by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson


Handling Major Setbacks

Everything is going smoothly when all of a sudden your train derails and you suffer a major setback.  How can you get back on track and start moving forward again?

“Hello, Mrs. Tomlinson.  Would you and Howie please come to my office as soon as possible?”  When I first heard this message on the answering machine, I felt bewildered, thinking our lives might be derailing again.  Howie had recovered from his surgery and radiation in ’93 and was feeling great.  He had a routine follow-up MRI before Christmas ’95 and the call from Dr. Engstrand came a few days later.  Not wanting to spoil his New Year’s, I decided to tell Howie about the call later and made an appointment for us to see the doctor the 1st week of January.
    On the first Tuesday of ’96, we sat in Dr. Engstrand’s office.  She showed us the MRI scans and said there appeared to be a small regrowth of the tumor.  She recommended we schedule a second surgery soon.  The doctor and I were amazed to see how peaceful and calm Howie was as he heard the news.  Afterwards, we prayed for healing and asked God to lead us to the right surgeon.
    Years earlier in ’92, my father had contacted and shared Howie’s story with Dr. Robert Spetzler, a world-renowned neurosurgeon at Barrows Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, who helped develop computer-guided stereotactic neurosurgery.  We called him and asked if he would perform Howie’s surgery.  He agreed and an appointment was set for February 27, 1996.
    We had previously scheduled a two-week vacation to California in January, so we decided to go ahead with it as planned.  It turned out to be a fun time visiting family and friends.  One highlight of our trip was a refreshing train ride we took to beautiful Santa Barbara.
    Another high point was our visit with Joni Eareckson Tada.  Joni has been a quadriplegic since a diving accident at the age of 17.  For many years now, she has had a vibrant testimony and an international ministry to the disabled.  We’ve supported “Joni and Friends” for several years and wanted to see the headquarters in southern California.  Joni was there that day and one of her co-workers told her about Howie’s upcoming brain surgery.  She immediately stopped what she was doing and asked Howie, “Can I pray for you?”  We’ll never forget that time when we formed a circle around Joni in her office while she prayed.  In spite of her own struggles with quadriplegia and her busy schedule directing a worldwide ministry to the disabled, Joni took time to reach out to us that January afternoon.  She will always hold a special place in our hearts.

When we suffer devastating setbacks, we can get back on track by taking our troubles to the Lord and asking others to pray for us.  As we pour out our hearts to Him, He’ll pour out His peace on us.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7).

(song by Jeanne Tomlinson)

Life is so fragile, handle it with prayer,
Take all your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.
Trust in His goodness, power, love, and care;
Life is so fragile, handle it with prayer.
Another way to get back on track is to continue enjoying life, no matter what.  Everyone needs times of R and R (rest and refreshment), including servicemen fighting a war.  We’re better prepared to face upcoming hardships when we first take time to relax with family and friends and enjoy a change in scenery.  What’s good for the mind and spirit is also good for the body.

For Those Who Hurt

When you feel like you’re derailing, call out to God and ask others to intervene on your behalf.  As you pour out your heart to Him, God will help you get back on track.  And don’t forget to relax and have fun.  Take a vacation.  Ride the train to Santa Barbara.  The time of rest and refreshment you’re having will help rejuvenate you and give you the strength you need for the coming days.  “The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11).



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Chapter 18: Opening Your Heart to Mutual Support Table of Contents Chapter 20: Easier the Second Time