53. Reflections After Cancer
By Jiang Hua, China
One day in July 2016, after discovering a small lump in my left breast, I went to the doctor to get it looked at. The doctor said the mass needed to be surgically removed right away, and that surgery wouldn’t be effective if it got any bigger. I thought to myself, “It’s just a little lump and it doesn’t hurt. Staying in the hospital and getting surgery will take a lot of time, and we are so busy at church right now. I don’t want to hold up our work because of this little health concern. I have to keep doing my duty, expending myself for God, and maybe He will show me His grace and take the lump away.” After that, sometimes I could suddenly feel a little swelling and pain in my chest and my back, and there was a sharp, needlelike pain from the lump in my left breast. Sometimes I wondered if it was getting worse. But then I’d immediately think, “No way—I’ve been making sacrifices and continually working hard as a believer, plus I’m in charge of church work. I should receive God’s blessings and salvation. God will protect me, so there can’t be anything too wrong with me. It’s probably just a little inflammation from feeling worn out.” So, I just went to a clinic and got some medication, but even after taking that, the pain didn’t subside.
Then in January 2018, I suddenly started feeling out of breath and developed a terrible cough. And when I did cough, my sternum, shoulder blades, and back all hurt terribly. I had to go to the hospital to get it looked at. The moment I got the test results back, my mind went completely blank, and I was in total shock—it turned out to be late-stage breast cancer, and it had already spread to my lungs. Both of my lungs were riddled with malignant tumors, and there were multiple secondary lesions in my sternum, lumbar spine, shoulder blades, and pelvis. The doctor told me, “You came in too late. Now we have no choice but to start with chemotherapy to kill some of the tumors, and then see later on if we’ll need to perform surgery, based on your condition. It’s hard to say if this treatment plan will be successful—you need to be prepared for that possibility.” I went totally limp when I heard him say that. Late-stage cancer is essentially a death sentence, and now with it spreading to so many places, wasn’t I certainly doomed? I thought to myself, “I’ve been working hard for God ever since I became a believer, putting everything into it even without any sort of recognition. How could something so serious happen to me?” I called out to God in my heart. Then I thought of Job: He lost all his family’s property, all his children, he got boils all over his body, and even in the face of such a tremendous trial, he never blamed God. He still prayed to God and sought His will with a heart of reverence, and ultimately was a resounding witness for God. Faced with such a serious disease, though I didn’t know God’s will, I knew I had to follow Job’s example and submit to this, and that I should pray and seek God’s will. I felt a little calmer when I thought about it that way. When I got home that evening, I read some of God’s words about how to think about illness and death, and there was one passage that said: “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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 6). That showed me I was facing this disease with God’s permission, and that God’s good will was within it. Though I didn’t yet understand God’s will, I couldn’t complain—our births and deaths are entirely under God’s rule, so I needed to obey God’s orchestrations and arrangements, seek God’s will in this situation, and learn a lesson. I felt more soothed with this guidance from God’s words.
I went back to the hospital for treatment the next day. The first day’s chemotherapy treatment left me nauseous, wanting to vomit, and the joints all over my body hurt, especially my pelvis. It hurt so much I couldn’t sleep all night, and I was thinking, “I can’t believe getting chemo is so hard. This is just my first treatment—how long will I be able to keep at this if it stays this bad? Would I die during the treatment?” Then I remembered what the doctor said: “It’s hard to say if this treatment plan will be successful—you need to be prepared for that possibility.” I felt really afraid. I saw a fellow patient in there wearing a cap, her face was totally devoid of color, and her lips were dry and cracked. Both her arms were really swollen and all her fingernails were dark. When she found out I’d gotten breast cancer, she said gravely, “This disease is merciless. That’s what I got, and after my first chemo treatment I was nauseous and vomiting, I couldn’t eat for a couple weeks. An entire course of treatment is like passing through one of the gates of hell! I’m on my fourth course and I still have four left. I think that at some point I might not be able to take it anymore, and just stop treatment. Death comes sooner or later. I’m telling you, plenty of breast cancer patients die in the middle of chemo….” I got more and more scared as I listened, and I was wondering, “Am I going to die? I left home and gave up my job years ago to follow God, to go all over the place working for Him so I could gain salvation and be perfected, and I could enter into God’s kingdom and enjoy His blessings. If I die now, I can forget about becoming one of the people of the kingdom, much less even seeing its beauty. I may not gain blessings in my faith, and I’ll still end up dying. Have all these years of hard work been for nothing? Some sisters become believers, and then decades of chronic stomach inflammation or a slipped disc just get better—why did I have to get cancer? If lots of people die during chemo, maybe I shouldn’t even get it, but just die sooner and have this all over with sooner instead.” I was getting more miserable the more I thought about it—there was a real darkness in my heart. So I prayed to God, “Oh God, I’m feeling weak. Please enlighten me so I can know myself, understand Your will, and learn a lesson from this.”
After that I read several passages of God’s words that expose people’s corrupt dispositions. “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. Appendix 3: Man Can Only Be Saved Amidst God’s Management). “At a superficial glance, human beings seemed to be constantly bustling about as they expended themselves and worked for God, during which time they were in fact reckoning, in the secret recesses of their inmost hearts, the next step they should take to win blessings or to reign as kings. One could say that, as the human heart was enjoying God, it was at the same time being calculated toward God. Humanity in this condition meets with God’s deepest abhorrence and detestation; God’s disposition does not tolerate any human being deceiving or using Him” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Introduction). God’s words of judgment and revelation pierced my heart like a sword. I realized all my sacrifices and hard work had just been for blessings, and that I had been trying to make deals with God. Over my years of faith, I’d been persecuted by the Communist Party, rejected by the people of the world, and rebuked and abandoned by family members, but I’d still never given up my faith. I kept putting my all into my duty for God. I felt that with my devotion and submission, I should be someone who God saves, so I was waiting to enter the kingdom and enjoy God’s blessings. But getting cancer out of the blue and facing the prospect of death, my dreams of being blessed were dashed. I misconstrued things and complained, and I even wanted to go against God by dying. I saw my faith all those years wasn’t to submit to God or to really put my heart into working for Him, rather, it was to use an external show of suffering and expending myself to build up my own dream of the kingdom of heaven. I treated my duty like a bargaining chip to get God to cure me and bless me, like unbelievers work in exchange for a salary. I had faith, but I was trying to make deals with God, to use and cheat Him—I was truly lacking humanity! The more I thought about it, the worse, the guiltier I felt. I prayed, “God, I’ve been cheating You in my duty this whole time, trying to strike deals with You. I haven’t been sincere at all toward You. I’ve been so rebellious! God, I don’t want to carry on like this. I want to truly repent.”
I read more of God’s words after praying. “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 and reveal corruption, 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 people are still subject to Satan’s bondage, and in whichever aspects they still have their own desires and their own demands, these are the aspects in which they 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. Part Three). From God’s words, I learned that He tests and refines us to purify and save us. We’re so deeply corrupted by Satan that without experiencing trials and refinement, and the judgment and revelations of God’s words, it’s really hard to truly know ourselves, and our corruption can’t be cleansed. Without facing that disease, without facing the despair of a life-and-death situation, the adulteration of these corruptions—my drive to gain blessings, my transactional attitude toward God—would never have been so thoroughly exposed. Then I never would have realized that in my faith, I had been trying to use and cheat God, and I’d still think of myself as devout. I’d keep on shamelessly demanding grace and blessings from God without the slightest awareness. That’s when it dawned on me that God had allowed that illness to come upon me to teach me a lesson, to get me to see how my faith and the way I did my duty were tainted. It was so I could repent to Him in time, and that was tremendous salvation from God! I thanked God from my heart after I understood His will, and I quietly resolved that even if my cancer couldn’t be treated, even if I just had a few days left, I was happy to be at God’s mercy, whether it meant life or death. I felt some relief once I gained a sense of submission, and the chemotherapy felt a lot less painful than before.
Then one day, I read another passage of God’s words: “I decide the destination of each person not on the basis of age, seniority, amount of suffering, and least of all, the degree to which they invite pity, but according to whether they possess the truth. There is no other choice but this. You must realize that all those who do not follow the will of God shall also be punished. This is an immutable fact. Therefore, all those who are punished are so punished for the righteousness of God and as retribution for their numerous evil acts” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Prepare Sufficient Good Deeds for Your Destination). I could see God’s righteousness from His words. He determines a person’s outcome not by how many sacrifices they made for Him, or by how much they toiled or suffered, but rather, He bases His determination on whether they’ve gained the truth, and whether their corrupt disposition has been cleansed and changed. I thought about Job again—he followed God’s way all his life, fearing God and shunning evil. When he lost all his family’s property and his children, and when he broke out in boils, he never blamed God, but still praised God’s name. He said, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21). He was a strong, resounding witness for God, and gained God’s approval and blessings. Then there was Peter, who gave up everything to follow the Lord Jesus—no matter how many trials and hardships he faced, he never blamed God, and instead submitted to all these things as having come from God. In the end, he was willing to be nailed upside down to the cross for God. He achieved the ultimate love for God and submission even till death. Job’s and Peter’s testimonies of obeying and loving God were really encouraging to me. I gave heartfelt thanks for God’s enlightenment and guidance, and resolved that I wanted to stop just using my superficial efforts to attempt to make deals with God, and that I didn’t want to seek blessings anymore. I wanted to seek the truth and cast off my corrupt disposition. After I submitted that way, over time my cough went away and my bones stopped aching. Throughout my six courses of chemotherapy, I only felt a little nausea and was still able to eat. I also didn’t look as thin, sallow, or sickly as the other patients. They envied me, saying things like, “Getting chemotherapy once was passing through one of the gates of hell. It was so awful, we felt like we’d be better off dead. Why do you look so relaxed, like there’s nothing wrong?” One of the doctors was really astonished seeing my complexion didn’t look bad, and said, “Bone cancer is really painful, and the pain of late-stage cancer is particularly awful. Painkillers don’t really help much. How are you not in pain?” Seeing how confused he was, I knew this was God’s mercy and protection for me, and I was thanking Him incessantly. I had a mastectomy in June 2018 which was very successful. I recovered quickly and continued with my duty after getting out of the hospital.
In March 2019, I suddenly started feeling out of breath again, and I had discomfort in my chest and back. When I got checked at the hospital, the doctor told me, “There are quite a few new small tumors in your right lung, and new abnormal changes in your diaphragm. We need to do some oral chemotherapy medications to control it.” When he said that, I was thinking that a recurrence of cancer is a one-way road to death’s door, and the doctor telling me to take medication to control it was just to comfort me. This was really upsetting. I thought about how since I’d gone home after my surgery, I’d been doing everything I could manage in my duty and I’d been reasonably effective in that. How could the cancer recur? Could it be true that I’d really never taste the blessings of the kingdom? I then realized my motivation for blessings was rearing its head again, so I said a prayer, asking God to guide me to know myself and be capable of truly submitting. I read this in God’s words after praying: “All corrupt humans 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; when they forsake things and expend themselves for God, it is in order to be blessed, and when they are faithful to Him, it is in order to be rewarded. In sum, it is all done for the purpose of being blessed, rewarded, and entering the kingdom of heaven. In society, people work for their own benefit, and in the house of God, they perform a duty in order to be blessed. It is for the sake of gaining blessings that people forsake everything and can withstand much suffering: There is no better evidence of man’s satanic nature” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). Reading this, I could see I was always being transactional with God so I could be blessed. This is because I was controlled by Satan’s poisons of “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Fight for every inch of land and seize every bit you can get,” and “Never lift a finger without a reward.” Those things had become my very nature, making me selfish, despicable, wily, and cunning, and so in everything I’d put my own interests first, and consider whether or not I would benefit. After becoming a believer, I was ready to suffer anything if it meant I’d be blessed by God and have a good destination, and I thought suffering and paying a price in exchange for God’s blessings was correct. That sort of thinking had become really deeply rooted in me, so when I faced illness and the threat of death, I felt like I’d lost my hope of being blessed, and so my misunderstandings, demands, and complaints of God showed themselves. I realized I was continuing to do my duty while I was unwell for my own outcome and destination, and in exchange for the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. It wasn’t done gladly to satisfy God and repay His love. I was living according to these satanic poisons, trying to cheat God, and attempting to use God to achieve my own aims. If I didn’t repent and change, I knew that no matter how much I sacrificed and suffered, it would never gain God’s approval. I’d end up being detested and cast out by Him. Realizing this, I prayed and asked God to lead me to find the path of practice, to correct my motives and do my duty well.
Later on, I read a passage in God’s words: “If, in your faith in God and pursuit of the truth, you are able to say, ‘Whatever sickness or disagreeable event God allows to befall me—no matter what God does—I must obey, and stay in my place as a created being. Before all else, I must put this aspect of the truth—obedience—into practice, I must implement it, and live out the reality of obedience to God. Moreover, I must not cast aside what God has commissioned to me and the duty I should perform. Even on my last breath, I must abide by my duty,’ is this not bearing testimony? When you have this kind of resolve and this kind of state, are you still able to complain about God? No, you are not. At such a time, you will think to yourself, ‘God gives me this breath, He has provided for and protected me all these years, He has taken much pain from me, given me much grace, and many truths. I have understood truths and mysteries that people have not understood for generations. I have gained so much from God, so I must repay God! Before, my stature was too small, I understood nothing, and everything I did was hurtful to God. I may not have another chance to repay God in the future. No matter how much time I have left to live, I must offer the little strength I have and do what I can for God, so that God can see that all these years of providing for me have not been in vain, but have borne fruit. Let me bring comfort to God, and no longer hurt or disappoint Him.’ How about thinking this way? Do not think about how to save yourself or escape, thinking, ‘When will this illness be cured? When it is, I shall do my best to perform my duty and be devoted. How can I be devoted when I’m ill? How can I perform the duty of a created being?’ As long as you have a single breath, are you not capable of performing your duty? As long as you have a single breath, are you capable of not bringing shame upon God? As long as you have a single breath, as long as your mind is lucid, are you capable of not complaining about God? (Yes.) It is easy to say ‘Yes’ now, but it will not be so easy when this really happens to you. And so, you must pursue the truth, often work hard on the truth, and spend more time thinking, ‘How can I satisfy God’s will? How can I repay God’s love? How can I perform the duty of a created being?’ What is a created being? Is the responsibility of a created being merely to listen to the words of God? No—it is to live out the words of God. God has given you so much truth, so much of the way, and so much life, so that you may live out these things, and bear testimony to Him. This is what ought to be done by a created being, and it is your responsibility and obligation. You must contemplate these things frequently; if you always contemplate them, you will go deeper into all aspects of the truth” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only in the Frequent Reading of God’s Words and Rumination on the Truth Is There a Way Ahead). God is the Lord of creation and rules over everything. I’m a created being, so I should submit to God’s rule and arrangements—this is the basic reason I should have. God gave me my life, and it was by God’s grace that I could come before Him, receive the watering and sustenance of His words, and understand some truths. When I was in pain and feeling negative, God’s words enlightened and guided me, and allowed me to understand His will and gain some understanding of myself. God protected me throughout my treatment, lessened my pain, and allowed me to live on, even though I was riddled with cancer. Adding up all those things God had done for me was so heart-warming. Feeling how tremendous His love is, I couldn’t help but offer up my thanks and praise to Him. I prayed, “God, no matter what happens with my health and no matter how many days I have to live, as long as I have a single breath left, I will do my duty to repay Your love.”
In December 2019 I had a full check-up, and aside from having slightly elevated blood lipids and blood sugar showing in my blood tests, everything was normal. The tumors in my lungs had shrunk down to just 0.6 cm, and my bone lesions were much better. I know that being able to survive as a patient of late-stage breast cancer that had already spread to the bones and lungs is a miracle, and now I’m not experiencing any kind of physical discomfort. When they see me, my relatives and friends say, “Your face is glowing with health. You don’t look like you’re sick!” I give genuine thanks to God from my heart for His protection every time I hear something like that. Although I did suffer quite a bit through this illness, I learned some lessons and came to see the corruption and adulteration in my faith of my motive to be blessed. I also gained some submission to God. Thanks be to God!