79. Awakening Amid Trials
By Yang Fan, China
After I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days, I read God’s words every day and threw myself into preaching the gospel and doing my duty. I never stopped, no matter what. I was then diagnosed with mild hyperthyroidism and the doctor told me to get lots of rest. But I thought, “It hasn’t been easy to welcome the Lord’s return, and I can’t let this little illness interfere with my duty. As long as I keep doing my duty, God will watch over me and protect me.”
More than a year passed and my illness got worse and worse. Even swallowing was becoming difficult, so I went to the hospital for a checkup. The doctor told me that my condition was now severe and that I had to be operated on right away. He said that otherwise, my condition could become fatal. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do. I never imagined this illness could have gotten so bad. I was still only in my twenties back then, and I thought to myself, “I’m still so young. What if I can’t be cured of this condition? I’ve always done my duty enthusiastically, ever since I started believing in God. I even quit my job. Why isn’t God protecting me? How could this illness be getting worse?” The afternoon of the day before my operation, I passed through another of the hospital’s wards. One of the patients there had died and their family members were all crying. This really scared me. I felt as though death was closing in on me as well, and I was to be operated on the very next morning. The doctor had said that there was great risk and that it was hard to predict the outcome of the surgery. I thought, “What if the operation isn’t successful? I’ve made so many sacrifices in my faith—has it all been for nothing?” Back in my own ward, I lay on my bed, becoming more frantic the more I thought about it. I kept calling on God, asking Him to protect me and keep me at peace before Him, and to keep me from feeling constrained by what was happening. After my prayer, I thought of this passage of God’s words: “Who of the whole of mankind is not cared for in the eyes of the Almighty? Who does not live in the midst of the Almighty’s predestination? Does man’s life and death happen by his own choice? Does man control his own fate? Many people cry out for death, yet it is far away from them; many people want to be those who are strong in life and fear death, yet unbeknownst to them, the day of their demise draws near, plunging them into the abyss of death; many people look to the skies and sigh deeply; many people cry great, wailing sobs; many people fall amidst trials; and many people become prisoners of temptation” (“Chapter 11” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words gave me faith. God holds in His hands the fate of all mankind, and people cannot decide their fates for themselves. Whether the operation would be a success or not and whether I would survive or not was all in God’s hands. Guided by God’s words, I no longer felt so worried or afraid. I was willing to look to God and entrust Him with my operation, and submit to His rule.
That evening, all the other patients in the ward were asleep, but I just lay there, unable to sleep a wink. I kept wondering what God’s will was in allowing this illness to come upon me and what the lessons were that I should be learning. A passage of God’s words then came to mind: “So many believe in Me only that I might heal them. So many believe in Me only that I might use My powers to drive unclean spirits out from their bodies, and so many believe in Me simply that they might receive peace and joy from Me. So many believe in Me only to demand from Me greater material wealth. So many believe in Me just to spend this life in peace and to be safe and sound in the world to come. So many believe in Me to avoid the suffering of hell and to receive the blessings of heaven. So many believe in Me only for temporary comfort, yet do not seek to gain anything in the world to come. When I brought down My fury upon man and seized all the joy and peace he once possessed, man became doubtful. When I gave unto man the suffering of hell and reclaimed the blessings of heaven, man’s shame turned into anger. When man asked Me to heal him, I paid him no heed and felt abhorrence toward him; man departed from Me to instead seek the way of evil medicine and sorcery. When I took away all that man had demanded from Me, everyone disappeared without a trace. Thus, I say that man has faith in Me because I give too much grace, and there is far too much to gain” (“The Despicable Intentions Behind Man’s Belief in God” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs).
God’s words described my state exactly. I believed in God in order to get grace and blessings from Him in return; I had faith in God only for my own benefit. I realized that I’d been arguing with God in my heart ever since the doctor said my illness had gotten bad, thinking that because I’d given things up and expended myself for God, then He should watch over me and protect me, and that I shouldn’t have gotten such a serious illness. I’d been full of misunderstandings and complaints about God. Then I saw that scene in the other ward with the dead patient and became even more worried that my operation would fail. I felt like everything I’d given up and expended in my faith couldn’t get me saved or into God’s kingdom, and that I’d gained nothing. Holding the revelations of God’s words up against the facts, I now saw that my perspective on doing my duty was that it was to get blessings and benefits. When God didn’t bestow fleshly peace and joy on me, I misunderstood and blamed Him. That wasn’t faith in God! I was just making deals with God. I was so selfish and despicable! How could such faith accord with God’s will? In order to save us once and for all from Satan’s domain, God personally became flesh to perform His work, to express the truth to cleanse and save man, so that we might be free of Satan’s influence and our life dispositions might change, and we could be saved. I’d enjoyed the watering and provision of so many of God’s words. But when I encountered a trial, I didn’t seek to grasp God’s will or think about how to stand witness amidst trials to satisfy God, and yet still I wanted God’s blessings and grace. I just started complaining when I got sick. I was so rebellious, without a shred of conscience or reason. I wasn’t fit to live before God. Yet God didn’t give up on me, but instead used His words to enlighten and guide me so that I could understand His will and recognize my own corruptions and shortcomings. I felt God’s love for me, and I was really moved. So I said a silent prayer to God in my heart, saying that I wanted to accept and face the operation the next day with an obedient heart. The next morning, I was wheeled into the operating room feeling very calm. Almost 9 hours later, the operation was over. When I woke up, the doctor told me the operation had been a success. I silently thanked God in my heart; I knew that God had been watching over and protecting me the whole time. After I was discharged from the hospital, I recovered very quickly, and before long, I was back in the church doing my duty again.
Two years flew by and I began to feel like I was having palpitations after the smallest exertion, so I went to the hospital again for a checkup. The doctor told me my hyperthyroidism had flared up again and that they had to treat it conservatively, that that was the only way to control it. I thought to myself, “I’ve already been tested and refined once. I cannot allow myself to believe in God for the sake of blessings anymore. Whatever happens with this illness, I will not blame God.” During that time, I continued doing my duty while taking medication. As the years went by, however, my health continued to deteriorate. I had no energy at all, my legs were swollen and numb, and my back hurt so much I couldn’t stand up straight. Just walking up a couple flights of stairs left me gasping for breath, with my heart pounding so hard that it felt like it was about to burst out of my chest. I felt like I could collapse at any minute. I began to worry: “If this gets any worse, how will I do my duty? If I can’t do my duty, will I be commended by God and obtain a good end and destination? Will all my faith then have been for nothing?” But then I thought, “I just have to keep on expending myself for God and He will watch over me and protect me. I’ll keep doing my duty and preparing good deeds until my very last breath. Then I’ll have a good destination.” And so I endured the pain of this illness and kept on doing my duty.
One day, I’d just finished breakfast when suddenly my gums started bleeding for no reason. They still hadn’t stopped bleeding by that evening, so I rushed to the hospital to get it checked. The doctor told me I had developed systemic lupus erythematosus and lupus nephritis. He said these conditions were hard to treat and had a high fatality rate. He said that the medical community simply had no way of curing it for good, that my condition was very severe, and that I may not even last another month. I was completely stunned by this. I thought, “I kept on doing my duty while I was sick and I made some headway in my duty, too. How could I have gotten this illness that’s so difficult to treat, that means I may not live another month? I’ve believed in God for so many years. I gave up my family and my job to expend myself for God. Didn’t I do it all to be commended by God, to get into His kingdom and receive His blessings? Yet now, not only have I not been blessed by God, but I’m going to die soon. I’m in so much pain right now.”
That evening, I tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I might not last another month. I was still young and my life’s journey was about to end. I never would have thought that after believing in God for so long, I was going to die without even seeing the beauty of the kingdom. I just couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing; I was in such pain and feeling so weak. I said a prayer to God: “Dear God, Your will is behind this trial that has now come upon me, and I should stand witness to satisfy You. But I’m feeling weak right now and I just can’t accept it or submit. Please guide me to understand Your will.”
After my prayer, I read this in God’s words: “In their belief in God, what people seek is to obtain blessings for the future; this is their goal in their faith. All people have this intent and hope, but the corruption in their nature must be resolved through trials. In whichever aspects you are not purified, these are the aspects in which you must be refined—this is God’s arrangement. God creates an environment for you, forcing you to be refined there so that you can know your own corruption. Ultimately, you reach a point at which you would rather die and give up your schemes and desires, and submit to God’s sovereignty and arrangement. Therefore, if people do not have several years of refinement, if they do not endure a certain amount of suffering, they will not be able to rid themselves of the bondage of corruption of the flesh in their thoughts and in their hearts. In whichever aspects you are still subject to Satan’s bondage, and in whichever aspects you still have your own desires and your own demands, these are the aspects in which you should suffer. Only through suffering can lessons be learned, which means being able to gain truth, and understand God’s will. In fact, many truths are understood by experiencing painful trials. Nobody can comprehend God’s will, recognize God’s almightiness and wisdom, or appreciate God’s righteous disposition when in a comfortable and easy environment or when circumstances are favorable. That would be impossible!” (“How One Should Satisfy God Amidst Trials” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “What was the basis on which people used to live? All people live for themselves. Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost—this is the summation of human nature. People believe in God for their own sakes; they abandon things, expend themselves for Him, and are faithful to Him, but still they do all these things for their own sakes. In sum, it is all done for the purpose of gaining blessings for themselves. In society, everything is done for personal benefit; believing in God is solely done to gain blessings. It is for the sake of gaining blessings that people forsake everything and can withstand much suffering: This is all empirical evidence of man’s corrupt nature” (“The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks). After reading God’s words, I realized that we’ve been corrupted by Satan so deeply that our aim in our faith has become to gain blessings. God tests and refines us again and again to change our wrong views on pursuit and to enable us to achieve change in our life dispositions and truly submit to God. Thinking back on when I first started believing in God, I took God to be some kind of cornucopia, a bottomless wishing well. I thought that by giving things up and expending myself for God, then God would watch over me and protect me if I got sick. When I found out that I had lupus and that I wouldn’t last another month, my longing for blessings was utterly crushed, and I began to argue with God and blame Him for being unjust. Even though I’d been through one trial and knew that I shouldn’t let my faith in God be motivated by a desire for blessings, when my future and fate were involved, I couldn’t help but blame God and misunderstand Him. My desire for blessings was so strong. I’d been living by Satan’s poison of “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” Everything I did, I did for my own benefit, and I even made deals with God and tried to use Him as I went about my duty. How was that really doing my duty? Wasn’t I just rebelling against and resisting God? I thought about how Paul worked for the Lord and how he suffered and expended himself. After working for a while, he began to draw on this work as his capital, senselessly wanting God to reward him and give him a crown of righteousness in return. He even shamelessly claimed, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7–8). Paul didn’t pursue the truth, but only pursued blessings; the path he walked was the path of resistance to God, and in the end God punished him. I’d believed in God for years just to get grace and blessings in return. When a trial and refinement that threatened my life came upon me, I brazenly made a fuss and opposed God—didn’t that make me just the same as Paul? God’s essence is righteous and holy, and the kingdom does not tolerate any unclean people to enter. How could someone like me, so filled with satanic corrupt dispositions, ever enter the kingdom of God? I knew that if I carried on that way, I’d end up being punished in hell just like Paul! I then read a passage of God’s words: “Faced with man’s state and man’s attitude toward God, God has done new work, allowing man to possess both knowledge of and obedience toward Him, and both love and testimony. Thus, man must experience God’s refinement of him, as well as His judgment, dealing and pruning of him, without which man would never know God and would never be capable of truly loving and bearing witness to Him. God’s refinement of man is not merely for the sake of a one-sided effect, but for the sake of a multi-faceted effect. Only in this way does God do the work of refinement in those who are willing to seek the truth, in order that their resolve and love be made perfect by God. To those who are willing to seek the truth and who yearn for God, nothing is more meaningful, or of greater assistance, than refinement such as this. God’s disposition is not so easily known or understood by man, for God, in the end, is God. Ultimately, it is impossible for God to have the same disposition as man, and thus it is not easy for man to know His disposition. The truth is not inherently possessed by man, and is not easily understood by those who have been corrupted by Satan; man is devoid of the truth, and of the resolve to put the truth into practice, and if he does not suffer and is not refined or judged, then his resolve will never be made perfect. For all people, refinement is excruciating, and very difficult to accept—yet it is during refinement that God makes plain His righteous disposition to man, and makes public His requirements for man, and provides more enlightenment, and more actual pruning and dealing; through the comparison between the facts and the truth, He gives man a greater knowledge of himself and the truth, and gives man a greater understanding of God’s will, thus allowing man to have a truer and purer love of God. Such are God’s aims in carrying out refinement. All the work that God does in man has its own aims and significance; God does not do meaningless work, and nor does He do work that is without benefit to man. Refinement does not mean removing people from before God, and nor does it mean destroying them in hell. Rather, it means changing man’s disposition during refinement, changing his intentions, his old views, changing his love for God, and changing his whole life. Refinement is a real test of man, and a form of real training, and only during refinement can his love serve its inherent function” (“Only by Experiencing Refinement Can Man Possess True Love” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). As I pondered God’s words, I understood that there is always meaning to the work of refinement God does. God uses trials to cleanse and change us, to make us better understand our corrupt dispositions and be able to truly submit to God, so that we can be perfected and gained by God. I was now seriously sick again and my life was under threat. God was refining me through this illness to remedy my wrong views on pursuit, so that my corrupt dispositions could be cleansed and changed, and so that I could truly submit to God and truly love Him. Everything God was doing in me was love and salvation, and behind it all were the painstaking efforts He was making. I felt very moved at this thought and I began to feel self-reproach and remorse about my own rebelliousness. I said a silent prayer repenting to God, wishing to place myself entirely in His hands. Whether I lived or died, I wished only to submit to God’s rule and arrangements.
I read this passage of God’s words one morning: “How should man love God during refinement? By using the resolve to love God to accept His refinement: During refinement you are tormented inside, as if a knife were being twisted in your heart, yet you are willing to satisfy God using your heart, which loves Him, and you are unwilling to care for the flesh. This is what is meant by practicing the love of God. You hurt inside, and your suffering has reached a certain point, yet you are still willing to come before God and pray, saying: ‘O God! I cannot leave You. Although there is darkness within me, I wish to satisfy You; You know my heart, and I would that You invest more of Your love within me.’ This is practice during refinement. If you use the love of God as the foundation, refinement can bring you closer to God and make you more intimate with God. Since you believe in God, you must hand over your heart before God. If you offer up and lay your heart before God, then during refinement it will be impossible for you to deny God, or leave God. In this way your relationship with God will become ever closer and ever more normal, and your communion with God will become ever more frequent. If you always practice in this way, then you will spend more time in God’s light and more time under the guidance of His words. There will also be more and more changes in your disposition, and your knowledge will increase day by day” (“Only by Experiencing Refinement Can Man Possess True Love” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words gave me a path of practice. Though our flesh may suffer in trials, but if we can still forsake our flesh and submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements, pray to God and seek His will, we can then gain His guidance, understand the truth, our satanic corrupt dispositions will gradually change, and we will come to know God. I thought of Peter’s prayer to God during his refinement: “Even if I were to die after knowing You, how could I not do so gladly and happily?” (“Chapter 6” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I may not have such a stature as Peter, I thought, “but I can still try to emulate him. I can seek to know God and gain the truth while I undergo trials and refinement, hand myself over entirely into God’s hands, and submit to His rule and arrangements.” When I thought about it like this, I no longer felt constrained by my illness, or by death. Afterward, I continued on with my treatment as normal. I prayed to God and read His words every day, and I felt my heart grow closer to God. A supreme sense of peace blossomed inside me. After about two weeks, my condition was under control and my health began to slowly recover. My complexion also began to look better than it had. I began to perform my duty in the church again after that, and I felt at ease every day.
About six months later, I went to the hospital for a checkup and found that all the indicators for my condition had returned to normal. My doctor said in amazement, “I never expected that after being so ill, you would have made such a fast recovery in just six months! You don’t look sick at all now. It’s unbelievable!” Hearing the doctor say that, I offered up my heartfelt thanks and praise to God; I knew this was God’s almightiness and sovereignty at work and I could feel His love and salvation for me!
As I think back over this trial of sickness, though I experienced pain and weakness, with the guidance of God’s words, I came to understand the meaning behind God’s work of trials and refinement. I also came to understand a little about God’s will to save man, and the wrong motives and views I held in my faith were remedied. From the bottom of my heart, I feel how wonderful going through such trials and refinements is! I thank God for giving me such precious treasures in life!