6. Fame and Fortune Have Brought Me Suffering
By Tian Tian, China
One spring, some senior doctors and I went out for an outdoor cookout. On the way, some local villagers recognized Dr. Wang. They looked so happy and grateful. They greeted her warmly. Then when we were cooking, we realized we were lacking some stuff. The villagers were incredibly kind. When they saw we needed something, they would offer up their own to us. Some daily necessities were in short supply in those days and so quite valuable. There wasn’t much milk for example. Many people had to wait in line to get it. But the people from the dairy factory just brought it right to us. This was all because of Dr. Wang’s reputation. I saw Dr. Wang’s eyes squint up as she smiled and I couldn’t help but envy her and think: “People really do think highly of Dr. Wang! They respect her wherever she goes and she doesn’t have to worry about anything. She just has to show her face to get things done easily. But as for me, I’m just a clinician whom nobody knows. I can’t get treated like that. I can only hang on to her coattails.” But then, in my disappointment, I looked at Dr. Wang’s silver hair and thought: “Am I not still young? If I study medicine properly, learn from the veteran doctors, and work hard, sooner or later I can be famous and respected like them.”
Then, after a month of continuous effort, I was able to be on duty by myself and I also had a chance to practice surgery. But this was only the first step. I still had to work harder. So then I was constantly studying medical theories. I took a skills exam and took all kinds of remedial classes outside work. If there was an emergency operation, whether during work time or not, I’d never pass up the chance to practice surgery. Sometimes when I was busy operating, I’d be so hungry but I couldn’t care for my own body because there’s no room for mistakes in surgery. Sometimes I even needed to work for a full 24 hours. After getting off work, my head was out of it and my body felt exhausted. I’d be desperate to have a rest, but then I’d remember my father always telling me, “No pain, no gain,” and stories about working hard to achieve one’s goals. So I encouraged myself to keep going and forced myself to keep working hard. As soon as I got home at night, my head would hit the pillow. I’d stretch out and relax my exhausted, aching body. When I closed my eyes, wanting to sleep, every detail of an operation would flash into my mind. I was afraid my flagging mental state would cause me to make a mistake in surgery. I would think of old colleagues who made small errors at work and never again had the right to operate. If something went wrong, I’d never be a success. I’d then instantly feel stressed, tired, frightened and worried. My mind and body were so very tired. Sometimes I’d think of the elective surgery scheduled for the next day and no matter how late it was when I got home, I would have to repeatedly check and revise the medical knowledge I needed for that operation the next day so that I wouldn’t make any mistakes. I was very tired, but I would urge myself on so that I could make it some day: “Work hard! There’s light at the end of the tunnel!”
Eventually, after seven years of hard work and persistence, I became a certified doctor. At that moment, the most prominent words in my mind were: It was all worth it! When my rank went up, the price to see me went up. I would do all the operations that could be done at a certified doctor level and my name was in the list of chief surgeons. My salary and my status went up while my colleagues lagged behind. I felt a happiness that’s hard to put into words, especially on busy streets, where some people would recognize me. I wouldn’t know them, but they knew me. They’d even compliment me on being a good surgeon. The look of admiration patients gave me and the things they said: “I came to see you before and I got better soon after for not much money, but my other doctor treated me for ages without any improvement.” And some people said: “So-and-so said you’re a good doctor. She recommended that I come see you. It’s really difficult to get in to see you nowadays.” When I’d hear this stuff, I’d be smiling from ear to ear. I’d feel so happy inside. People still remembered these things after so long and others even came to me because I was well-known. I suddenly felt like my reputation had grown and now I knew the taste of success. But after the happiness, I thought about how far away I was from being an attending physician. I could only do normal operations. If I was an attending physician and could do higher-level operations, the patients would admire me even more and even more people would want to see me. Wouldn’t my status in their eyes get even higher?
After that, I quickened my pace toward fame and fortune. My husband complained and argued with me a lot, saying I was spending less and less time with him. I felt tired and very wronged, and I couldn’t help asking myself over and over: “What did I put in that effort for? Was it not to have a successful career and a good life? Have I done something wrong? I haven’t. It’s my husband who’s being unreasonable. He has no ambition.” I wiped away the tears and applied for a chance to go to a municipal level medical unit for further study to further improve my medical skills and become an attending physician. It was a rare opportunity and I cherished it. But during the training, I was surprised to find out I was pregnant. Finding myself pregnant left me feeling at a loss and I really didn’t think it was the right time to have a child. I’d gone through so much to get this chance, I couldn’t just give it up because of a child and ruin my prospects. But then I thought of the baby. I didn’t want an abortion. Later, because I was standing for long periods doing operations and working too much, and I was skipping meals to do unscheduled operations, I ended up having a miscarriage. But I never stopped my pursuit of fame and fortune for one moment. I wanted to go back to work at the hospital the day after having the fetus removed, but my body was so weak that day. I felt my body was falling apart. My stomach hurt and my limbs were weak. All I could do was lie in bed and rest. But I wasn’t thinking of the miscarried child, or how to look after my own body, I was just worried about my study time being delayed and that it might affect my graduation. Had it all been for nothing?
After another seven years of exhausting work, I finally got that position as attending physician I’d been dreaming of. The patients I’d seen all greeted me when they saw me and said to those around them, “Dr. Tian operated on me and saved me.” Some visited me at home bringing all kinds of local specialties. Some brought me gifts and shopping vouchers to express their gratitude. Sometimes, I’d be eating at a restaurant and when they saw me, they’d pay my bill without me knowing. Even though all this made people envious, my happiness was only ever temporary. No one knew about the hardship and pain behind my happiness. I can’t make the slightest mistake in an operation, or the consequences would be unthinkable, and I worried all the time about making a mistake that would ruin me. I was very cautious, like walking on a knife edge. I’d been under too much stress, and my mind couldn’t take it. My health had suffered and my weight was down to about 90 pounds. By overworking for long periods, my health had deteriorated so that I was tormented by insomnia, stomach pain and an inflamed gallbladder. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I’d count sheep all night and take up to 4 sleeping pills, but it was no use. During the day I was in a daze and had no energy. My legs felt like they were made of lead. It was unbearably hard. I couldn’t help but smile bitterly and think: “I’ve got the status and the admiration of others, but now I can’t even sleep or eat like a normal person.” I even wanted to avoid work, avoid everything, and just have a good sleep, but that had become pie in the sky. What made it worse was that when I most needed care and looking after, my husband was out drinking and enjoying himself and I just had to bear my sadness on my own. I felt miserable and helpless on those still nights. Sleep was hard to come by and I often dreamt I was fumbling around in the dark, unable to see the direction I was headed in or the way home. I felt frightened and I struggled. One time, I woke up with a start, crying “Ah!” There was sweat on my forehead. I switched on the light and sat on the edge of the bed and thought of the respect from patients and praise from my family, but that didn’t ease the pain at all. Thinking back to the effort I’d put in over the years, I kept asking myself: “I’ve worked hard half my life to get ahead but in the end, apart from those short moments of glory, all I’ve got is a sick body, a betraying husband and endless suffering and pain. Why is that? How should a person live to have a meaningful and worthwhile life?” I really wanted to break away from the pain. I saw a fortune teller, I searched for answers in quotes by famous people and dabbled with “positive energy” that people seek so much. I went online to try and find answers in Buddhism, but there were no satisfactory answers and they didn’t solve my problems at all. Right when my illnesses were becoming unbearably painful, when I couldn’t see hope in life or find the way forward, the saving grace of Almighty God came to me.
After finding faith in God, I found the answers in God’s words. God’s words say: “People think that once they have fame and gain, they can then capitalize on those things to enjoy high status and great wealth, and to enjoy life. They think fame and gain are a kind of capital that they can use to obtain a life of pleasure-seeking and wanton enjoyment of the flesh. For the sake of this fame and gain which mankind so covets, people willingly, albeit unknowingly, hand over their bodies, minds, all that they have, their futures and their destinies, to Satan. They do so without even a moment’s hesitation, ever ignorant of the need to recover all that they have handed over. Can people retain any control over themselves once they have taken refuge in Satan in this way and become loyal to it? Certainly not. They are completely and utterly controlled by Satan. They have completely and utterly sunk into a quagmire, and are unable to free themselves. Once someone is mired in fame and gain, they no longer seek that which is bright, that which is righteous, or those things that are beautiful and good. This is because the seductive power that fame and gain have over people is too great; they become things for people to pursue throughout their lives and even for all eternity without end. Is this not true?” (“God Himself, the Unique VI” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words brightened my heart. I remembered going on that cookout with Dr. Wang when I determined in my heart that as long as I had status, and a high level of medical skills, then people would respect me and I’d receive special treatment and life would go smoothly. I’d also accepted satanic poisons like “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies,” “Stand out above the rest,” and “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards,” so much so that chasing fame and fortune had become my pursuit and objectives in life. I was constantly working hard to further my career. After I’d gained respect and praise from people around me, I felt a real sense of success, which kept me on the wrong path, without so much as a backwards glance. I spent more than 10 of my best years chasing fame and fortune, sacrificing my family and the child in my belly. I’d ruined my health and was left with a sick body. It’s just a shame that after all that sacrifice, only then did I think: “What use is fame and fortune to me? Chasing it has brought me tiredness and suffering, and after finally attaining it, I’m still suffering beyond words. Clearly, chasing fame and fortune is the wrong path after all.” I finally understood that fighting to chase fame and fortune was an evil force that wraps around people like a rope and suffocates them. It was like a yoke Satan had placed over my body that made me willing to suffer and sacrifice everything. Eventually, Satan had me right where it wanted me. It’s just as God’s words say: “Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind shuns God and betrays Him and becomes increasingly wicked. In this way, therefore, one generation after another is destroyed in the midst of Satan’s fame and gain” (“God Himself, the Unique VI” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I saw how truly hateful Satan is and I thanked God from the bottom of my heart. Right when Satan had driven me into a corner, God didn’t just sit and watch, He held out His hand of salvation to me, comforted me with His words, encouraged me and helped me find the source of my pain. Only God loves people the most. He became flesh to express the truth to teach us to discern good from evil and the positive from the negative. I knew I couldn’t continue on the wrong path, spending my life chasing fame and gain. I should worship the Creator. After that, I spent more of my free time reading God’s words and fellowshiping with my brothers and sisters on things I didn’t understand, and we helped and supported one another. Before I knew it, I understood some truths and had a better grasp on some things. My mind was much more relaxed. Slowly, my insomnia improved, and my stomachaches and inflamed gallbladder went away, too. These were things I couldn’t have achieved chasing fame and gain. I truly experienced the happiness of spiritual freedom.
Later on, I saw all my colleagues were working toward getting promoted and those with lower professional skills than me, some of whom were even colleagues I’d trained, all became assistant professors. I felt a sense of loss. I thought if my health hadn’t broken down and set me back a decade or so, given my expert skills, I could have at least been an assistant professor. But thinking back to how I used to chase promotions and got a sick body, pain and suffering, I realized that this was one of Satan’s cunning schemes. Satan was using my desires to seduce me back into the whirlpool of fame and gain. If I started after fame and gain again, I could end up losing even my life. What would be the point? I thought of something the Lord Jesus said: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). And Almighty God says: “As someone who is normal, and who pursues the love of God, entry into the kingdom to become one of the people of God is your true future, and a life that is of the utmost value and significance; no one is more blessed than you. Why do I say this? Because those who do not believe in God live for the flesh, and they live for Satan, but today you live for God, and live to do the will of God. That is why I say your lives are of the utmost significance” (“Know God’s Newest Work and Follow His Footsteps” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I understood God’s will from His words. No matter how high a person’s status or what their reputation is, chasing fame and fortune is the wrong path and it’s a path that leads to death. We cannot receive God’s blessing or protection going down this path. It is only by pursuing the truth and performing our duty, ridding ourselves of our corruptions by experiencing God’s work and trying to know God that we can have a life of significance and value and eventually receive God’s blessing. This is the only real future a person should have. If I kept trying to satisfy the interests of the flesh, not only would God not bless me, He would actually hate me. Here are some real-life examples of people I knew: My boss’s daughter graduated from college and had a good career living abroad. But after years of cut-throat competition and being overly stressed, she got depressed and jumped off a building, killing herself. And a son of my friend, who became a manager at a young age and achieved success, developed cirrhosis of the liver from too much social drinking. He died not even six months later and my friend’s hair turned gray overnight from the pain it caused. I recall once reading these words of God: “People realize that money cannot buy life, that fame cannot erase death, that neither money nor fame can lengthen a person’s life by a single minute, a single second” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Fame and gain cannot rid people of suffering and cannot save their lives. They can only lure people back to the abyss of death after some short-lived happiness. Having understood this, never again would I be disturbed or affected by people around me. I became willing to spend my limited time on pursuing the truth and knowing God, living according to God’s requirements and carrying out my duty in God’s house.
One day, I received a call from the director of another hospital. He said, “Now you’re retired, so we’re planning a banquet for you to celebrate and we can talk about that collaboration we talked about before. We’d like to hang up your attending physician license in our hospital to attract your former patients. You could also work for us, or you could become a shareholder. It’s up to you.” When I heard this, I couldn’t help but think, “I’ve spent most of my life chasing fame and gain and what did I get for it? Am I really going to spend my whole life buried in fame and gain? It wasn’t easy casting off the pain of chasing fame and fortune. I don’t need to count any more sheep at night, or live with worry and fear all day. I’ve tasted the peace of mind that believing in God and understanding the truth have brought me. I’d better grab on tightly to this happiness. Besides, even though I just needed to hang my license up at the hospital, if there was a problem I’d still need to go in, and wouldn’t that interfere with carrying out my duty?” I thought of the words of Almighty God: “Right now, each day you live through is crucial, and it is of the utmost importance to your destination and your fate, so you must cherish everything you have today, and treasure each minute that passes. You must carve out as much time as you can to give yourselves the greatest gains so that you will not have lived this life in vain” (“To Whom Are You Loyal?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I was so fortunate to have the rare opportunity to find God. It was God who made me understand the meaning of life, and brought me out from the abyss of pain. How could I ever go back to Satan’s embrace? God’s work was nearing its end and I hadn’t gained the truth yet. I had to cherish every day and pursue the truth in my limited time. That’s what a beautiful life is! Having understood the will of God, I declined the director’s offer. The moment I put the phone down, I felt freer than I ever had before. I couldn’t help but say, “I should have stopped chasing fame and gain a long time ago.” Other hospitals talked with me about working together, and I declined all of them. Right now, I’m invested in carrying out my duty. I feel so at ease and satisfied every day. This is something that no material enjoyment or fame or status could bring. I thank Almighty God for saving me!