by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson


When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

In a world that values strength and power, how can we survive when we’re weak?  There is a way to not only survive, but also thrive in weakness.

While we were in God’s waiting room, Howie and I sent his MRI’s to several well-known neurosurgeons, seeking their opinions on recommended treatment for his benign brain tumor.  One of these doctors, Dr. Robert Spetzler of Barrows Neurological Institute in Phoenix, told my father, “You’ll know it’s the right time for treatment when Howie starts getting weak.”  One day in 1992, it happened.
    Howie was at the office when he collapsed.  His coworker Tom saw him and immediately contacted the supervisor who called the paramedics.  They transported Howie to the nearest hospital.  When his supervisor called me, Howie’s dad and I rushed to the hospital.  We were very frightened, but encouraged to see he was feeling much better when we arrived.  He was released a couple of hours later.  Howie and I tried calling his local neurologist and found out she was on maternity leave.  The doctor who covered for her, Dr. Beatrice Engstrand, immediately came to our aid.  She had trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City and was just opening her practice in Huntington.  She felt compassion for Howie, for she had battled cancer herself while going through medical school.  We liked her spirit and expertise and asked if she would take over as Howie’s physician.  She agreed and contacted the doctors at Sloan Kettering to set up an appointment with us.
    Meanwhile, Howie returned to work.  On a November evening two weeks after his collapse, he was waiting at a train station to come home from work.  It was a weekend and he was alone while sitting on the steps of the platform about eight feet above the tracks.  Behind the railing to the right of the platform was a cyclone fence.  All of a sudden, Howie fell off the platform.  When he came to, he was sitting by the tracks, dazed and wondering what had happened.  Fortunately, he was not injured for the fence had cushioned his fall.  He tried climbing back onto the platform to catch a train coming in on the other side but was too weak.
    When the train came in, a conductor saw Howie and called out, “Do you need help?” Howie said, “Yes” and a couple of trainmen lifted him up the ten feet to the platform.  He boarded the train and got off at his regular stop.  I was waiting there for him and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him walking to the car with his clothes torn.  I was shocked as he told me about his harrowing experience.  We both thanked the Lord he survived with only cuts and bruises.
    Even though he didn’t see them, Howie believes that God sent His angels to rescue him as he fell off the platform that day, for the cyclone fence was not strong enough to hold someone falling.  Whenever Howie saw that fence, he was reminded of God’s protection and care.  He recalled to mind another time when angels seemed to appear out of nowhere to help him as he started to fall.  God’s Word says, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11,12).

    Following his recent collapses, Howie and his folks and I met with the doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and found out the tumor was quite large.  It had been previously considered inoperable, but neurosurgeon Dr. Arbit told us he believed he could successfully operate.  We were relieved, for we felt Howie needed to have surgery to preserve his life.
    During the next few weeks, I worked hard to lift his spirits in his time of weakness.  I took the train with him to and from work, in case he should collapse again.  I threw a big surprise birthday party for him at his folks’ home; it was a fun time filled with laughter and singing.  Howie’s joyful spirit while facing brain surgery was an inspiration to all.  He would need this attitude to help survive the difficult weeks ahead.

When we feel strong, we’re tempted to be proud and to focus on ourselves.  But when we’re weak, we have more capacity to see evidences of God’s strength and protection, and even experience deliverance by angels.  As we cry out to Him in faith, God will give us His strength.  One of Howie’s favorite Scripture passages is II Corinthians 12:7-10— “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

(song by Jeanne and Howard Tomlinson)

    Jesus is my strength and song,
    I will praise Him all day long;
For when I am weak, He gently holds my hand.
    Jesus is my strength and song,
    I will praise Him all day long,
For I’m safe and secure in the palm of His hands.

For Those Who Hurt

You may be experiencing a time of physical weakness from a medical problem or emotional weakness due to a major crisis in your life.  Don’t try to muster up energy on your own.  Look to the Lord for help and strength, and let Him pour out His power upon you.  You will find that you can survive and even thrive as you grow strong in your faith.  “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6: 10).



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Chapter 8: God’s Prescription Plan for Victory Table of Contents Chapter 10: Plans for a Future and a Hope