76. Through Illness My Motive for Blessings Was Revealed
By Zhenxin, USA
Almighty God says, “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!” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How One Should Satisfy God Amidst Trials). Reading this passage reminds me of an experience of going through an illness. There was some pain and a lot of tears back then, but I came to understand some truths, I stopped seeking blessings so much in my faith, and I learned some lessons from this suffering, and I felt this was also a blessing from God.
I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days in 2010. I was still in high school at that time. God’s words showed me that man was created by God and that believing in and worshiping God is the right path—the path with the most value and meaning. I started attending church gatherings, and I never missed one, no matter the weather. I also did my best to preach the gospel to my friends and relatives. I felt fulfilled every day, and very much at peace.
A year later, I went to the hospital for a checkup and found out I had hepatitis B. The doctor said it was difficult to cure and that it could turn into cancer if it got worse. At the sudden news of this illness, I went completely numb. My face felt cold and my hands were trembling. Suddenly my future seemed so uncertain. I felt really down on my way home that day. I just kept crying and crying. I kept asking myself, “How could I have gotten this illness? Why can’t I just be healthy like everyone else?” I used to think that if I believed in God then He would protect me from sickness. Performing my duty in peace in God’s house would be wonderful! But now I was sick, with no idea whether I’d ever get better, and if it got worse, I could even lose my life. These thoughts got me really upset, and I went before God to pray many times. I asked God for faith and strength, to guide and enlighten me to understand His will so I’d know how to get through this situation.
When my brothers and sisters found out, they came to support me and read me a passage of God’s words: “When sickness befalls, this is God’s love, and surely His kind intentions are harbored within. Though your body may undergo a bit of suffering, entertain no ideas from Satan. Praise God in the midst of illness and enjoy God in the midst of your praise. Do not lose heart in the face of illness, keep seeking again and again and do not give up, and God will illuminate you with His light. How was Job’s faith? Almighty God is an all-powerful physician! To dwell in sickness is to be sick, but to dwell in the spirit is to be well. So long as you still have one breath, God will not let you die” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 6). Reading this passage, I knew in my heart that whether I’d get worse or not was in God’s hands—God rules all! All my worrying and fretting was totally unnecessary. Now that I got the illness, I had to truly rely on and look to God. Whether I got better or not, I couldn’t blame God but had to submit to His rule. So from then on, I prayed to God about my illness a lot and I went to get treated for it, too. Six months later, I went to the hospital for another checkup. The doctor said my condition was getting better and that it was now under control, so I didn’t need treatment anymore. I was thrilled to hear this, and I kept saying “Thank God! Thank God!” I really didn’t know what to say to God but I knew this was His kindness and blessing!
I went to college in 2012 but I was reported for sharing the gospel on campus, so I got kicked out. That was a really tough time for me. After all, it had taken 12 years of hard studying to get there. But then I thought of God incarnate expressing the truth and working to save man, and we can be saved only if we believe in God and pursue the truth. The great disasters would arrive soon, so I was afraid I’d be swept away if I didn’t do my duty and do good deeds. I thought to myself, “Forget about college. I’ll just do my best to pursue the truth and do my duty in the church.” A few days later, I left home and started doing my duty in the church. No matter what duty I was assigned to, I took it on gladly and without complaint. Even facing the CCP’s rabid suppression and arrests and almost being caught twice by the police, I wasn’t scared, but kept on spreading the gospel and bearing witness for God. I felt that God would only protect me if I kept doing my duty and that was the only way to have a good destination.
In February 2015, I was transferred out of town to do my duty. One day, the leader asked me to go to the hospital for a checkup as a precaution against me infecting the others. When I heard this, I thought to myself, “It’s been almost five years since my last checkup. My illness could’ve gotten worse during this time. If it’s become really infectious or turned into cancer, then I won’t be able to do my duty anymore.” This thought made me really unhappy. I was also very afraid and knew I wouldn’t be able to accept it. I went to the hospital the next day but felt very nervous when I got there. I thought, “If it’s turned into cancer or is really infectious now, will they be able to cure me here? What will I do if they can’t?” I prayed to God at that time and said that I’d obey no matter what happened. But then the doctor said I had an arrhythmia, I got really anxious again, thinking, “Is this a sign of getting sick? Why else would I have an arrhythmia?” Watching the doctor’s concerned face very closely, I realized things didn’t look good for me. The doctor didn’t say much else, but just took some blood and told me to go home and wait.
As the day to get my results drew closer, my anxiety returned. I was afraid of getting bad news and didn’t feel like I could face it. I just wanted to be well again. I went to the hospital to get my results a week later. The doctor said my blood was now teeming with hepatitis B, and it had become acute hepatitis. He said it was very infectious and I needed treatment urgently. I thought to myself, “It’s over. Will I be able to carry out my duty now? Will I be able to attend gatherings and live the church life?” On the way home, all I could think about was my sickness, and my bike felt exhausting to ride. Searching for treatments online after I got back, I read that acute hepatitis can put people into comas and then they die within a few days. I became terrified and thought to myself, “Is this going to happen to me? If I really die like this, won’t that be the end of my faith? All the other brothers and sisters are so healthy. Why am I the only one who’s sick? Why do I have to be so different from everyone else?” I grew more and more envious of the others. They weren’t troubled by illness and could do their duties in peace. They were preparing good deeds and would be saved by God. Then there was me. I was sick, with no idea if I’d ever be able to do my duty again. If not, would I be abandoned and plunged into the disasters? I was kicked out of college for my faith and gave up my future in the world; I’d never had a girlfriend and left home for my duty. If God would abandon and eliminate me anyway, didn’t that mean all I’d given in my faith all these years had been for nothing? If I went home now, the CCP would arrest me. I’d definitely be caught and put in prison…. These thoughts left me more and more upset and disheartened. “God, are You using this sickness to expose and eliminate me?” I wondered. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. I was feeling really weak, with no interest in doing my duty or in doing anything else. I didn’t even want to eat anything. I just felt totally exhausted. I went before God in my pain and prayed, “Almighty God, I feel so weak and I’m in so much pain. I can’t stop thinking about my future. I feel like I don’t have a destination anymore. Dear God, I know You’ve allowed this sickness to happen to me. Please enlighten me and guide me to understand Your will.”
A passage of God’s words then came to mind: “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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only by Experiencing Refinement Can Man Possess True Love). Pondering these words, I understood that God’s good will existed within this sickness. He was using this environment to expose my corruption and help me know myself and learn a lesson. I thought about how God had permitted those trials to happen to Job. Although he suffered physical pain, God wasn’t inflicting it in order to take his life, but to perfect his faith and allow Job to know God better. God allowing me to become ill wasn’t to expose and eliminate me, but to cleanse away the taints in my faith and to make me truly love and obey Him. I couldn’t blame God, but had to examine the wrong motives behind my faith, and in what ways I was disobeying and resisting God. Having understood God’s will, I felt much more positive. I said another prayer to God, quietened myself, and did some proper self-reflection.
In my seeking, I read these words of God: “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 Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. What Do You Know of Faith?). “Man’s relationship with God is merely one of naked self-interest. It is a relationship between a receiver and a giver of blessings. To put it plainly, it is akin to the relationship between employee and employer. The employee works only to receive the rewards bestowed by the employer. There is no affection in such a relationship, only transaction. There is no loving or being loved, only charity and mercy. There is no understanding, only suppressed indignation and deception. There is no intimacy, only an uncrossable chasm” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Man Can Only Be Saved Amidst God’s Management). Reading God’s words, I realized that I hadn’t been treating God as God in my faith. I just thought of God as a dispenser of blessings. That’s why when I got sick, my first thoughts were of my future prospects and whether I would get better or not, and I went online to find out about the illness and how it could be treated. I lost all interest in doing my duty. When it got worse, I blamed God for being unfair, for not protecting me, for allowing me to get sick, and I even regretted giving up my studies, my family, and my youth for my duty. Reflecting on myself, I wondered, “How was I able to give up everything to do my duty over these years of faith?” I realized it was because I had the wrong perspective. I’d thought that as long as I made sacrifices for God and did my duty well, then God should bless me, heal my sickness, and keep me safe from danger. Then I’d escape the disasters and not die, I’d survive and have a good end and destination. That’s the only reason I was willing to suffer and pay a price in doing my duty. My motivation for believing in God and doing my duty was to get blessings. When my condition became serious, my hopes of being blessed were dashed, and my resolve to pursue the truth and motivation to do my duty disappeared. I even argued with God in my heart. I realized that I only sought blessings in my faith. When I got sick, I only thought of my own future prospects and considered my own interests—I didn’t seek God’s will at all, but even blamed, misunderstood, and betrayed God. I was so selfish and despicable! All these thoughts of mine had really hurt and disappointed God. The facts showed me that my faith wasn’t to do the duty of a created being, or to pursue the truth. It was only to have a peaceful life and to have a good end and destination. I wanted to exchange my suffering with God in return for future rewards and blessings. Wasn’t I using God and trying to cheat Him? Paul worked for many years and suffered a lot and was martyred in the end, but he wasn’t working in order to do the duty of a created being. He did it to be rewarded and to be crowned. I finally realized that I was walking the same path as Paul. God is holy and righteous. How could He allow someone so intent on bargaining and so intent on cheating Him as I was into His kingdom? Pondering this, I finally understood that this sickness I was now going through was exposing my motivation to gain blessings. Without this, I’d still be unaware of all the motives and taints in my faith, and that I was walking Paul’s path, a path condemned by God. At this thought, I didn’t feel so upset about having this illness, but instead thanked God for exposing and saving me in this way. On the surface it was an illness, a bad thing, but God’s true love and salvation for me were hidden within it. God was guiding me onto the right path of faith to cleanse away all the taints in my faith.
As I contemplated all this, I thought to myself, “God incarnated and is expressing the truth to cleanse and save man. He selflessly gives us life and asks for nothing in return.” I felt how beautiful and good God’s heart is. Then I thought of myself, enjoying God’s grace and blessings, being watered and sustained so much by God’s words, but not sparing any thought for repaying God’s love, trying to bargain with God in my duty, and when I got sick, blaming and misunderstanding God. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed at this thought. I hated myself for being so selfish and despicable! God was constantly scrutinizing my innermost thoughts while Satan was watching how I behaved. I couldn’t be Satan’s laughingstock. I had to stand on God’s side, submit to His arrangements, and learn the lessons well. I then said a prayer to God. “God, I wish to let go of my desire for blessings and not think any more about my future. Whether I get better or not, I wish to obey You and stand witness for You to shame Satan.” I felt a whole lot calmer after my prayer and didn’t think so much about myself anymore. I then read a passage of God’s words: “God lets us live, so we should perform our duties well. Each day we live is a day’s duty we must perform. We should regard God’s commission as our foremost task and discharge our duties as though they were the greatest matter in life. Though we may not pursue the perfect completion of our duties, we act according to our conscience, leaving Satan unable to level accusations against us, and, without guilt of conscience, we may come to satisfy God and have no regrets at all. This is the attitude with which one who believes in God should regard their duty” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Five States Necessary to Be on the Right Track in One’s Faith). I didn’t know whether I would get better or not, but what I could do was hold to the duty God gave me. I wasn’t held back by my illness after that and I was able to do my duty wholeheartedly.
I went back to the hospital later to see about my illness. The doctor said I was doing alright and my liver function was normal. My blood was highly infected, but everything else was fine. He made a point of telling me not to worry and that I only needed a normal course of treatment. When the doctor said this, I couldn’t help but thank God in my heart! I felt God taking mercy on me. I was so selfish and mean, seeking only to gain profit, wanting something from God in return for doing some duty, cheating God and disgusting Him, but He overlooked my rebelliousness. He kept using His words to enlighten and guide me to experience His work so that I’d come to know the wrong motives and views in my faith. I truly felt how great God’s love is! After that, I put my all into doing my duty. I thought I’d learned some lessons through undergoing this illness and that my stature had grown a little. So I was surprised to be exposed once again when God arranged a test for me.
A month later, my leader asked me to go to the hospital for another checkup. She said if my illness was highly contagious, then I’d have to go live by myself away from the others. Hearing her say this was really upsetting, like a giant stone was pressing down on my chest. My mind began to race: “If I’m kept away from the others, then I won’t be able to go to gatherings or live the church life. Then what will I do if one day I get really sick and no one knows about it? When the great disasters come, the brothers and sisters can all gather and fellowship, and help and support each other. But I’ll just be totally on my own. Will I be able to stand firm?” The more I thought about it, the more depressed I got. The leader gave me fellowship and told me to learn to submit to God’s rule. She said I had to seek God’s will more in this situation and, like Job, praise God whether I met with blessing or calamity. Hearing this moved me, and I remembered my experience the last time. I realized this had been permitted by God, and what I had to do first and foremost was submit. I then watched a video reading of God’s words. Almighty God says, “Job did not talk of trades with God, and made no requests or demands of God. His praising of God’s name was because of the great power and authority of God in ruling all things, and it was not dependent on whether he gained blessings or was struck by disaster. He believed that regardless of whether God blesses people or brings disaster upon them, God’s power and authority will not change, and thus, regardless of a person’s circumstances, God’s name should be praised. That man is blessed by God is because of God’s sovereignty, and when disaster befalls man, so, too, it is because of God’s sovereignty. God’s power and authority rule over and arrange everything about man; the vagaries of man’s fortune are the manifestation of God’s power and authority, and regardless of one’s viewpoint, God’s name should be praised. This is what Job experienced and came to know during the years of his life. All of Job’s thoughts and actions reached the ears of God and arrived before God, and were seen as important by God. God cherished this knowledge of Job, and treasured Job for having such a heart. This heart awaited God’s command always, and in all places, and no matter what the time or place it welcomed whatever befell him. Job made no demands of God. What he demanded of himself was to wait for, accept, face, and obey all of the arrangements that came from God; Job believed this to be his duty, and it was precisely what was wanted by God” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II). As I watched this I felt really ashamed of myself. Job extolling the name of God wasn’t just empty words. His praise came from the bottom of his heart. Job knew God’s authority, His almightiness and sovereignty, so he feared God in his heart and was able to truly treat God as God. That’s why he didn’t complain or make any demands no matter what God orchestrated and arranged. Job didn’t try to bargain with God. He simply obeyed whether he met with blessing or calamity. He regarded obeying God as more important than his own life. I thought about myself: Why did I try to bargain with God over and over, stubbornly pursuing blessings? Because God didn’t have a place in my heart, and I didn’t fear God in my heart. I placed too much importance on my future and getting blessings, and that’s why I didn’t submit to God at all when I got sick. I was able to enjoy some blessings by God’s grace, and it was God’s rule that brought this sickness upon me. God had given me everything I had, so if He took it all away, that would be God’s righteousness too! What made me, lower than an ant, qualified to argue with God? So I resolved to God that I would be willing to submit to His orchestrations and arrangements. If I had to be isolated from the others, then so be it. Wherever God put me, even if calamity struck, I wouldn’t complain. Wherever I was, I would do my duty to repay God’s love. I later went to the hospital for my checkup. I felt a little nervous on my way there. I just kept praying to God in my heart and contemplating His words. That bike ride to the hospital felt really easy. When I got there, the doctor said, “Congratulations! Last month there were 1.7 billion copies of the virus per milliliter of your blood. Now, there’s only 560 thousand and you’re not very infectious.” He also said how great it was to see such a decrease in just one month. Hearing this, I was filled with gratitude toward God. He was right beside me, ruling and arranging all things. It is so wondrous and practical!
Going through this illness made my desire for blessings and my despicable motives crystal clear. I gained some understanding of the wrong views on pursuit I’d had and of my corrupt dispositions. I also had a practical appreciation of God’s sovereignty. All this came from experiencing the judgment and chastisement. Now I don’t think about when I’ll be totally hepatitis-free. I just want to submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements and do my duty well in the midst of this situation. Thank God!