he holds none of his feelings, emotions, questions, or confusion back. An example that shows a moment of insensitivity on his part was when he admitted after visiting people that were going through cancer treatments that he thought, “Well at least you have the possibility of a cure. I don’t” (29). It is not often that someone would think that anyone with cancer is better off than him or herself, and even fewer people would admit it, but this is just one way Dobson bared his soul, in a sense, in this story.
During the course of this story, Dobson also includes many Biblical references. They serve as a reminder to the reader that even in difficult circumstances God’s Word can be trusted and applied without a doubt. In Dobson’s case, he was a preacher for many years, and after finding out about his disease, he was prompted by 2 Timothy 4:2 to continue to preach even though at the time it felt inconvenient to him. He was also reminded by Deuteronomy 30:19 to live while he can. Who of us has not wanted to just stop living when life gets hard? It is at parts such as this in the story that the reader is truly able to empathize with Dobson.
As mentioned above, Dobson includes the tales of people that he got to know that shared this disease with him. These stories worked to not only increase the amount of knowledge to be gained about his disease but to also give us an idea of how many people actually suffer from this disease and how terrible of a disease it really is. The stories are not all doom and gloom, however. In fact, Dobson makes the statement that there is power in one broken person talking to another broken person (49). Such a power is not to be forgotten.
In this book, Dobson also includes small columns of stories outside of his times of illness. At first it is a little difficult to see how these stories fit in with the larger story at work, but I would say that their purpose is to help the reader get a better idea of who Dobson is and what his life has looked like. This aids in the understanding that we are able to give him and helps us get to know someone that we might not have otherwise. Perhaps the reason these parts are written in these columns outside the text is because they did not fit in anywhere else. An example occurs during his chapter on forgiveness; he includes a snippet of an experience that he had on the Phil Donahue Show. At the end of this small story, we are left with the statement, “I realized that real ministry does not occur in the lights of television but rather in taking garbage to the dump” (95). What is the “garbage” in this sentence referring to? Well, I would say that is up to us to decide.
Towards the end of this book, Ed Dobson gives tips of what he suggests that a person do when he or she is diagnosed with a terminal illness: “First of all, you need to reduce the stress in your life. Second, you need to quit your job. Third, you need to learn how to not to worry about tomorrow. Fourth, you need to learn to be forgiving. Fifth, you need to learn how to thankful. Those are the big things to strive for” (121). All of these different aspects of his experience that he relays to us make for a compelling story about what it means to truly follow God in the hardest situations that seem impossible to overcome.