#17 Doubts. Depression. Disease. - Ryan Dobson | Compelled Podcast

#17 Doubts. Depression. Disease. – Ryan Dobson

The following is a summary of the podcast interview above. Many more details are included in the original podcast episode and we encourage you to listen.

Surrounded by Faith

Ryan Dobson grew up in a loving, Christian family. He was saved at a young age and was taught to know and love Jesus Christ. His father was Dr. James Dobson, a famous Christian author and speaker, and faith was a routine part of life.

But while Ryan was surrounded by everything he could need to pursue a vibrant relationship with God, Ryan would have to walk his own path to know God personally.

Through many hardships and trials, including doubts, depression, and cancer, Ryan has learned that God will never leave our sides.

A Faith of His Own

Ryan reluctantly attended a Christian worldview camp called Summit as a 17-year-old at the request of his parents. When he left for the summer, it seemed like Ryan was an apathetic teenager who wanted nothing to do with a place his parents said was like “summer school.” 

However, that was simply a mask covering a core issue: deep down, Ryan was struggling with all kinds of doubts about Christianity. Was it real? He was afraid to ask questions or to dig deep, for fear that he would discover it was all false. That was something he couldn’t deal with.

Ryan’s time at Summit got off to a rocky start when he snuck out of the camp on the very first night and convinced 2 other students to go along with him! But as time went on, Ryan began to see that the Lord had brought him exactly where he needed to be. At Summit, his doubts about Christianity were addressed through logic and reasoning by intelligent people.

The fear and confusion in Ryan’s heart began to dissipate as God worked and convinced him that everything he had been taught was indeed true. By the end of the summer, Ryan was excited about a faith that was no longer simply that of his parents but his own.

Entering Ministry

Ryan left Summit excited to share his faith with others and impact culture. After graduating from college, he did a short stint in politics working for several think tanks and policy organizations in Washington D.C..

Over time though, Ryan increasingly felt called to ministry and he eventually began working with the youth at Saddleback Church in southern California. He enjoyed his work in youth ministry and the impact it allowed him to have on students. Then, suddenly, Ryan’s life seemingly ground to a halt.

Dark Days

Everything in Ryan’s life changed as the result of an excruciating divorce. During this time, Ryan lost his marriage, his job, his house, and many of his friends. His health began to suffer too.

He was sleeping up to 18 hours a day, lost 50 pounds, and eventually became so sick from the stress that he was hospitalized. On top of this, the added stress triggered an auto-immune disease in Ryan’s body which began creating ulcers in his digestive tract.

Ryan’s situation seemed hopeless. But it’s in the darkness that God’s light shines brightest, and God lovingly lit up Ryan’s dark world in a way that was simple and completely unexpected.

Healing in an Unlikely Place

Ryan’s friend Lindsey had been inviting Ryan to go surfing for months. Ryan had been putting him off, but eventually caved in and showed up one life-changing day to surf for the first time. It was here, out in the middle of the ocean with waves crashing over him and all around him, Ryan began to find healing from the pain of his divorce. 

Maybe it was the similarity he felt between the waves and the circumstances in his life. Or maybe the beauty found experiencing the handiwork of the Creator.

One thing was for sure – there was comfort to be found knowing that the same God who controlled the mighty ocean also sovereignly ruled Ryan’s life. Soon, Ryan was out riding the surf every day, finding purpose again, and discovering hope in the One who lovingly sought him out in his deepest despair. 

A New Chapter

Ryan began pursuing ministry opportunities again through speaking, writing, and podcasting. Eventually, Ryan met and married Laura. They moved to Colorado and today have 2 children. 

But after 10 years into this sweet new chapter, however, God had plans to build Ryan’s faith through trial once again. 


It started with a sore on Laura’s lip that wouldn’t go away. She went to the doctor to get it checked out, and it was discovered that she had advanced squamous cell carcinoma, a deadly skin cancer.

From there, things spiraled from bad to worse. Laura went through treatment after painful treatment, and each time Laura and Ryan would get the same report: the cancer was getting worse. 

A Faithless Prayer

One day during the midst of their trial with Laura’s cancer, Ryan and Laura were at church. When the service concluded, Laura told Ryan she wanted to go receive prayer for healing.

Ryan hesitated. He had been praying for Laura’s healing in front of his kids. He felt that he had to. But it was 2018. In the world of modern medicine, God worked through doctors and physicians. God wouldn’t actually miraculously heal her… would He?

God’s Gracious Answer

Eventually, Laura ended up in the office of a specialist for the specialist. The situation had grown dire and the cancer was spreading. Laura and Ryan were told she needed to have surgery immediately.

Just days later, Ryan was sitting in the waiting room when Laura’s surgeon emerged to give Ryan a report of her surgery. After so many bad reports, Ryan was expecting nothing different this time.

So when the surgeon said that he hadn’t been able to find any cancer in Laura, Ryan was shocked. The surgeon couldn’t explain what he had seen. Only that the cancer which only days beforehand had been dangerously spreading, had now completely vanished.

Completely humbled, Ryan realized that God had graciously performed a miracle. A miracle he had asked for but never believed would actually happen.

A God Who Pursued

Ryan’s life has been beautifully shaped by a God who lovingly pursued him.

In Ryan’s doubting state, God provided answers.

After Ryan’s divorce, God faithfully brought him out of his deepest, darkest pit.

And, even when Ryan lacked faith, God graciously performed a miracle in Ryan’s wife.

To hear Ryan’s full story we encourage you to listen to our podcast episode at the top of this article or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

Show Notes

REBEL Parenting: Ryan and Laura’s ministry and podcast focused on strengthening marriages and parents

Summit Ministries: the summer program that answered Ryan’s questions about faith and completely changed his life direction

Books written by Ryan:

  • Be Intolerant: Because Some Things Are Just Stupid (link)
  • To Live For: Why Did You Think You Were Here? (link)
  • To Die For: The Dangerous Truth About Following Christ (link)
  • Wanting to Believe: Faith, Family, and Finding an Exceptional Life (link)