By Chuck Goldberg
“… Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16, NIV).
Saddled with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Scott Brodie is far removed from his days playing basketball, football, and softball. Long gone are health-club racquetball, working out, and coaching the church men’s and women’s softball teams.
Today, he cannot fend for himself at all; he is incapable of independently eating, dressing, or bathing. Nor can he use his arms, but he can type with his toes and communicate a form of sign language with his feet. Even blinking is difficult, requiring the help of his wife, Glennis, who also serves as interpreter, since his voice is reduced to sounds unintelligible to anyone else.
Such are the ravages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which came to prominence when it killed New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig in 1941, a tragedy immortalized in the 1942 Gary Cooper movie, The Pride of the Yankees. Occurring in two of every 100,000 people, ALS is a degenerative disease that affects the brain’s ability to initiate and control muscle movement. No longer able to receive nourishment, muscles atrophy, eventually leading to death, according to the ALS Association. There is no cure.
Though Brodie received the standard life expectancy of two to five years, he is now in his 16th year with ALS. That puts him among about 10 percent who survive more than 10 years. Just 5 percent make it to year 20.
Yet, as Brodie helplessly watches his body waste away, he is beholding another phenomenon: His increasing reliance upon God and His Word has enlivened his spirit, taking him to greater spiritual heights.
“I’m a guy whose voice cannot be heard, whose body is supported by a brace, having no ability to take care of myself, living in a world that champions and celebrates strength, perfection, and achievement,” he says. “Daily, the Holy Spirit reminds me that through my weakness God’s strength is perfected and my imperfections have the ability to put His glory and His grace on display.”
Born in Iron Mountain, Michigan, and raised in several Wisconsin towns, Brodie attended the University of Wisconsin and moved to San Diego in 1982, later working in a gym health bar selling organic food products. In 1983, he moved to Tacoma, Washington, to start a new health bar in a gym, and it was there that he met Glennis. Both physically active, they frequently exercised together and fell in love, marrying in 1984.
Leaving the health bar business, Brodie worked a variety of jobs until 1985, when he began learning mobile vinyl repair and auto pinstriping. He then got the idea to launch his own mobile upholstery company specializing in health clubs and restaurants. Brodie Upholstery began in 1986 and is still going today, based in Puyallup, Washington, with son Justin running field operations and Glennis managing the office.
Brodie obtained a bachelor’s degree in theological studies in 1997 from Maryland Bible College & Seminary in Baltimore, which was affiliated with Greater Grace World Outreach. He taught Biblical studies in Tacoma at Greater Grace Bible College, where Glennis earned her degree in Biblical studies in 2003. Both remained active in ministry with Greater Grace, now known as Living Grace Ministries.
They attended Greater Grace Church in Tacoma from 1988 to 2008, until Brodie’s health made it impossible to attend, so they now listen to daily messages online and host Bible studies in their home and an occasional speaker.
With an active family of four children, full church involvement, and a growing business, life was good for the Brodies. Then in late 1995, Scott noticed twitching in his right index finger. Eventually, he became unable to press hard enough when writing invoices at work to create duplicates. He detected a loss of strength in his right arm, reducing his velocity when throwing a softball or football. Also, his aim when shooting baskets was off.
Figuring he needed more strength training, he increased his exercise at the gym. Instead, he slowly worsened. The problem expanded to his left hand and left arm, then neck to chest.
Brodie learned from his doctor it could be anything from a pinched nerve to ALS. Because his condition continued deteriorating, Brodie thought the worst, leading him to research ALS. That fall, a neurologist confirmed his fears after just two tests and a physical exam. Brodie, now 53, was 37 at the time.
He refused to believe the neurologist, who delivered the diagnosis with clinical callousness, he says, simply stating the hard facts about ALS, offering no hope. When Brodie said God could heal him, the doctor accused him of “living in denial.” Yet, the diagnosis devastated him, leaving him and Glennis crying and praying together in the parking lot.
“As we left the office, a dark cloud hovered over our heads,” Brodie says. “I could envision Satan standing above me as I clung to the sides of a dark pit. He was gleefully laughing at me in my despair, saying in a mocking tone, ‘Where is your God now, Mr. Faith?’”
They decided to meet with their pastor, who wept with them and had the congregation intercede that night and countless times since. He gave them a verse, Romans 4:18, which has become Brodie’s lifeline: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.”
“I’ve held onto that one truth since that day,” he says. “When questions came, I just kept holding onto hope. God has encouraged me to never lose my hope, to never lose faith in Him. He promises us ‘those that wait upon the Lord shall mount up with wings as eagles.’”
Several other neurologists confirmed ALS, he says, all with the same clinical coldness, leaving him without hope that any doctor could help. So he turned to faith messages and God’s Word to remain encouraged. Satan continued waging an intense battle in his mind, with lingering projections of death and depression.
The biggest hope-builder of all occurred in March 1998 during a visit to Arizona, when Jesus appeared to Brodie one night in either a vision or dream. He told Brodie his healing had already begun and asked three separate times where he would like to serve Him, and he answered Phoenix. Greatly encouraged, Brodie then sought alternative treatments for the next seven years in the United States, Canada, and during three trips to Mexico, spending thousands of dollars on a wide variety of therapies. After all, he had God’s promise he would be serving Him in Phoenix.
While he and Glennis had faith and hope, at the same time they felt they couldn’t simply sit at home and do nothing. Perhaps God’s answer would come through people, they thought, so they had to seek alternative treatments since conventional medicine offered no hope. Each alternative built hope, but each failure became a hard hit. Yet they remained encouraged and hopeful, believing God for healing. Instead, Brodie’s condition worsened.
He became so weak by 2005, he had difficulty breathing, talking, and could barely eat without choking. Realizing he needed intervention to save his life, he followed Glennis’ urging and got a feeding tube, bi-pap machine to help get air into his lungs, a custom neck brace, and a wheelchair.
The following year, the healing Brodie began to see was spiritual, not physical, as God revealed that He could never fulfill His promise of physical healing if Brodie continued relying upon his human effort to seek a cure. Instead, all he had to do was choose to live and God would take care of the rest, healing him on this earth.
“I had to learn that trust was the avenue God would use to reveal His love for me,” he says. “Healing has never been an issue with God; He has assured me numerous times that my healing has already begun and will physically manifest in His time, not mine, where He will get all the glory. I no longer need to be occupied with healing; I need to be occupied with my Savior. The daily struggles remain, but as I grow in my love toward Christ, I rejoice that He allows me to go through them with Him.”
And more trials he would surely endure, including a tracheostomy in April 2009 so he could use a ventilator, and a severe lung infection in June that led to choking because of an obstruction. Glennis had to clash with medical authorities in the emergency room to obtain the necessary antibiotics for her husband.
Today, Brodie continues to use a ventilator, back brace, and wheelchair, though he can do some walking. Unable to eat or drink, he receives puréed food and vitamins through a feeding tube. Every couple hours he needs help to blink because his eyes are dry and unable to shut completely. His lungs function at just 20 percent capacity, so a lung infection becomes critical since he has such low breathing capability.
The Brodies’ children are Justin, 29; Jessica, 27; Ashley, 24; and Kylee, 21. Jessica has given them two grandchildren: Korbyn, born December 2008, and Brodie, born July 2011. Ashley and Kylee still live at home in Puyallup and help with care, running errands, and maintaining the house. Jessica comes over four days a week to help with care and work in the family business. One of Brodie’s brothers, Boo, 50, lives in Tacoma and also helps Justin in the business. Brodie has two other caregivers to help Glennis with household chores.
Glennis says that although the kids have lived with the uncertainty of their father’s condition, they have not allowed it to weigh them down and have pursued their futures with an enhanced view of the world, more alert to others with limitations.
“I’m really, really very proud of them, and I’m proud of Scott for every day that he commits his heart and he commits his day,” she says. “Because he doesn’t quit, I don’t quit.”
Satan hasn’t quit either, however, telling Scott he’s a burden, without dignity, and dependent on everyone. He tells him he will never receive his promise, that he’s done enough, and has even said, “God told me to tell you it’s your time—time to die.”
Some friends have departed because they either did not know how to talk to Brodie or had too much difficulty communicating and relating. Yet the Brodies remain undeterred in their focus upon God, who encourages them to keep pressing on. “None of this seems to bother us anymore,” Glennis says. “We just have to know we are in the will of God, pursuing Him wholeheartedly. We’re hanging onto the God of all hope.”
As Brodie continues to wait for deliverance from an impossible situation in the natural, he draws upon a host of relevant Bible passages, as well as the lives of Abraham, Daniel, Joseph, Nehemiah, and Hezekiah, who all faced waiting and adversity before receiving their answers. The Brodies know that God is accomplishing something special as they wait.
Video of Scott's daughter Ashley Brodie lovingly taking care of her father
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“God has His timetable,” Glennis says. “He’s making all things beautiful in His time, and He’s refining us in this process. We’re drawing nearer to Him. He uses even our waiting to help us develop our relationship with Him.”
Brodie says he is tempted to view his weakness as a liability that should be removed but realizes it may be his greatest asset because God is using it both to refine him and increase his dependence upon Him.
“It’s not the weakness we may have that is significant; it is what it can potentially produce in our soul that is of value,” he says. “I like to consider my back brace as God’s golden treasure, my feeding tube as God’s silver cup, and my tracheostomy as His diamond. They each represent a time of difficulty, a season of seeking and God’s provision. Each scar, whether visible or not, can become an ornament of His grace.”
For more on Scott Brodie’s journey of faith, check his blog at www.deathvalleypromises.org.
Chuck Goldberg has a degree in journalism and a Master of Divinity in Christian education. A former newspaper reporter and magazine managing editor, he is now an ordained minister and freelance writer-editor. He and his wife Dolly have three children and live in Layton, Utah.