38. Facing My Son’s Terminal Illness
By Liang Xin, China
Two years ago my son suddenly developed an awful pain in his waist. We went to get it checked out, and the doctor said the test results were concerning, that we should go to the larger provincial hospital for further tests. My heart skipped a beat when he said that, and I thought there was a chance my son had a serious illness. But then I thought: “Since becoming a believer I’ve been making sacrifices and doing my duty for God all this time, and I’ve suffered plenty. Even when faced with the frantic oppression and arrests carried out by the Communist Party, and the ridicule and slander of friends and relatives, I have never shrunk back, and stayed strong in my duty. Considering all the sacrifices I’ve made for God, He should protect my son from anything serious.” But the results shocked me. My son had liver cancer and liver cirrhosis. The doctor said he just had three to six more months to live. This diagnosis was a bolt from the blue and I just sat there, paralyzed. I simply couldn’t accept this reality. He was just 37—how could he get something so serious? I was holding the test results, and my hands were shaking. I wondered if the doctor had made the wrong diagnosis. I sat there at the edge of the bed, stunned, and didn’t come to for quite a while. Tears rolled down my face and I thought, “He’s so young—how could he get such a serious disease? Liver cancer and liver cirrhosis? Either one of these would be life-threatening, but two? He is the backbone of our family. What would we all do without him? The most painful thing a person can face in life is burying their child.” I was becoming increasingly miserable. I was constantly on the verge of tears and lived each day in a daze. I was really in darkness. I said a prayer, “God, with my son so seriously ill, I’m really suffering, and can’t manage this. Please enlighten me to understand Your will.”
One day, I read this in God’s words: “While undergoing trials, it is normal for people to be weak, or to have negativity within them, or to lack clarity on God’s will or their path for practice. But in any case, you must have faith in God’s work, and not deny God, just like Job. Although Job was weak and cursed the day of his own birth, he did not deny that all things in human life were bestowed by Jehovah, and that Jehovah is also the One to take them all away. No matter how he was tested, he maintained this belief. … God does the work of perfection on people, and they cannot see it, cannot feel it; under such circumstances, your faith is required. People’s faith is required when something cannot be seen by the naked eye, and your faith is required when you cannot let go of your own notions. When you do not have clarity about God’s work, what is required of you is to have faith and to take a firm stance and stand witness” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement). From reading God’s words I could see that my son getting so seriously ill was a kind of trial and test for me, and that I had to rely on my faith to get through it. I thought of Job, who was robbed of all his wealth and hillsides of livestock, his children all died, and he was covered with boils. Even facing such a great trial, he was ready to curse himself before blaming God, and was still able to praise the name of Jehovah. He eventually bore a beautiful testimony for God. When he was going through all this, his friends mocked him, his wife criticized him, and even urged him to just abandon God and die. On the surface it looked like it was people criticizing him, but behind that, it was Satan tempting Job with people’s words to deny and betray God. But Job didn’t fall for it, and he even denounced his wife as a foolish woman. At this time, Satan’s tricks were behind my friends’ and relatives’ attacks. I had to be like Job and stand witness for God. I couldn’t listen to their nonsense. At these thoughts I didn’t feel quite as miserable and helpless as I had before.
My son got surgery a couple weeks later and his condition started to improve. I thought, “God might have mercy on him because of my faith. I truly hope that God might reveal a miracle and cure his illness. If he made a full recovery, that would be great!” Then this passage of God’s words suddenly sprung to mind: “What you pursue is to be able to gain peace after believing in God, for your children to be free from illness, for your husband to have a good job, for your son to find a good wife, for your daughter to find a decent husband, for your oxen and horses to plow the land well, for a year of good weather for your crops. This is what you seek. Your pursuit is only to live in comfort, for no accidents to befall your family, for the winds to pass you by, for your face to be untouched by grit, for your family’s crops to not be flooded, for you to be unaffected by any disaster, to live in God’s embrace, to live in a cozy nest. A coward such as you, who always pursues the flesh—do you have a heart, do you have a spirit? Are you not a beast? I give you the true way without asking for anything in return, yet you do not pursue. Are you one of those who believe in God? I bestow real human life upon you, yet you do not pursue. Are you no different from a pig or a dog?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment). God’s words really incisively revealed my mistaken perspectives on faith and motives for blessings. I felt really ashamed. When I believed in the Lord, I had been pursuing blessings and grace, hoping my whole family would be blessed because of my belief. Since accepting the work of God in the last days, though I’d never brazenly prayed to God asking for His grace, I wasn’t pursuing the truth, and I didn’t truly understand God. In my faith, I held to the view of obtaining blessings that I would “gain a hundredfold in this life, and eternal life in the age to come.” I thought that since I’d made sacrifices for God, He would commemorate and bless me, that He should protect my family from illness and disaster, make our lives smooth, and free of any terrible mishaps. Because of this, I left my job behind to do my duty, totally happy and willing to endure any suffering. But when my son tested positive for cancer, I became constantly mired in pain and worry, and I lost my drive for my duty. I was making petty calculations of how much I’d expended, how much I’d suffered, debating with God, blaming Him for not protecting my son. The situation I faced, as well as God’s words of revelation showed me that my perspective on pursuit in my faith was wrong. I wasn’t giving things up for my faith to pursue the truth and rid myself of my corrupt disposition, rather, it was in exchange for God’s grace and blessings. I was conducting transactions with God, using Him and cheating Him. My faith was just my single-minded pursuit of God protecting my family and keeping us safe and sound, free from illness and disaster. How was I any different from those religious people who seek bread to satisfy hunger? I saw how vile my perspective on pursuit was. At this realization I felt so indebted to God, and I came before Him in prayer, ready to put my son’s health in His hands, and to submit to His arrangements.
After a period of treatment my son’s condition started to improve, and his state of mind was getting better and better as well. He was eating normally and could do some light activities. I was overjoyed, especially when I saw him singing and dancing with his son, microphone in hand, looking perfectly healthy. I felt like there was greater hope for him, and even thought, “From a human perspective, his illness was a death sentence and he was only supposed to have had six months to live. But it had already been longer than that and he’s recovered so well. It’s God’s grace and protection. If things continue this way, he should make a full recovery.” But things didn’t turn out like I’d thought. He suddenly became unable to keep any food down, his abdomen started to swell up more and more by the day, and sitting down was hard for him. He got a checkup and even though the tumor hadn’t reappeared, the cirrhosis was getting worse and he was getting liver ascites. I felt like death was closing in on him, bit by bit, and I fell into despair again. I thought, “My son’s condition was clearly improving, why is it getting worse again? He is such a good son and gets along great with everyone. Friends, relatives, and neighbors all have great things to say about him. Though he isn’t too supportive of my faith, he doesn’t stand in my way either. Why would he get a life-threatening illness? My whole time as a believer I’ve been sharing the gospel, active to do anything that comes up in the church. Regardless of the Communist Party’s oppression and arrests, and regardless of the opposition and obstruction I face from my relatives, I never pull back. I keep doing my duty. I’ve given up so much, so why am I facing this? Is this what I’ve gotten in return for all my years of sacrifice?” Though I didn’t say this, I was overcome with this feeling that God was being unrighteous. I was pessimistic, depressed, and in a haze all the time. I felt devoid of hope. I was suffering terribly and crying all the time.
In my pain, I prayed to God, and sought His will in His words. There was this one passage I read: “Righteousness is by no means fair or reasonable; it is not egalitarianism, or a matter of allocating to you what you deserve in accordance with how much work you have completed, or paying you for whatever work you have done, or giving you your due according to what effort you expend. This is not righteousness, it is merely being fair and reasonable. Very few people are capable of knowing God’s righteous disposition. Suppose God had eliminated Job after Job bore witness for Him: Would this be righteous? In fact, it would be. Why is this called righteousness? How do people view righteousness? If something is in line with people’s notions, it is then very easy for them to say that God is righteous; however, if they do not see that thing as being in line with their notions—if it is something that they are incapable of comprehending—then it would be difficult for them to say that God is righteous. If God had destroyed Job back then, people would not have said He was righteous. Actually, though, whether people have been corrupted or not, and whether they have been profoundly corrupted or not, does God have to justify Himself when He destroys them? Should He have to explain to people upon what basis it is that He does so? Must God tell people the rules He has ordained? There is no need. In God’s eyes, someone who is corrupt, and who is liable to oppose God, is without any worth; however God handles them will be appropriate, and all are the arrangements of God. … God’s essence is righteousness. Though it is not easy to comprehend what He does, all that He does is righteous; it is simply that people do not understand. When God gave Peter to Satan, how did Peter respond? ‘Mankind is unable to fathom what You do, but all of what You do contains Your good will; there is righteousness in all of it. How can I not utter praise for Your wisdom and deeds?’ You should now see that the reason God does not destroy Satan in the time of His salvation of man is that humans may see clearly how Satan has corrupted them and the extent to which it has corrupted them, and how God purifies and saves them. Ultimately, when people have understood the truth and clearly seen Satan’s odious countenance, and beheld the monstrous sin of Satan’s corruption of them, God will destroy Satan, showing them His righteousness. Whenever it is that God destroys Satan, God’s disposition and wisdom will be in it. Everything that God does is righteous. Though it might be unfathomable to humans, they should not make judgments at will. If something He does appears to humans as unreasonable, or if they have any notions about it, and that leads them to say that He is not righteous, then they are being most unreasonable. You see that Peter found some things to be incomprehensible, but he was sure that God’s wisdom was present and that His good will was in those things. Humans cannot fathom everything; there are so many things that they cannot grasp. Thus, to know God’s disposition is not an easy thing” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). God’s words showed me that His righteousness isn’t like I’d thought—perfectly fair and egalitarian, and it didn’t mean you’d get out exactly what you put in. God is the Lord of Creation and His very essence is righteous, so regardless of whether He gives or takes away, whether we receive grace, or we suffer through trials, it all contains His wisdom. It’s all a revelation of His righteous disposition. Job followed God’s way, fearing God and shunning evil his whole life. He was a perfect person in God’s eyes, but God still tested him. His faith and reverence for God were elevated by trial after trial, and ultimately he was a resounding witness for God and entirely overcame Satan. Then God appeared to him and blessed him so much more. That revealed God’s righteous disposition. I also thought of Paul. He suffered a lot and traveled far and wide to spread the Lord’s gospel, but he didn’t have true submission or reverence for God. He just wanted to use his hard work to exchange for God’s blessings. After doing quite a bit of work, he said, “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’s suffering and contributions were full of his ambitions and desires and they were transactional. His disposition didn’t change at all and he was on a path against God. Ultimately he was punished by God. We can see from this that God doesn’t look at how much people appear to work, but at whether they truly love and submit to Him, and whether their life disposition changes. God is so holy and righteous. I thought I’d be repaid for my contributions, that I’d get back something equal to my contribution. That’s a human, transactional perspective that is totally different from God’s righteous disposition. Though I’d made some sacrifices and I’d done some good things as a believer, my perspective on pursuit in faith was wrong, and I didn’t have true submission to God. I still blamed and resisted God when my son became ill. My life disposition hadn’t changed, and I was still someone who resisted God and belonged to Satan. I didn’t deserve God’s blessings at all. I didn’t understand God’s righteous disposition, and thought that since I’d made some sacrifices in my duty, God should protect and watch over my son. Wasn’t I making demands of God based on a human, transactional perspective? I thought of these words of God: “Everyone has a suitable destination. These destinations are determined according to each individual’s essence, and have absolutely nothing to do with other people. A child’s wicked behavior cannot be transferred to their parents, nor can a child’s righteousness be shared with their parents. A parent’s wicked behavior cannot be transferred to their children, nor can a parent’s righteousness be shared with their children. Everyone bears their respective sins, and everyone enjoys their respective blessings. No one can be a substitute for another person; this is righteousness” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together). I always thought that since I’d sacrificed things in my faith, God should cure my son. Otherwise, I’d see Him as unrighteous. That was totally absurd of me! No matter how much I’d suffered or how much of a price I’d paid, that was my duty, and what I should do as a created being. It had nothing to do with my son’s illness, fate or destination at all. I shouldn’t use that as leverage to negotiate, to make deals with God.
One day I read another passage of God’s words that helped me understand the essence of my mistaken perspective. Almighty God says, “No matter how many things happen to them, the type of person who is an antichrist never tries to address them by searching for the truth in God’s words, much less tries to see things through God’s words—which is wholly because they do not believe that every line of God’s words is the truth. No matter how the house of God fellowships the truth, the antichrists remain unreceptive, and in consequence lack the correct mindset no matter what situation they are faced with; in particular, when it comes to how they approach God and the truth, the antichrists stubbornly refuse to put aside their notions. The God they believe in is the God that performs signs and wonders, the supernatural God. Any that can perform signs and wonders—be it Bodhisattva, Buddha, or Mazu—they call God. … In the minds of antichrists, God should be worshiped while hiding behind an altar, eating the foods that people offer, inhaling the incense that they burn, extending a helping hand when they are in trouble, showing Himself to be omnipotent and providing immediate assistance to them within the bounds of what is comprehensible to them, and satisfying their needs, when people ask for help and are earnest in their entreaties. To the antichrists, only a god such as this is the true God. Everything that God does today, meanwhile, is met with the antichrists’ disdain. And why is that? Judging by the nature and essence of the antichrists, what they require is not the work of watering, shepherding, and salvation that the Creator performs upon the creatures of God, but prosperity and success in all things, to not be punished in this world, and to go to heaven when they die. Their point of view and needs confirm their essence of hostility to the truth” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Fifteen (Part One)). Every word from God really hit the nail on the head. In reflection, I realized I’d always felt like God should reward and bless me for the sacrifices and contributions I had made in my faith, that He should keep my family safe, free from disaster and disease. So when I saw that my son was doing so much better, I felt it was God’s grace, and I was grateful and full of praise for God. But when he got worse again, I wanted God to perform a miracle to cure him. When God didn’t do what I wanted, I went from being all smiles to resentful, mad at God for not taking all my sacrifices and contributions into account to protect and cure my son. I even regretted everything I’d given and sacrificed. My moods all just revolved around whether I was gaining or losing something. In my faith, I hadn’t worshiped and submitted to God as the Lord of Creation, rather as an “idol” to meet my demands and bless me. How was that any different from unbelievers who worship Buddha or Guan Yin? I had not been a true believer! God has incarnated and come to earth twice, enduring incredible humiliation, people’s condemnation, resistance, rebellion, and misunderstanding. It’s all to impart us with His words and truth, to make us live by His words and escape our corrupt dispositions, and to ultimately save us. God has paid such a great price to save mankind. I’d enjoyed so much of God’s grace over my years of faith, gaining the watering and sustenance of so many truths. But I wasn’t genuine toward God at all. That’s so hurtful and disappointing for Him! I started feeling more and more indebted to God, and I knelt before Him, with tears of remorse and guilt pouring down my face. I prayed and repented to God, saying, “God, I’ve been a believer all these years yet I have not pursued the truth. I haven’t been able to stand witness for You in my son’s illness, and I’ve let You down. God, I want to repent to You, and regardless of whether my son gets better or not, I’m ready to submit to Your rule and arrangements. Please give me faith.” I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off of me after that prayer and I felt so much lighter.
I read another passage of God’s words that gave me some more understanding of His will. Almighty God says: “There is no correlation between the duty of man and whether he is blessed or cursed. Duty is what man ought to fulfill; it is his heaven-sent vocation, and should not depend on recompense, conditions, or reasons. Only then is he doing his duty. To be blessed is when someone is made perfect and enjoys God’s blessings after experiencing judgment. To be cursed is when someone’s disposition does not change after they have experienced chastisement and judgment, it is when they do not experience being made perfect but are punished. But regardless of whether they are blessed or cursed, created beings should fulfill their duty, doing what they ought to do, and doing what they are able to do; this is the least that a person, a person who pursues God, should do. You should not do your duty only to be blessed, and you should not refuse to act for fear of being cursed. Let Me tell you this one thing: Man’s performance of his duty is what he ought to do, and if he is incapable of performing his duty, then this is his rebelliousness. It is through the process of doing his duty that man is gradually changed, and it is through this process that he demonstrates his loyalty. As such, the more you are able to do your duty, the more truth you shall receive, and the more real your expression shall become” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Difference Between the Ministry of God Incarnate and the Duty of Man). God’s words showed me that doing our duty has nothing to do with being blessed or cursed. Regardless of whether one obtains blessings or not in their faith, as created beings, duty should be done to repay God’s love. That’s right and proper. It’s like parents raising their children into adulthood—their children should be filial. It shouldn’t be about inheriting property, it shouldn’t be conditional. That’s the minimum someone should do as a person. But I wasn’t thinking about how to repay God’s love in my duty. Instead, I wanted to use the duty God gave me as leverage to make deals with Him, asking for grace and blessings from God for the little I’d given and sacrificed. Without receiving that, I blamed God. I didn’t have any conscience, and I’d really let God down. Especially after my son got sick, I was full of demands, and I was always misunderstanding and blaming God. This thought really made me hate myself. I thought, “Whether my son gets better or not, I’ll never blame God again.” After that my son’s condition got worse and worse. His health was clearly declining by the day. Though it pained me, and I was suffering, I was no longer making demands of God.
One day I read this in God’s words: “God has already fully planned the genesis, advent, lifespan, ending of all the creatures of God, as well as their life’s mission and the role they play in all mankind. No one can change these things; this is the authority of the Creator. The advent of every creature, their life’s mission, how long they live—all of these laws have been ordained by God long ago, just as God ordained the orbit of every celestial body; which orbit these celestial bodies follow, for how many years, how they orbit, what laws they follow—this was all ordained by God long ago, unchanged for thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of years. This is ordained by God, and this is His authority” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). It’s true. God is the Lord of Creation, and our lifespan is determined by Him. How long we live, how much we suffer over the course of our lives, and how much we’re blessed are all in God’s hands. God won’t extend someone’s lifespan just because they’ve done good deeds on this earth, and He won’t end their life early because they’ve done a lot of evil. Whether someone’s good or evil, everyone’s lifespan is determined by God. No one can change that. God determined a long time ago how long my son’s life would be. Anything He does is righteous and I just have to submit to His rule and arrangements. Realizing these things alleviated some of my pain. I knew no matter how my son did, I had to do the duty of a created being and repay God’s love.
In March of this year, we said goodbye to my son for good. Thanks to the guidance of God’s words, I was able to face his departure correctly and I suffered a lot less. Over these two years, since my son first got sick, though I’ve suffered quite a bit, through the revelation of this pain and testing I’ve been able to see my despicable aims, corruption, and impurities in my pursuit of blessings in my faith. I also know more about God’s righteous disposition and will no longer make irrational demands of Him. I am now able to submit to His orchestrations and arrangements. This experience has really shown me that no matter what may happen, and no matter whether a thing may be seen by people as bad or good, so long as we pray to God and seek the truth, we may benefit and gain from it.