by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson


The Battle Belongs to the Lord

“Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy” (Psalm 64:1).  This was the prayer of the Psalmist David as he discovered a plot of his enemies against him.  This was also our cry as we waged war against our enemy, Howie’s brain tumor.

A few days before Howie’s brain surgery in February 1993, our pastor and elders at Dix Hills Evangelical Free Church anointed him with oil and many friends prayed for healing.  On the night prior to surgery, Dr. Arbit met with Howie and his folks and me in the hospital room.  He had looked at the MRI scans and noticed the tumor was on the motor strip, the part of the brain which controls movement.  If he removed the entire tumor, Howie could be paralyzed on one side.
    Knowing Howie was a trumpet player, Dr.  Arbit asked, “Do you want me to save your left hand?”  He immediately replied, “Yes!” Later that night, Howie’s parents and I went to our hotel rooms, planning to return early the next morning.  In the middle of the night, Howie felt great fear as he anticipated his surgery the coming day.  His folks and I had forgotten to give him our hotel phone numbers, so he couldn’t reach us!
    He panicked and thought, “Who can I call this late for encouragement?”  He decided to call his brother Steve, who was studying for the ministry in Chicago.  When Howie called collect, Steve’s wife Michel answered and said he was on his way home.  Just that moment, Steve walked in the front door and rushed over to the phone.
    “Steve, I’m really scared right now,” Howie said.  “I don’t know what to expect and need your encouragement.”  Steve quoted some Bible verses and prayed with him.  After hanging up, Howie immediately drifted off to sleep.
    On February 10, Howie underwent a 7-hour brain surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City, while his folks and I anxiously waited in the waiting room, praying fervently.  I read through many of the Psalms, inserting Howie’s name in verses and praying them back to God: “Lord, you are Howie’s Shepherd, may he not be in want.  As he walks through this valley of the shadow of death, please let him fear no evil, knowing you are with him.  May your rod and staff comfort him.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow Howie all the days of his life, and he will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (from Psalm 23).  As I prayed and meditated on the Word, God gave me peace and assurance that Howie was going to be all right.
    In the meantime, his dad was on his knees praying in the hospital chapel.  He felt someone come up and put his hand on his shoulder, saying, “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be OK.”  When Dad looked up, he didn’t see anyone.  He believes an angel gave him that message.
    As soon as Howie came to in the recovery room, he stretched out his left arm and fingers.  He was elated as he realized, “I’m not paralyzed!”  He called out to the nurses, “I want my Jeanne!”  They couldn’t get me until he was moved to ICU.  A couple of hours later, he was transferred and his folks and I were told we could visit him.  We rushed down the hall towards his room.  Howie saw his father’s shadow on the wall and yelled out, “Dad!”  We came in and were so excited to see that he was alert and in good spirits, even though he was bandaged and hurting.  When he lifted up his left hand, we rejoiced with him!

    The Lord knew we needed encouragement as we battled Howie’s brain tumor, and He provided it abundantly.  Our church friends prayed and anointed Howie with oil, his brother Steve was available to comfort him in the middle of the night, the Psalms gave me peace during the surgery, and an angel encouraged Dad.

    The Lord, our Great Physician, also guided and directed the surgeon’s hands, in response to prayer.  It was God’s will for Howie’s left side to be preserved, so He prevented Dr. Arbit from removing the entire tumor and causing paralysis.  Our war against the tumor was not over, but God had given a major victory!

God knows we need His encouragement and guidance when we face enemies stronger than ourselves.  As we call out to Him for help, He can encourage (“give us courage”) through His Word and other believers.  If we’re undergoing surgery, He can even direct the surgeon’s hands.  We should never fear, for His Word says, “. . . the battle is not yours but God’s” (II Chronicles 20: 15).

For Those Who Hurt

Don’t ever try to face your battles alone, for your enemy may be stronger than you.  Look to the Lord and His Word and call out to others for support.  The Lord can fight your battles and preserve your life, if that is His will.  And no matter what happens, no enemy will ever separate you from His love.
    “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39).
    You can never lose if you’re on God’s side!



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Chapter 10: Plans for a Future and a Hope Table of Contents Chapter 12: Our Awesome God