Rising Above

Persevering Through Adversity

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We are faced with many challenges in this life. My greatest one was learning that my son Douglas Mehling, would live a life overshadowed by a progressive and severely disabling muscle disease when he was just four years old. We were told muscular dystrophy could end his life before age 18. We had high hopes and dreams for his future and this was a devastating blow. 

I watched his downward progression year by year. He became wheelchair dependant by age nine and in his teens needed breathing assistance. Recounting the experience of losing his physical abilities, Douglas said he questioned, “Why was I born with such a terrible disease? I naturally felt that my suffering wasn’t fair. Gradually I realized that while it was indeed not fair, I could still trust God and know that He had a great plan for my life.” 

At 19, Douglas felt God’s call to study theology at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas. He enrolled, and I attended classes with him, taking notes and assisting him with his studies. Douglas had an incredible college experience, graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 2007 as senior class president. He then went on to finish a Masters of Divinity degree, another incredible blessing.

During his five-year tenure as student pastor of the Grandview Seventh-day Adventist Church, Douglas preached in spite of being ventilator-dependent and unable to move any part of his body except his facial muscles and voice. He used voice dictation to write his sermons, using his eyes to control the computer. This was a special time for Douglas and he knew that anything he accomplished was through God.

Douglas’s autobiography, Bionic Preacher, Rising Above Muscular Dystrophy, was his final achievement. Available at, proceeds benefit the Religion Department at Southwestern Adventist University. The book shares his experience, challenges, and blessings. Douglas completed his manuscript one week before going to his rest at age 33. In the last chapter, as he realizes his time on earth is short, he writes, “And when that final day comes I will have peace, hope, and joy knowing that I am about to enter a new life that can hardly compare to the one I have been living. Not only will I be free of this disease and everything that goes with it, but I will finally see face-to-face the God who has been with me throughout this journey.”

No matter your situation, God can use you to make a difference in someone's life. Our trials on earth are temporary, and even if the very air we breathe has to come through “bionic adaptations,” He promises comfort and purpose as we seek His presence every day. God is known to use the humblest and weakest to accomplish His work.


Rita Earhart and husband, Dennis, live in Keene. She has adult-onset muscular dystrophy and is anticipating a possible heart transplant in her future.

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