by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson


Easier the Second Time

Have you ever thought, “Oh no, not again” when facing a recurrent trial?  It’s natural to feel sorry for yourself and complain, but there’s a better way that can make your hardships easier to bear.

Howie and I flew out to Phoenix, Arizona, from Long Island, New York, for his second brain surgery at Barrows Neurological Institute.  Even though we had never met Dr. Spetzler, we knew he had a world-wide reputation for excellence as a neurosurgeon and had confidence in him.  When we finally net him, we were amazed to see how much he and Howie resembled each other.
    The surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, February 27, 1996.  I spent the night before with Howie in his hospital room.  That night, he wrote in his journal: “Lord, on this eve of my brain surgery, I have no fear because you allowed this trial for your glory and you are giving me the grace I need.  I understand this trial is not punishment in any way, but you are using this to mold me into a vessel you can use for your glory.  Psalm 55:22- ‘Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.’”  Howie’s peace and courage helped me to be brave.  We had a short time of worship together the next morning.  When he was taken to the pre-op room, the doctors let me stand by while he was being prepped for surgery.
    He felt so relaxed that he decided to tell a riddle to the anesthesiologists: “You’re in a room with no windows and no doors, only a table and a mirror.  How do you get out?”  The doctors didn’t know, so he continued as they injected him with the anesthetic.  As he said, “You look in the mirror and see what you saw,” his voice started slowing down.  He barely made it to the end of the riddle: “You take the saw and cut the table in half, two halves make a whole; you climb through the hole and you’re out.”  When he finished, he was out cold and the doctors smiled while wheeling him into the operating room.
    Howie’s dad and mom and I sat in the waiting room praying while anxiously awaiting the results.  After three hours, Dr. Spetzler’s assistant came into the room and told us the surgery was successful and we would be able to see Howie soon.  We were so excited that we walked out into the hallway.  At the same time, Howie was being wheeled out of the operating room and into ICU.  When he heard my voice, he quoted Jeremiah 29:11– “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’”  I shouted for joy, knowing he was going to be OK!
    For the next couple of days Howie was in a lot of pain.  It really hurt his folks and me to see him suffer so much, but he didn’t complain.  He remembered his previous surgery and knew the pain would soon be over.  He didn’t feel like eating and was still hurting a lot when we left him to go to lunch one day.  We prayed for him at the restaurant, but weren’t prepared for what we were about to see when we got back.  Howie was sitting up and eating a normal meal!  His pain was gone and his appetite was back.  We all felt like celebrating!
    Three days after surgery, Dr. Spetzler came in and told us the tumor was a benign oligodendroglioma, same as before, and he got it all out.  He released Howie to go home that very day!  Howie and I were in awe as we considered the many ways God answered prayers that week.
    For the next few days, Howie and I took the opportunity to explore the area with family and friends, going to museums, hiking, and seeing the sights.  Those two weeks in Phoenix turned out to be more like a vacation to Howie than a time of recovering from major surgery!
    Howie was prepared to face his second brain surgery because he had seen God answer prayers in the first one.  He had also let his roots grow deep into God’s Word in the intervening years.  Because of this, he was unmoved when bad news hit again.  Jeremiah 17:7,8– “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”

Having the right attitude and a close walk with the Lord while facing trials makes everything easier to bear.  If we have confidence in the Lord and our doctor, we will be relaxed and calm rather than nervous and tense.  We will recover faster and more completely if we have peace rather than anxiety in our hearts.  And having a joyful spirit and sense of humor can brighten the darkest days!

For Those Who Hurt

When you’re facing a recurrent trial, don’t think, “Not again!”  Instead, remember back to how God has helped you in the past.  Let your confidence in Him sustain you and give you courage to face the coming days.  And if you need medical treatment, try to find a doctor you can trust.  Trusting God and your doctor and facing your hardships with confidence will give you peace and joy and hasten your recovery.



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Chapter 19: Handling Major Setbacks Table of Contents Chapter 21: The Power of Encouragement