When God Intervenes

Before having ALS, I would have thought that it would be the big effects of this disease that cause the most frustration—things like not being able to walk and talk. But it’s losing your ability to do simple things, things you once did with little or no effort, that cause the most frustration. Imagine having an itch you can’t scratch or having a mosquito biting the back of your hand and all you can do is sit and watch as it becomes fat with your blood, leaving another itch you can’t scratch.

Being confined to a wheelchair and not being able to speak would be more bearable if I was able to read books, but even that once-simple pleasure is now impossible. I was especially frustrated with my inability to hold a book and turn its pages when I received a copy of a book titled “When God Intervenes” in the mail two weeks ago. This book was written by a friend named Dabney Hedegard, and I had been looking forward to reading it since she told me about it several months ago. Fortunately, Mary had also been looking forward to reading it so she volunteered to read it to me.

The reason I used the example of not being able to scratch an itch is because the book begins with Dabney visiting doctor after doctor and having test after test to determine what was causing the constant itching all over her body. (I began to itch just thinking about it). Every doctor said or inferred that Dabney was a Hypochondriac. She would soon prove all of those doctors wrong, the hard way!


Dabney endured the constant itching and the sleeplessness that came along with it for five tortuous months. Then, as Dabney retells it in the book, something happened that, by comparison, made her constant itching and the exhaustion seem like a minor annoyance: “I propped my feet on the couch and scratched across my belly, trying to chase away the tickles. In the silence of my apartment, I tried to nap. But my midmorning indigestion had progressed into a heavy weight against my lungs. The roll of fruit-flavored TUMS refused to calm the pressure. Then it happened. One gasp followed by strained constriction— as if someone had popped my lung. I banged my fist to my chest to pound out some relief. Nothing. Sitting up straighter, straighter, I struggled to suck in air. “I c-can’t breathe…”

Dabney’s husband, Jason, rushed her to the ER where doctors discovered a football-sized tumor in her chest; it was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In some cases, for some unknown reason, this type of cancer can cause the itching that she was experiencing. To complicate matters and add to the drama of this miraculous story, Dabney was six weeks pregnant with their first child.

This was the start of what would become a ten year trial; a decade of Jason and Dabney having their faith repeatedly tested and God intervening time after time with miracle after miracle. A ten year trial that included four near-death experiences and twice doctors telling Jason, “She’ll never make it through the night.”

“…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:3-5)

The above passage came to my mind when I read what Dabney said this book was about: “This story is about an ordinary girl in search of hope.”  Mary and I saw that passage unfold in Dabney and Jason while reading “When God Intervenes.” This “ordinary girl” finds the hope that she was in search of and is now giving that hope to others through her public speaking engagements, her blog and now through this inspiring new book.

And no, I’m not recommending When God Intervenes just because Dabney flattered me by including a quote from one of my blog posts in the book. I’m recommending this book because reading it encouraged us and increased our faith and hope and I know it will do so for you also.

To order When God Intervenes, click here.

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, at the age of 36, I was diagnosed with ALS. The neurologist gave me 3-5 years to live. 24 years later... :-) I'm completely paralyzed and unable to speak. By God's grace and the great care of my wife, I'm still here. I live to encourage and give hope to others going through difficult times.

Posted on July 1, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 65 Comments.

  1. Thanking God for His powerful living testament of hope through you…

    24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling and to bring you before His presence without fault and with great joy. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority ARE His before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

    Prayers for the same glorious power that raised our Lord Jesus to surround you continually, through and through.


  2. Respect. You cannot walk or talk anymore but you are very positive and passionate about your faith. May I ask why you are not angry with God for allowing this?

    It is great you can communicate through writing which is great therapy and allows us to connect with others and the wider world.


    • Thank you for your comments. As to why I am not angry with God (for allowing this), that’s a great question. I don’t know if I can give an understandable answer, but I suppose it’s because when I committed to following Christ 14 years before being diagnosed, it was an unconditional surrender; I literally gave Him my life “for better or worse,” just like the vow I made to my wife 3 years later. It is also because I read the New Testament and knew that being a Christian didn’t mean I was immune from the sufferings of the world. And lastly it’s because I was so grateful that He “saved a wretch like me” that not even ALS could ruin that gratitude!


      • Fantastic you can keep that resolve under such difficult circumstances.

        I couldn’t. Breast cancer 2x, unsupported by husband 2nd time round, recovered, dumped. 2 yrs later heart failure; chemo had damaged heart muscle, 2 litres of fluid half filled up in my lungs causing breathlessness and extreme fatigue. Could have died.

        Pls don’t tell me God sends these things to test us and not anything you can’t handle. All this major trauma happened in the space of a mere 3 years and wanted to die.

        I no longer believe in a Merciful God. If we don’t repent and accept Jesus as our saviour then we go to hell, no matter how good we are. Yet if we’ve been evil all our life, we can repent on our deathbed and still make it to heaven.

        But I respect your faith as it gives you strength and comfort.


        • I am so sorry for your trials. I have never believed that “God sends” these trials and I don’t believe the Bible teaches that either. But, as we read in the book of Job, God, for reasons I don’t fully understand, does allow trials. But there is always hope; hope for emotional and physical healing and hope for eternity with Christ. I take from your comments that you’re fed-up with nonsensical answers from Christians – I would rather tell you I don’t fully understand it myself than insult your intelligence with answers that don’t really help. That said, I know that good can result from bad with Christ – I have seen so much good, eternal and even earthly good, come out of my trial. Obviously I cannot speak for Dabney, but I think she’d say the same thing.
          Are you a Christian?
          When you get time, please set up your “About” page so I can find out more about you.


          • Thank you for your quick response and not patronising me with stock answers. Ah actually I know the Bible very well as I was brought up a Christian and attended Sunday School where we had to memorise verses weekly. I can even sing you the order of the books in the N.T. Then progressed to Youth Fellowship and Sunday services for many years.

            Actually there is somewhere where it does say God sends us these trials and tribulations but nothing we can’t handle. Possible Paul in either Romans or the Corinthians. But personally I think it was one test too many especially the rejection from the divorce. I have contemplated suicide seriously more than once.

            Can you imagine the pain physical emotional mental of a) your cancer coming back after almost 10 years, the one thing you dreaded all that time at the back of your mind and thinking oh I’m gonna make it now.

            b) not getting the support from your ex who lets you go it alone from cycle 4 of chemo, a total of 6. It is hell for all chemo patients but I am also severely severely needle phobic. I had to drag myself onto the train to London alone, face the fear of not one but two needles, the first to test your blood for enough white cells so the chemo doesn’t kill you and second for the catheter so they can pump poison direct into your veins. Each time I went I cried and said I won’t do chemo. But every time they are so patient, compassionate and damn persuasive, I find myself in that damn chair poison being pumped into me, yet again.

            Before I knew it I had completed all 6 cycles. I thought I would be over the moon but no all I felt was an emptiness, a deep void.

            Followed straight away with weeks of intense radiotherapy Mon to Fri staying in hostel attached to hospital. I went home on the train weekends. He would pick me up from the station but stay silent, like it was his duty and nothing else.

            Never once did my husband then come to visit. We didn’t live that far away and our daughter was already a teenager and could be left. Not even when I begged him in tears on the phone one night. Instead a mutual friend that I didn’t know that well was prepared to drive 3 hrs each way if it would make me feel better. Later I found out from his wife he hates driving in London.

            Fell into deep depression when treatment over; inability to accept recurrence, desertion from ex etc. No understanding, empathy, support. Basically ignored me. Sat in front of computer from minute he came home from work to …

            Finally recovered got job at supermarket filling shelves with bottles of wine and cans of beer etc. V heavy lifting which I shouldn’t have been doing because I have a weak arm from previous two surgeries. All lymph nodes removed to test if cancer had spread. Thankfully not or I wouldn’t be here to share this. I made myself do this weekends, evenings, unsociable hours to help the family. No acknowledgement, no thanks, just taken for granted.

            The fatal blow was just when I thought we as a family has survived a major crisis/threat the bombshell fell. No debate, no explanation. The final curtain falls; the show has had a good run for 18 years, now past its sell by date, the end. Just like that. No say in the matter.

            I have been affected in every way imaginable. Standard of living plummeted. I will never be able to own property again. Due to my health problems I cannot work full time. At the moment I am doing a bit of private English tuition and being supported by my sister.

            I have used up all of my house proceeds because he has refused to support our daughter. He promised to pay the rent and I everything else. He defaulted after a few months claiming his business was failing. I paid for one and a half years then came to Hong Kong for fresh start as I couldn’t shake off my depression and felt suicidal again. My daughter is 20 and going to university so doesn’t need me around all the time.

            I emailed recently just to pay July and August’s rent before she goes to university. No reply. I ask daughter and no he hasn’t paid July’s. Didn’t even have the courtesy to inform me by email. Daughter has paid it from money I left her to live on. I have already paid for everything and now I have my expenses here and still he won’t pay a penny.

            I see you are now following my blog, thank you. When you read my poems you will get an idea of the deep pain I was/am in. Slowly starting to heal but have relapses. Came across a volume of his poetry, ‘poems4ani’, his new true love on kindle/amazon. Necessary to flaunt his love so publicly? Slap in face not enough has to be upgraded to knockout punch??

            In the end threw my illnesses back in my face; made his life hell and caused his business to fail because of my recurrence he couldn’t concentrate on turning the business round.

            Didn’t even know what he wanted when he married, just went with the flow but now he knows and that is he doesn’t want me anymore. Don’t love me in that way anymore but still cares. He lied, he didn’t/doesn’t give a damn. Turn his back and off to his fabulous new life with perfect woman.

            He’d been waiting all these years for me to change but know that I never will so he wants out.

            Btw I do have an ‘about’ page and an ‘about me’ one too but this is much more detailed as you wanted to know. Didn’t want to bore others with this unfortunate tale of a bitter and angry middle aged divorcee/cancer survivor with heart disease and living with depression.

            Admire your glass is half full outlook. I won’t presume to say who is worse off as we can’t compare apples with pears. We all have our stories and our crosses to bear.

            Much love

            Cho Wan


          • Thank you so much for your heartfelt comments, Cho Wan.
            I am so sorry for all you’ve gone through/are going through. I think the belief that “God never gives us more than we can handle” comes from the following verse – “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

            I believe God does provide us help in times of temptation and trial; the help of others and strength from the Holy Spirit etc. For instance, your sister and I imagine others have helped you through these horrible trials. It’s sad that the people you thought you would be able to rely on abandoned you.
            You also endured through the temptation to commit suicide – I think you’re a lot stronger than you believe, Cho Wan. You have a lot to offer those going through the horrible trials (cancer, divorce, depression…) you’ve made it through. The world doesn’t need perfect people to help them deal with life’s difficulties; it needs empathetic people – people who can relate to what they’re going through.
            You’re right that you and I cannot compare our trials, but I think your trial is more difficult because my wife has been by my side through everything.
            Have you found forgiveness for those who have hurt you?
            I am praying for you, Cho Wan.


  3. Your story and Dabney’s are so humbling! It is always amazing to see how He can bring good out of the toughest situations! You strengthen so many by sharing your stories. Keep them coming! May God continue to bless you!


  4. Wow, and wow! I finished reading “When God Intervenes.” What a story to reach the world for Jesus! Wonderful witness through such tragedy after tragedy for this young woman and her family. All I can say is, all the more, Romans 8:28.


  5. Thanks for sharing this information, Bill.


    • Thank you very much for the re-blog, Anna.


      • You are much welcome. What an inspiration you are. Thank you also for sharing about “When God Intervenes.” I have ordered and downloaded the book and am reading it on my Kindle Fire. I believe God led me to it through you. What a blessing for me in this time of sorrow as I watch and continue to lift up my dear sister in Christ who was terribly injured in a car accident recently. God’ timing is indeed perfect!


  6. Just want to add my appreciation for every post you write–always encouraging and uplifting. Must also commend you for your sense of humor, i.e. “War and Peace is next.” You are such a powerful example to us all!


  7. I have a friend who is in the midst of this journey. A single mum of two. Who has just got out of hospital after her third batch of chemo. Thank you for mentioning your friend. I have started reading her blog and may recommend it to her. She is not a Christian yet but is open to prayer. In any case thank you for posting.


    • Thank you so much for your comments. I’m glad your friend is open to you praying with her; that is a good sign that her heart is open and she’d probably also be open to reading blogs and books like Dabney’s. I look forward to you sharing good healing and salvation testimonies (about your friend and others) on your blog.


  8. Hi Bill,

    Once again, you have inspired me. I so admire how you deal with life. Thank you!

    Blessings to you and your family,



  9. Wow, an amazing story. Both of you. I will definitely take a look at that book. Some of the struggles you face remind me of my friend Arash, who fell from a 3-story building about a year ago and is currently a paraplegic. He too talks about the little things that he struggles with, which used to be no big deal… You and Dabney, and Arash, too, are all an inspiration to me. God bless you, always.


  10. Lorraine Shellhaas

    Bill, once again you have provided for me such inspiration. I admire your humor in the face of ALS, I think of it as “Comedic Relief”, but your matter of fact manner of stating how you and Mary approach even the minor problems gives me such encouragement. I thank God for you and Mary and the girls.


  11. Bill, thank you for your ministry. I pray a blessing on you and your family.


  12. Bill: You don’t have software that is sensitive to eye movement to read books? Jeff just got a Smartphone for the first time and this particular model senses his movement up and down of his eyes. It was pretty amazing. How are audiobooks?


    • Hi Hilda. I have a Kindle that I was able to use for a few years after losing my ability to turn pages… And now I am able to download Kindle books to my PC, which is how I read most books including the Bible. But it’s not a relaxing way to read; the computer screen is hard on my eyes… I do get audio-books when the book is available in that format, but “When God Intervenes” doesn’t have an audio version. But now that I know Mary doesn’t mind reading to me, all books are available in an audio-version:-) “War and Peace” is next:-)


      • I imagine that would be tiring. Having Mary read to you sounds wonderful. With my auditory process problems, I have trouble comprehending books I hear. I was having problems reading books, too, until I got the Kindle app on the IPad. Something about having the backlight has made my brain okay about reading. I don’t have opportunities to read much, definitely not as often as I did when I was teenager.


        • I agree that we comprehend less with audio books. When I read, I like to pause and think on parts of the book, which also helps with comprehension. It was really nice having Mary read because she took notes and copied quotes and then typed everything up and emailed it to me. I think I’ll keep her:-)


  13. I found the excerpt moving bring back memories of mine from almost thirty years ago, I lost hope, my sons, my wife ,home and friends to the big C of Hodgkin’s. all ran deserted me.I found God or rather he found me on a dirt road to no where in upper Montana one dark starry night. for I was there to finish finally what the C couldn’t seem to do, my rights as a parent had been stripped away as I lay in intensive care, so I viewed suicide as my only true choice. a year or two earlier I had been found on the road dead, out side a small town in Oregon, as I was being identified I sat bolt upright,my stay in intensive care was about a week; after two days I pulled out the wires the IVs and chest tube, then tried to leave by myself .so was tied down to the bed. was then a good man of God came to pray and to give me last rites. he was shocked when I said I was not ready just yet,
    So that is the short version of my first two years of Chemo ,recovery and resurgence again. I was at the start given only six months to live. so like then I asked God why, then I waited his reply. why did I get cancer, why was I sick; the long and the short: I needed a rest.. when will I have a life again this then I asked; you always have had that, when will have a chance to live or to be loved. Answer you have always had that also: from me and the father, I learned all of this: In the quiet of the place where one small word it was heard soon, soon. I married soon after have a beautiful daughter and life thou has been difficult has been such a joy. we barely get by sometimes and at times I am sick on o2 with my wheelie chair. but soon yes soon it will get better if we wait and seek him. so I thank you for the reminder and joy for I had been wallowing in self pity a while for my son has a child I’ll never here see, for the ex-wife has taught them I am evil you see, my crime it was Cancer it scared and struck fear and only now is accepted since its a woman’s disease.


  14. I just finished reading & reviewing this book for Tyndale. It was WONDERFUL! It was a book filled with faith & hope. So inspiring. My review can be found here: http://daysnthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/when-god-intervenes-a-book-review/
    This book is truly a must read!


  15. wow..I am usually quite articulate but in this case..wow says it all


  16. What an incredible story. I’m going to have to get that book!


  17. This sounds like a wonderful story. How scary. I don’t think she will ever get a better review than yours!


  18. Bill,
    Thank you so much. God has a funny way of intervening. I’ve been so ill this past year. Last month I was in the hospital for a blockage that seeped into my pancreas and colon. While in the hospital for two weeks (with three surgeries) I almost died. I was given too much dilaudid for my pain and it caused me to stop breathing. My oxygen went down to 15% and if a nurse had not been passing by my hospital room, I would have been dead. All I remember is a bunch of hospital folk being around me trying to bring me to. They later told me that I was completely blue. WOW! That was scary! Then, last week I ended up back in the hospital because I struggle with major depressive disorder. I had been denied a medication I needed for 2 months and it sent me into a downward spiral of deep depression and suicidal thoughts. I was in the hospital for 3 more days. I then lost guardianship of my 9 year old son because I was too ill to care for him the way he needs. It broke my heart. During all these events I’ve been living with my fiance’. We cannot get married because of my health and insurance issues. We both struggled with this because we felt it was wrong in God’s eyes. I finally told my fiance’ that I need to start living like I believe God’s Word is infallible. I broke off our engagement (although I love him dearly and he loves me). We both want God to honor our relationship if it is meant to be. I moved back in with my parents and my son. I am sad but at peace. I look back at all this and I believe God has intervened all along. I was so stubborn in my ways but He was still so patient with me. I believe that the Lord DOES work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Even the struggles I’ve faced…it all works for the good of Him. Thank you for sharing your blog. It always touches my heart and it always seems to speak directly to the events in my life. God is truly working in you.


    • Wow, Carol! You’ve had a REALLY difficult time of it – I am so sorry you’re going through this. I am glad that you still believe God can (ultimately) bring good out of your painful trial. I am praying the good begins quickly for you. God bless.


  19. What a wonderful story of faith and hope – full joy found in the Lord. Thanks for sharing!


  20. Great post, I’d hopped over to Dabney’s and loved what I saw! God bless you dear friend!!


  21. WOW. what some of us have to go through. Thanks for sharing this book with us. I will have to look into this.


  22. All I can say is Wow! Thanks for sharing. We all have to do this life and the most testimonies on how we all handle the situations we’re challenged with, makes all the difference. God’s blessings to you brother.


  23. Thank you for the re-blog.


  24. Thank you for writing this encouraging post, Bruce!


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