30. Through Hardship, God’s Love Is With Me
By Li Ling, Henan Province
My name is Li Ling, and I turned 76 this year. I gained faith in the Lord Jesus in 1978 after falling ill, and during that period I received a great deal of His grace. This really inspired me to enthusiastically work for the Lord; I went all over the place delivering sermons and sharing the gospel, as well as hosting brothers and sisters in my home. Our church very quickly grew to a congregation of over 2,000 people, and, as a result, the Chinese Communist Party government began to oppress us soon after. The police came and searched my home a number of times in an effort to prevent me from practicing my faith and spreading the gospel, and every time they came, they’d take anything of value and anything that could be carried off—even lightbulbs. What’s more, I was arrested by Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers and detained over a dozen times. I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days in 1996, and two years after that I once again suffered arrest and persecution by the CCP government, but this time it was even more crazed. I experienced firsthand how incredibly difficult it was to put one’s faith in God in an atheist country like China. Despite all these difficulties, I could still feel God’s salvation and love for me.
In the middle of the night one day in May 1998, a little after 2 a.m., the sound of someone pounding on my door started me out of a deep sleep. I couldn’t help but become nervous and thought, “It’s probably the police! There are five brothers and sisters here from out of town to spread the gospel. How can I protect them?” I was panicked. Before I could even get to the door, the police kicked it open with a loud bang. The chief of the PSB Political Security Section, gun in hand, and over a dozen police officers with electric batons burst in aggressively. As soon as he crossed the threshold one officer turned to me, kicked me ferociously and yelled, “What the hell? You’ve been arrested so many times, but you still have the gall to believe in God! Mark my words, I’m going to make sure you lose everything you have and your family is destroyed!” The evil officers started shouting in the bedrooms. “Police, get up right now!” Without even waiting for the other brothers and sisters to put their clothing on, they handcuffed us together, two by two, searched us, and also took a ring that I was wearing. They then started ransacking the entire place, even going through my flour storage and getting it all over the floor. They just threw stuff all over the entire floor. They ended up carting off eleven tape recorders, a television, a fan, a typewriter, and over 200 books of God’s words. They even pried open my son’s drawers and stole over a thousand yuan he had just received for his salary. Just as the dozen or so officers were about to take us all to the police station, my son was getting back home from work. As soon as he saw that his wages had been stolen he ran over to the officers and asked them for his money back. One of the officers said slyly, “We’ll check it out at the station, and if it’s yours, we’ll give it back to you.” But instead, that evening they came to arrest my son for the crime of “obstructing official business.” Luckily, he had already gone into hiding, otherwise he would have been arrested as well.
The police took the confiscated books and other items to the station, and then kept all six of us locked up separately at the County Public Security Bureau overnight. Sitting there, I just couldn’t find a place of calmness for a long time. I thought back to my arrest in 1987; I was abused physically and verbally by the police and was practically tortured to death. I also saw with my own eyes a young man in his 20s was beaten to death by the police in less than two hours, and a woman said she had been raped by two officers in turns during interrogation. Officers would also put people on tiger benches, burn them with a soldering iron, and electrocute their tongues with electric batons to the point that there was no blood left. They used all sorts of despicable, monstrous tactics to torture people—it’s an absolute outrage. Over my dozen or so arrests I personally witnessed and personally experienced this cruel and merciless torture on the part of the police. They are capable of any atrocities. Once again being at this “gate of hell” and hearing the police say that I would be “skinned alive” left me terrified. They had taken so many things in my home that day and had also arrested several other brothers and sisters. There was no way they’d let me off easily. And so I prayed to God within my heart. “Oh God! I know we’ve fallen into the police’s hands today with Your permission. I’m feeling very weak because they’re all demons completely lacking any humanity, and so I beg for You to give me courage and wisdom, and to provide me with the right words to say. I am willing to stand witness for You—I absolutely will not be a Judas and betray You! I hope even more that You may protect the others who were arrested so that they may be able to stand firm through this situation. God, You are the King of the entire universe, and all events, all things are subject to Your rule and arrangements. I firmly believe that as long as I can genuinely lean on You, You will certainly lead us to overcome Satan’s influence of darkness.” God enlightened me as I was praying, bringing these words of His to mind: “The transcendent life of Christ has already appeared, there is nothing for you to be afraid of. Satan is under our feet and their time is limited. … Be loyal to Me above all else, move forward with bravery; I am your strong rock, rely on Me!” (“Chapter 10” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words filled me with faith. It’s true—God is almighty and Satan will always be defeated at God’s hands. Without God’s permission it can’t touch a hair on my head. I thought about how I had been arrested so many times by the CCP government since gaining my faith; hadn’t I overcome these challenges time after time under God’s protection? I also thought about the prophet Daniel, how he and three of his friends were framed by evil people, then thrown into the lions’ den and burned in a fiery furnace, all because they upheld the name of Jehovah and worshiped Jehovah God. However, they had the protection of God and they were unscathed. Thinking through all this, courage suddenly welled up within me and I felt full of strength. I knew that no matter how Satan oppressed or harmed me, with God as my strong rear guard, I had nothing to fear. I was willing to rely on my faith and cooperate with God, to stand witness for God before Satan.
The police began interrogating me the following morning. An officer who had questioned me on a number of previous occasions glared at me, smacked the tabletop and barked, “So, it’s you again, you old bitch. You’ve fallen into my hands again. If you don’t spill what you know this time you’re going to land yourself in serious trouble! Talk! Where are all those people from who were staying at your place? Who is the church leader? Where did those books come from? Who does the typewriter belong to?” I couldn’t help but start to feel nervous; that officer was just so vicious, so overbearing, and wouldn’t hesitate to beat someone to death. I timidly lowered my head and didn’t make a sound, all the while silently praying to God to watch over my heart. Seeing that I wasn’t talking, the officer started shouting abuse at me. “You old crone, there’s no point threatening a dead pig with scalding water!” He rushed toward me while yelling and took a flying kick at my sternum. I flew back several meters and crashed down onto the floor, facing up. It hurt so much that I couldn’t catch my breath. Unwilling to let go of me, he rushed over, hoisting me up from the floor by my clothing and said, “You stupid old bitch! I’m not going to let you die today, but I’ll make sure your life isn’t worth living. You’re going to live a life of suffering!” Saying this, he held up his electric baton like he was about to tase me with it, and seeing the blue light it emitted was really frightening for me. I silently prayed to God over and over, and just then some of His words came to mind for me: “You must endure all, you must relinquish everything you have and do everything you can to follow Me, pay all the costs for Me. This is the time that I shall test you, will you offer your loyalty to Me? Will you follow Me to the end of the road with loyalty? Be not afraid; with My support, who could ever block the road? Remember this! Remember! Everything that occurs is by My good intention and all is under My observation. Can your every word and action follow My word? When the trials of fire come upon you, will you kneel and call out? Or will you cower, unable to move forward?” (“Chapter 10” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Through God’s words, I not only felt strong and emboldened, but gained understanding of His will. The trial I was undergoing right then was a time for God to test me. That officer was torturing me physically in an attempt to get me to betray God, but God’s will was for me to offer up my devotion and love to Him. He was placing His hopes on me, and so I simply couldn’t give in to the flesh and bow to Satan’s forces. I knew I had to resolutely stand on God’s side and bear a resounding witness for Him. The officer struck out at me wildly with his baton and wave after wave of the electrical current coursed through me, forcing my body to seize up and contract into a ball. While tasing me he shouted, “Speak up! If you don’t talk I’ll tase you to death!” I clenched my teeth and still didn’t say a word. Seeing this, he went off the deep end with rage. At that moment, I hated that deranged demon to the very marrow of my bones. Man was created by God; believing in Him and worshiping Him is right and proper without question, but the CCP government madly resists God, brutally oppressing and persecuting believers, not even sparing me, an elderly 60-year-old woman. They even wanted to cause my demise! The more harm they did to me the more I clenched my teeth with hatred and I swore within my heart: Even if it’s the death of me, I will stand witness for God. I will not be a traitor who lives a shameful existence, inspiring Satan’s sneers. The officer wore himself out beating me and yelling at me, so seeing I still wouldn’t say anything, one of the officers tried to cajole me: “You’re already this old—what is all this for? Just tell us what we want to know, who gave you those things and where those people live and we’ll take you home.” God enlightened me to see through this trickery of Satan, so I still didn’t say anything. Seeing I wouldn’t open my mouth he suddenly turned hostile and started threatening me. “Tell the truth and you won’t get such a bad sentence, but otherwise, you’ll get harsher treatment. If you don’t talk you’ll get 12 years and you’ll be locked up for the rest of your life!” I felt a buzzing in my head when I heard him say I’d get 12 years and thought, “I’m in such a poor physical state I couldn’t hold on for a single year, much less 12. Maybe I’ll end up dying in prison.” The thought of spending the rest of my days in a gloomy prison devoid of sunshine made me incredibly sad. Would I be able to hold on without the life of the church and the sustenance of God’s words? Feeling lost, I silently prayed to God. He immediately enlightened me, making me think of these words from Him: “Of everything that occurs in the universe, there is nothing that I do not have the final say in. What exists that is not in My hands?” (“Chapter 1” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). It’s true! Human beings’ fates are in God’s hands, and all events and all things are subject to His rule and arrangements. Without exception, what God says goes; if God doesn’t allow me to go to prison, the police have no say in it, but if He does, then I will submit to going to prison without complaint. Peter was able to submit to God’s judgment and chastisement, to trials and tribulations. He didn’t have a choice himself, and he handed himself over to God completely and obeyed God’s arrangements. In the end he was crucified upside down for God—he obeyed to the point of death and became a vanguard of love for God. I knew that I needed to learn from Peter’s example that day and put myself in God’s hands. Even if it meant a life sentence, I still had to submit to God. The police ended up sending me to a detention house.
At the detention house, I felt like I was in a living hell. There were no windows in the cells, there was no electric lighting, and more than 20 people were crammed into a cell just 10-odd square meters. We had to eat, drink, and relieve ourselves entirely within the cell. There were little puddles of water all over the floor and there were some mats rolled out, but there were no blankets or sheets. All of us had to lie on those puddles of water to sleep. There was a bucket for a toilet in the corner, and there were mosquitoes and flies everywhere. The stench was so bad I could barely breathe; everyone grappled for space near the iron gate so they could get some air through the less than one foot opening. It was really hot in the summer and there were so many people crammed into that tiny cell, so many inmates would go naked, not wearing anything. Fights often broke out between prisoners over trifles and they were constantly using obscenities. Our daily meals were made up of half-cooked flour soup and thin noodles, and boiled vegetables without any oil or salt. There was always sludge left at the bottom of the bowl, and all the prisoners had diarrhea. One day during roll call when we were out for some fresh air, I accidentally reported the wrong prisoner number. The correctional officer became furious, yelling “Look at you, so pathetic! And you’re a believer in God!” He then took his leather shoe and hit me across the face with it ten times, leaving my face black and blue. All of my cellmates then got in trouble because of me, and were all hit ten times. Their faces were all black and blue, too; they were covering their faces and crying in pain. From then on the correctional officer made me wash their uniforms and shirts, and the beddings. One of the top guards ran a hostel out of his home and he’d bring in all the beddings that had been stripped to have me wash them, and then once they were clean I had to mend them all by hand. I was so utterly exhausted by the end of every day that my entire body was sore and in pain; I really felt like I was falling apart. In just a few days my hands became swollen. At times when I truly couldn’t stand it and I rested for a moment, the correctional officer would reprimand me viciously, so I had no choice but to keep working, shedding tears. When it was time to rest at night, even though I was both sleepy and physically tired, I still wasn’t able to sleep well. My arms were sore and painful and my back hurt so much I couldn’t straighten it. My legs were also numb. Even to this day I can only lift my arms up forty or fifty degrees—I can’t even hold them straight out. I developed serious gastrointestinal problems from doing so much hard labor without ever being able to get enough to eat, causing me to have frequent diarrhea. On top of that, the wounds left behind from being beaten by those evil police officers had never fully healed. My health grew worse and worse. Later on I developed a persistent low-grade fever and the prison guards refused to allow me treatment. In spite of myself, I became weak and thought, “At this age if this kind of torture continues I could die in here any day now.” A sense of desolation and helplessness welled up within my heart and in my pain I prayed to God. “Oh God, I’m really weak right now and I don’t know what Your will is. God, please guide me so that I can stand witness for You through this and satisfy You.” I called out to God from my heart over and over, and without me realizing it, God enlightened me, bringing a hymn of God’s words to my mind. I quietly hummed this hymn: “God has become flesh this time to do such work, to conclude the work that He has yet to complete, to bring this age to a close, to judge this age, to save the deeply sinful from the world of the sea of affliction and utterly transform them. Many are the sleepless nights that God has endured for the sake of the work of mankind. From up high to the lowest depths, He has descended to the living hell in which man lives to pass His days with man, has never complained of the shabbiness among man, has never reproached man for his disobedience, but endures the greatest humiliation as He personally carries out His work. How could God belong to hell? How could He spend His life in hell? But for the sake of all mankind, so that the whole of mankind can find rest sooner, He has endured humiliation and suffered injustice to come to earth, and personally entered into ‘hell’ and ‘Hades,’ into the tiger’s den, to save man” (“Every Stage of God’s Work Is for the Life of Man” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). As I hummed and hummed tears continually rolled down my face, and I thought of how God is supreme, and yet He has humbled Himself twice to become flesh, enduring endless suffering and humiliation to save mankind. Not only has He been subjected to the resistance and condemnation of corrupt mankind, but He has also suffered oppression and pursuit by the CCP government. God is without guilt and His suffering is so that mankind may lead good, happy lives in the future. The pain and the humiliation He has endured have been enormous, but He has never grumbled about it or complained to anyone. The pain I was suffering then was God’s blessing coming upon me, and behind all of it was God’s will. It was so that I could see into the evil essence of those demons and then rebel against Satan, escape Satan’s dark influence and achieve full salvation. However, I hadn’t understood God’s kind intentions, becoming negative and weak after just a bit of suffering. Comparing this with the love of God, I saw that I was incredibly selfish and rebellious. And so I set my resolve that no matter how bitter or how hard things became, I would satisfy God and no longer do anything to hurt Him. I swore on my life that I would stand witness for God. Once I submitted, I saw God’s deeds. After the police locked me up, God raised up my sister, who wasn’t a believer, to pay the police a 16,000 yuan fine as well as another 1,000-odd yuan for my room and board, and I was released.
Although I suffered torture of the flesh over my three months in prison, I had seen the true face of the pack of CCP government demons and their resistance to God. Undergoing multiple arrests by the CCP government also gave me some practical understanding of God’s work, His almightiness and wisdom, and His love. I saw that God is watching over me and protecting me at all times, and He never leaves my side, not even for a moment. When I was undergoing all manner of torture by those demons and was in agony, it was God’s words that led me time after time to triumph over Satan’s harm and devastation, giving me the faith and courage to overcome the influence of darkness. When I was weak and helpless, it was God’s words that immediately enlightened and guided me, acting as a true pillar for me and accompanying me through one unendurable day after another. Going through such oppression and hardship has allowed me to gain a treasure of life that can’t be gained in times of peace and comfort. Through this experience, my resolve in my faith has strengthened and no matter what kind of atrocious things I may face in the future, I will pursue the truth and I will pursue life. I give my heart to God because He is the Lord of creation, and He is my one and only Savior.