by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson


CHAPTER 18

Opening Your Heart to Mutual Support

Have you ever felt like retreating from others when you are suffering?  Are you embarrassed to let them know what you’re going through?  Don’t withdraw, for this is the time you need support the most.  When you open up the doors of your heart, you’ll find a support system of mutual blessing.


Shortly after Howie’s brain surgery in ’93, we heard that a woman named Judy in our church was suffering physically.  Her doctors misdiagnosed her condition at first and later discovered she had cancer when it spread from her colon to her lungs.  Judy had surgery, but the surgeon was unable to remove all the cancer.  It continued to grow and metastasize, and in 1997, Judy Lattmann passed away at the age of 46, leaving behind a loving husband and three sons.
    We became friends with Judy following her diagnosis of cancer.  We visited her often and shared nutritional information and our mutual love of music.  The thing we remember most about Judy was her strong faith in God and joyful spirit, even while she walked through the valley of the shadow of death.  She suffered greatly from her cancer, but never complained.  She always thought of others and shared Jesus Christ with her doctors, nurses, and neighbors.  She appreciated everyone who reached out to her.  Even when she knew she was dying, Judy felt at peace, knowing she would soon be with her Savior for eternity.  Shortly before her death, she asked her husband Matt to play “My Tribute,” her favorite hymn, at her funeral.
    Judy’s spirit touched many lives, including ours.  At her funeral, the church was packed.  Friends shared stories of how she had impacted their lives.  When Matt played “My Tribute” on the organ, there wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation –

To God be the glory, To God be the glory,
To God be the glory for the things He has done;
With His blood He has saved me,
With His power He has raised me,
To God be the glory for the things He has done.

(Song by Andrae Crouch, © 1971 Lexicon Music, Inc.)
The Lord comforted Matt a couple of years later with a new Christian bride named Cori.
    In April ’94, Howie and I traveled to Colorado on vacation.  We visited the new Colorado Springs headquarters of Focus on the Family, the ministry where I worked in the mid ’80’s.  We met with Chaplain Hite, a member of the counseling staff who had prayed with us over the phone many times during Howie’s treatment.  It was great to finally meet him face-to-face and thank him for his support.  He rejoiced to see Howie’s progress and shared the news with Dr. Dobson.
    While in Colorado Springs, we also stopped in to visit the Outreach of Hope, a ministry Dave Dravecky recently started for cancer patients and amputees.  Dave was a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants when he broke his left (pitching) arm.  The doctors discovered cancer and operated on his arm.  Following surgery, he made an amazing comeback.  But while pitching in a televised game, his arm broke again on the field.  He was treated for cancer a second time and eventually had to have his left arm and shoulder amputated to prevent further recurrences.  With his baseball career now at an end, Dave and his wife Jan started writing books about their struggles and victories and began a ministry of encouragement.  His greatest heartache led to open doors of ministry and mutual support across the country.
    Howie and I signed up to partner with Outreach of Hope.  We were assigned as prayer partners for others suffering from cancer.  This ministry both blessed us and used us to be a blessing.  While Judy was struggling with cancer, we told her and Matt about Outreach and they also signed up.  This ministry gave them support and encouragement during the months before and after Judy’s death.
    Another door of mutual support opened up to us through Howie’s brain tumor.  We found out that the son of my former pastor Dr. John MacArthur, named Mark, was also diagnosed with a benign brain tumor as a teenager.  Whenever we visited southern California on vacation, we worshiped at Grace Community Church and following the service, walked up to see Dr. MacArthur.  Howie would ask about Mark and Dr. MacArthur asked how Howie was doing.  We were thrilled when he told us one day that Mark’s tumor disappeared and that he was going on to a professional baseball career.  Mark eventually became a Bible study leader.  Our mutual support system with Dr. MacArthur has proved to be a great source of blessing through the years.


Suffering can open doors of encouragement and create new bonds of friendship.  But we need to be willing to open ourselves up and not hide behind our pride.  As we share our struggles and show how God is answering prayer, we will feel part of a mutual support system that will bless everyone concerned.  II Corinthians 1:3,4– “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

For Those Who Hurt

You may be embarrassed and feel like withdrawing because of your weaknesses and trials.  Don’t do it.  Open up your heart to the Lord and feel His comfort and support.  Find others who are struggling and share your heartaches and victories with them.  You may find yourself part of a mutual support system that blesses you and uses you to be a blessing.  The comfort you receive from the Lord will comfort others who will then comfort others.  It all starts with a willingness to open the door.


 


 

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Chapter 17: Developing a Biblical Mind Table of Contents Chapter 19: Handling Major Setbacks