Hope For Those Who Hurt, by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson

by Jeanne’s brother and sister

How can I know the confidence and peace that Jeanne and Howie have had, facing trials and even death without losing heart?  How can I have peace with God?  Does heaven really exist?  Can I know I will go to heaven when I die?

Important questions.  Questions that must be faced, sooner or later.  We spend so much of our short lives in idle follies, passing obligations, and vain pursuits after fleeting pleasures that God sometimes yanks our chain with trials as if to say “Wake up!  Thereís more to life than this!”  Jesus once said, to a group of people obsessed like us with temporal things, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).  And to another group overconfident with their earthly plans, James challenged, “Come now, you who say, ĎToday or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profití; whereas you do now know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 3:13-14).

In these few months since Jeanneís passing, it has been sobering to look back over her life and see it as a unit.  All those years and experiences that seemed so varied and endless have now been packaged up into a single bundle with a summarized legacy.  It all looks so brief in retrospect.  Yet even the greatest historical figures – Lincoln, Einstein, Florence Nightingale, Alexander the Great – are seldom given more notice than occasional brief, single-sentence eulogies as we, the living, go about our busy little lives.  In jest, someone teased, “Think of it; a hundred years from now you will be just a fond memory to a special few.”  Maybe not even that much.  Something in us yearns for more meaning than fifteen minutes of fame and a decaying monument.  Was Solomon right, when he lamented, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)?

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ,” the Apostle Paul said, “we are of all men most pitiable” (I Corinthians 15:19).  It follows that if there is no eternity, no rest in heaven, no accounting for sin or reward for righteousness, then all men are pitiable; Christians just the most so if they had willingly suffered for something that was false.  As Solomon, Paul, and all who have looked to God in faith have recognized, life appears unfair without an eternal perspective.  In the short term, Jesus frankly acknowledged that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).  Who among us has not, like the writer of Psalm 73, puzzled over the prosperity of the wicked and the struggles of the righteous?  The rewards and punishments donít appear to be fairly distributed in the earthly chapters of the human saga.  Itís only from the long view of eternity that the climax and resolution of the plot are abundantly clear.  Jesus encouraged his disciples before His own suffering with these words: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 14:33).

Christ is implying that we have a preview of the end of the story, and there is a resolution!  He said, “Let not your heart be troubled . . . I go and prepare a place for you, and . . . I will come again, and receive you unto Myself” (John 14:1-3).  Someone may ask if we can we rely on his testimony.  Well, for any skeptic for whom His miracles, teachings and example were not enough, He proved His trustworthiness beyond any shadow of doubt – He rose from the dead!  You can hang your eternal destiny on two irrefutable facts from science and history: creation demands a Creator, and Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  There is a God, and Jesus Christ has revealed Him.  Peter said the disciples did not follow “cunningly devised fables” when they made known to us the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty (II Peter 1:16).

Paul, therefore (another eyewitness), doesnít leave us pitiable.  His next sentence triumphantly declares, “But now Christ has risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (i.e., died, I Corinthians 15:20).  Jeanneís story doesnít end in a casket six feet down in a New York cemetary, because, Paul explains, Christís resurrection is a foretaste of ours: “the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality . . . then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (I Corinthians 15:52-54).  When Christ returns with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, “the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Jeanne used to sing these words to one of her own melodies.  In this comfort she gained her courage, and in this comfort we, her family and Christian friends, know we shall meet again.

In this comfort Howie, despite his ongoing physical challenges, has continued witnessing his faith to the nurses who care for him.  As word got around the nursing home about the Tomlinsons, and how Jeanne had died so peacefully holding on to her husband’s hand, nurses would walk by and whisper, “That’s the room!”  Often they would find Howie sitting with his Bible opened, memorizing Scripture, ready and eager to share his faith or a word of encouragement.  Copies of Hope For Those Who Hurt began circulating among the doctors and nurses, finding searching hearts needing their example of faith, and opening doors for Howie to tell them about Christ.  This book has already been spreading beyond their own circle of friends and acquaintances, to whom Jeanne and Howie would often give free copies.  Friends donated money to make copies available to charitable ministries.  A planetary scientist for NASA recently requested a copy for a family member dying from a similar cancer.  Total strangers are finding and reading the book on the World Wide Web.  How many others will be brought to faith in Christ as a result of the Tomlinson’s life message?  “The rest of the story” will be told only at heaven’s grand reunion.  Will you be there?

When Jeanne passed the baton for writing the end of this book to her brother and sister, she specifically asked that we might share with you, dear reader, Godís plan of salvation, and the hope of heaven.  It is our joy and privilege to fulfill her wish, because it is also ours; we love to share the good news of the grace of God – it promises that no matter what you may be suffering now, you can know that you are safe in God’s hand (John 10:28).  You can have peace with God (Romans 5:1).  You can have God’s Spirit living inside you, to help you grow strong in faith the way you have read about in this book.  Even if you are facing death, you can look forward to living forever with the Creator of the universe, who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), in a place called heaven, where “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

FOR THOSE WHO NEED HOPE:  The plan of salvation is simple, because our problem is simple: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).  Can you admit that you are a guilty member of this flock that has gone astray?  That you have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)?  Humbling yourself before God, admitting your lostness, turning away from your sin and toward Him – this acknowledgement, this act of your will, this repentance, is the prelude to good news!  Yes, the wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23a), but Jesus paid it all!  God provided a substitute, His only Son Jesus Christ, to take your death and hell for you.  “It is finished!”  Jesus cried on the cross (John 19:30).  With His own blood, He purchased a pardon for you, and offers it free of charge.  Reach out with your empty hands of faith, and receive the gift of God [which] is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23b).  In your own words, as best you can, talk to God right now:

Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and Iím sorry for my sins.  I now choose to turn from my sins to you.  I believe you are the Son of God and that your death on the cross paid the penalty for my sins.  You said you would come into my heart if I would open the door.  So I invite you into my heart, to be first in my life.  I believe you do come in right now like you promised.  Thank you for being my Savior.  Now I belong to you!  Help me to live for you in all I do.  Amen.
Did you pray just now?  You can be sure Christ will keep His promises to you.  You donít have to do penance or go through religious rituals, because by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Regardless of your feelings, your good days and bad days, you can be confident Christ is with you: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).  He will stay with you to guide and comfort you.  Some day this world with its woes will pass and vanish like a drop in the ocean, but there will be an eternity in heaven, to rejoice with multitudes of saved sinners worshipping at the throne of God, and there we will see our Savior face to face in all His glory.  Would you like a sneak preview of heaven?  Pick up a Bible and read Revelation chapters 21 and 22, where John was given a vision of our heavenly home, with gates of pearl, and streets of gold, and the river and the tree of life – a place where “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes: there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away . . . These words are true and faithful . . . It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.”

This, friend, is our blessed hope.  This is true hope – for those who hurt.

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