78. Lessons Learned From a Trial
By Li Yong, China
After I became a Christian, I was arrested several times by the Chinese Communist Party, but I never betrayed the Lord. I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days a few years ago, and, rain or shine, I always ardently preached the gospel and did my duty. I thought I’d always be loyal to God, no matter what I had to endure, and I didn’t think I needed trial or refinement to prove it. That was, until I endured the trial of sickness, and had to confront my mortality, when I finally learned the meaning of God’s work of trial and refinement, and came to appreciate how God uses it to purify and save us, no matter what form it comes in!
One day, in October of 2014, I was coming back from a fellowship when I felt my limbs go weak, and my footsteps falter. I thought it was because of the dampness in the body, and I just needed to take some medicine. I wasn’t too worried. But a while later, my ears, fingers and toes slowly started to turn black, and I started getting thinner and thinner. I began to think I might have something serious, but I thought that, because of the efforts I’d made doing my duty over the years, God would protect me. It couldn’t be anything too bad. I was sure it would sort itself out. But, to my surprise, after taking some medicine, I didn’t get any better. My wife and daughters took me to the hospital for some tests, and when the results came, they said I had both a severe case of anemia and hepatitis B. They said if it got much worse, it would be untreatable. When I heard this, I felt my whole body go limp. I couldn’t accept what I’d been told. I thought, “For years I’ve made so many sacrifices. I’ve suffered a lot to do my duty. I’ve been arrested and threatened by the CCP, but I never betrayed God, and went back to my duty when I was released. How could I have gotten so sick? Why hasn’t God protected me? What was the point of all my sacrifice, if I can’t get better? I’ve believed in God all these years without receiving His blessings, and now my body is diseased. I guess I shouldn’t try so hard to do my duty anymore; no matter how much I suffer, it will be for nothing.” During this time, I still did my duty. But I did it without enthusiasm. During meetings, I didn’t ask my brothers or sisters about their issues. I read God’s words, but I didn’t want to fellowship. After a while, my condition started getting worse and worse. My body couldn’t support itself, and I felt dizzy all day. My leader gave me some time off to rest and recuperate at home. I saw my brothers and sisters doing their duties happily and energetically. But me? I was now so sick, I couldn’t do my duty at all. I thought that maybe God had decided not to save me. And the more I thought about this, the more grief and pain I felt. I went before God and began to pray: “God! I’ve been struck by these diseases, and I feel so weak and tormented. I know I shouldn’t blame You, but I don’t understand what Your will is. Please guide me to understand.”
After praying, I read a passage of God’s words: “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. Refinement is a real test of man, and a form of real training, and only during refinement can his love serve its inherent function” (“Only by Experiencing Refinement Can Man Possess True Love” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I carefully considered God’s words, and gained a little insight into His will. God doesn’t test us to punish us, but to purify and change us. I was being refined by my disease. God did not want to eliminate me, but to make me understand the impure intent behind my faith, and to change my wrong view toward pursuit so that I could truly love and obey God. God was trying to purify and save me. Realizing this, I felt guilty and ashamed of myself. Faced with a trial, I hadn’t sought to understand God’s will. I misread Him and blamed Him. I was so unreasonable! I couldn’t live in negativity and pain. I had to obey, seek the truth, and reflect on and know myself.
Later, I read another passage of God’s words: “People merely regard the attainment of grace and the enjoyment of peace as symbols of faith, and see the seeking of blessings as the basis for their belief in God. Very few people seek to know God or seek a change in their disposition. In their faith, people seek to make God give them a suitable destination and all the grace they need, to make Him their servant, to have Him maintain a peaceful, friendly relationship with them so that, no matter when, there would never be any conflict between them. That is, their belief in God demands that He promise to meet all their requirements and to bestow upon them whatever they pray for, in keeping with the words they have read in the Bible, ‘I will listen to all your prayers.’ They expect God not to judge or deal with anyone, for He has always been the merciful Savior Jesus who keeps a good relationship with people at all times and in all places. Here is how people believe in God: They just shamelessly make demands of God, believing that whether they are rebellious or obedient, He would just grant everything to them blindly. They just continually ‘collect debts’ from God, believing He must ‘repay’ them without any resistance and, moreover, pay double; they think, whether God has gotten anything from them or not, He can only be manipulated by them, and He cannot arbitrarily orchestrate people, much less reveal to people His wisdom and righteous disposition, which have been hidden for many years, whenever He wants and without their permission. They simply confess their sins to God, believing God would just absolve them, that He would not get sick of doing so, and that this will go on forever. They just order God about, believing He would just obey them, because it is recorded in the Bible that God did not come to be served by humans, but to serve them, and that He is here to be their servant. Have you not always believed in this way? Whenever you are unable to gain something from God, you wish to run away; when you do not understand something, you grow so resentful, and even go so far as to hurl all kinds of abuse at Him. You simply will not allow God Himself to fully express His wisdom and wonder; instead, you just want to enjoy temporary ease and comfort. Until now, your attitude in your belief in God has merely consisted of the same old views. If God shows you just a slight bit of majesty, you become unhappy. Do you see now exactly how great your stature is? Do not assume that you are all loyal to God when in fact your old views have not changed. When nothing befalls you, you believe that everything is going smoothly, and your love for God reaches a high point. When something minor happens to you, you fall down into Hades. Is this being loyal to God?” (“You Should Put Aside the Blessings of Status and Understand God’s Will to Bring Salvation to Man” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words revealed my true state to me. I wasn’t making sacrifices to gain the truth, or to seek to know God. Instead, I was making sacrifices to gain God’s grace and blessings. I was trying to cheat and barter with God. When everything had been going well, and I had been receiving God’s grace, I’d done my duty passionately. I was always happy to help and fellowship with my brothers and sisters, no matter how far they were or how hard I had to work or what the weather was like. But now that I was sick and wasn’t being graced, I felt aggrieved, and I complained and blamed God. I resisted and argued with Him. Especially now that my condition was getting worse every day, I lost my faith in God and slacked off in my duty. I didn’t believe in God for the pursuit of truth or life. I was constantly using God to satisfy my own desire for blessings. I did it for the sake of my own interests. My faith in Him was insincere. I was so selfish and despicable! Believing in God like this, even if I enjoyed material blessings, if my life disposition didn’t change, I would be eliminated by God.
Later, I read another passage of God’s words: “Refinement is the best means by which God makes people perfect; only refinement and bitter trials can bring out the true love for God in people’s hearts. Without hardship, people lack true love for God; if they are not tested within, if they are not truly subjected to refinement, then their hearts will always be floating around outside. Having been refined to a certain point, you will see your own weaknesses and difficulties, you will see how much you are lacking and that you are unable to overcome the many problems you encounter, and you will see how great is your disobedience. Only during trials are people able to truly know their real states; trials make people better able to be perfected” (“Only by Experiencing Refinement Can Man Possess True Love” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words gave me a clearer picture of His will to save people. God has many ways to change people and make them perfect. Getting sick was God’s way of trying and purifying me. I hadn’t betrayed God when I was imprisoned. I’d never blamed God for any hardship I’d had to face. I’d thought that I was loyal to God, and had strong faith in Him. If this disease hadn’t come, I’d never have known about my corrupt disposition, and my impure intent to pursue blessings. Even worse, I’d never have known what God meant when He said: “Only during trials are people able to truly know their real states; trials make people better able to be perfected.” Now I understood that when this disease came about, it was God’s way of saving and perfecting me. This was God’s love for me! Having realized this, I no longer blamed and misunderstood God. No matter how my condition went, I would obey God’s orchestrations, and forsake my intent to gain blessings. After that, I took my medicine and entrusted myself to God, all the while seeking His guidance. Every day, I tried my hardest to do my duty. What I didn’t expect was that, my illness cleared up without me realizing it! My heart was full of thanks to God!
In May of 2015, I took on watering duty. I really cherished this duty. I spent my time contemplating God’s words, and when my brothers and sisters were having problems, I would ponder them, and find passages of God’s words that could help them. After a little while, church life improved. My brothers and sisters were more driven to carry out their duties, and had the confidence to stand witness in the face of their trials. I felt elated. I thought that God had blessed me by making me more effective in my duty, which proved that He was commending my hard work.
But that year, on the fifth of June, I was preparing to go to a gathering when I suddenly felt very dizzy. It felt like the ground was spinning. My face and clothes were soon drenched in sweat, and I had a terrible headache. It was just like the symptoms I’d had when I first got sick, only even worse than before. It felt like I was dying. I thought to myself: “How has this illness come back? I work hard to do my duty every day—why isn’t God protecting me? Am I still not loyal enough to God?” My wife noticed the state I was in, and she and my daughters rushed me to the hospital. When the test results came through, the doctor avoided me and spoke to my daughters instead. At the time, I knew that if it wasn’t cancer, it was going to be something else bad. I began to get upset, but then I thought, “That’s how the symptoms felt the first time, and they cleared up in the end! Today, this is also in God’s hands. I’m still doing my duty, so it shouldn’t be anything too bad, right?” Thinking this, I began to calm down. A moment later, my two daughters came in, sobbing, and told my wife: “The doctor said that dad has liver cancer …” She was shocked when she heard this. The three of them hugged each other, crying bitterly.
My mind was thrown into utter turmoil and I felt a crushing pain. How could I have liver cancer? It was almost impossible to treat and I could die at any time. If I died, what were my wife and daughters going to do? Is this what all my years of hard work and sacrifice had led to? Were the blessings of the kingdom of heaven being denied to me? At the time, I felt such sorrow and despair. My wife, crying, said to me: “If you have this disease, it’s because God has allowed it. God is righteous. We must not blame or mistake Him. We must try to understand His will.” My wife’s words reminded me that, yes, God is righteous. I had to seek His will, without complaining. Seeing the pain my wife was in, I couldn’t help crying too. With tears in my eyes, I prayed silently to God: “God! You don’t do anything without meaning. Please, guide me to understand Your will.” After praying, I felt a lot calmer. I knew there was no cure for what I had, and I didn’t want to give my family more financial pressure, so I asked to be sent home to rest.
After two days, my brothers and sisters came to see me, and asked me how I was feeling. Seeing them, and thinking about how serious my condition was, I began to weep, and said: “Having you all with me, caring for me, is God’s love. But with a disease like this, I won’t be around much longer. I won’t be able to do my duty as usual anymore, and I won’t live to see God’s kingdom being realized.” A sister comforted me, and patiently said to me: “Brother, this disease is one of God’s trials. You must pray more, seek the truth, grasp God’s will, and stand witness in the trial of sickness!” Later, she gave me a few passages of God’s words about the meaning of God trying people. One of them left a deep impression on me: “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!” (“How One Should Satisfy God Amidst Trials” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). After reading this, I reflected on myself. Before, when I experienced the trial of sickness, I thought that I’d stood firm, and had abandoned the intent to gain blessings. But now that my disease had come back and was even worse than before, I was exposed again. I saw that my intent to gain blessings was deep-rooted and I hadn’t managed to pass God’s test. If I hadn’t been tried and refined again and again, this deep-seated intent to obtain blessings and my wild desires would have been hard to see, let alone change and be purified. At the same time, I saw God’s holy and righteous disposition. He scrutinizes the heart of man, and so He knew of my flaws and corruption. He used my disease to refine me, forcing me to know myself, seek the truth, and resolve my corrupt disposition. Trial and refinement are God’s love! Later, I reflected on my behavior, wondering why, in the face of my illness, my reaction had been to misread and blame God. Was I not still trying to barter with God? Wasn’t I always wanting God’s blessings, but not willing to accept what He had arranged for me? I’d always tried to make deals with God, but what was the cause of that?
A while later, I read some of God’s words: “All people 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; they abandon things, expend themselves for Him, and are faithful to Him, but still they do all these things for their own sakes. In sum, it is all done for the purpose of gaining blessings for themselves. In society, everything is done for personal benefit; believing in God is solely done to gain blessings. It is for the sake of gaining blessings that people forsake everything and can withstand much suffering: This is all empirical evidence of man’s corrupt nature” (“The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). “Nothing is more difficult to address than the demands people make of God. If nothing God does conforms to your thinking, and if He does not act in accordance with your thinking, then you are likely to resist—which shows that, in nature, man opposes God. This problem must be known and resolved by pursuing the truth. Those who are without the truth make many demands of God, whereas those who truly understand the truth make none; they feel only that they have not satisfied God enough, that they do not obey God enough. That people always make demands of God reflects their corrupt nature. If you do not treat this as a serious problem, if you do not treat it as something important, then there will be peril and hidden dangers on your path of belief. You are able to overcome ordinary things, but when your fate, prospects, and destination are involved, you are perhaps unable to overcome. At that time, if you are still without the truth, you may well fall back upon your old ways, and will thus become one of those who are destroyed” (“People Make Too Many Demands of God” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days).
The revelations in God’s words helped me understand that these attempts to trade with God were based on the satanic poisons of “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” and “Never lift a finger without a reward.” Whatever I did, I was always thinking first of how I could benefit myself and gain blessings. Even in my duty, I’d always had my own motives and taints. I hadn’t been completely loyal to God. Thinking back on the path I’d walked, I’d always made superficial sacrifices for God’s work, when in fact I’d been trying to exchange these small sacrifices for great blessings. To gain God’s blessings, any suffering had seemed worthwhile. But when my desires weren’t satisfied, and I got sick over and over, to where it seemed like I would die, all my misreading, blaming, resistance, and betrayal toward God was revealed. I’d done my duty in order to reach my destination. I’d been using God, cheating Him. I’d lost my conscience and reason. I’d been evil and despicable! If God’s orchestrations hadn’t repeatedly exposed me, I’d never have seen how selfish and deceitful I was. I’d treated my pursuit of blessings as appropriate, and had left God’s demands far behind. Whatever I’d done, whatever sacrifices I’d made, it didn’t matter—God would never praise this. If I didn’t pursue the truth, if my intent was still to get blessings for myself, God would detest and punish me. I’m grateful to God’s words for enlightening me, for allowing me to know myself through this sickness and abandon my wild demands. This is God’s salvation for me! The more I thought about it, the more I felt how great God’s love is. I prayed to God: “God! Your good will is behind my getting cancer. My life and death are in Your hands. I will obey You, and stand witness to satisfy You.”
After praying, I read a passage of God’s words: “You undergo the trials of Job, and at the same time you undergo the trials of Peter. When Job was tested, he stood witness, and in the end, Jehovah was revealed to him. Only after he stood witness was he worthy of seeing the face of God. Why is it said: ‘I hide from the land of filth but show Myself to the holy kingdom’? That means that only when you are holy and stand witness can you have the dignity to see the face of God. If you cannot stand witness for Him, you do not have the dignity to see His face. If you retreat or make complaints against God in the face of refinements, thus failing to stand witness for Him and becoming Satan’s laughing stock, then you will not gain the appearance of God. If you are like Job, who in the midst of trials cursed his own flesh and did not complain against God, and was able to detest his own flesh without complaining or sinning through his words, then you will be standing witness. When you undergo refinements to a certain degree and can still be like Job, utterly obedient in front of God and without other requirements of Him or your own notions, then God will appear to you” (“Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words showed me His holy and righteous essence. God only appears to those who stand witness while being tried and refined. When God tried Job, Job’s wealth, his children, his health and his happiness were all taken from him by Satan, and his body was covered in boils. But he didn’t complain, or blame God. He just hated and cursed himself. Facing this great trial, he was still able to obey God’s sovereignty and extoll His name in his position as a created being. He even said: “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away” (Job 1:21). These words stood as a beautiful, resounding testimony to God in the face of Satan, and in the end, God appeared to Job. This was the value that Job’s life had. The trial I faced had come about because God was showing me special kindness. I had to obey God’s orchestrations, just as Job did. I should not be restrained by my cancer. Instead, I should turn my life over to God and bear firm and resounding testimony to God in the face of Satan, comforting God’s heart. Only this is true loyalty, and true obedience! I laid aside my concerns and surrendered myself to God’s sovereignty, and before long my condition improved. My food tasted better, I could move normally, and could even do my duty to the best of my ability. Later, my daughters took me to the hospital for a checkup. The doctor couldn’t believe what had happened. He said that patients like me were rare, and that the fact I’d survived without being treated in a hospital was nothing short of a miracle! I knew then that this was God protecting me. I could feel that my life was in God’s hands, and experienced God’s sovereignty over all things.
A while after that, my illness broke out once again. My wife and daughters took me to the hospital, and when the chief physician saw how severe my illness was, he called in a specialist to examine me. When the results of the lab test came back, the specialist told me that they lacked the equipment to treat my disease, and suggested we pay over 200,000 yuan to transfer to the provincial hospital, where they could maybe treat it. Crying, my daughter said to my wife: “Did you hear the way he said that? No one’s going to be able to treat dad. More than thirty people have caught cancer in our village these past few years, and they’ve all died …” My wife’s face was wet with tears. I felt like a condemned man. Once again, I felt death closing in on me, and I couldn’t help but start to complain. How could this disease have come back, and still be so severe? But this time, I reproached myself. I felt remorse for my disobedience toward God. I thought of all my brushes with death, and how God had protected me and kept me alive each time. I had clearly seen God’s sovereignty, so how come I didn’t truly understand God? God alone had authority over life and death, not these doctors! So, I went before God and prayed. I said: “Dear God, once again, I am faced with my own death. I know Your good will is behind it. My life and death are in Your hands. I will obey You and stand witness to satisfy You!”
After I prayed, I read some of God’s words: “Who of the whole of mankind is not cared for in the eyes of the Almighty? Who does not live in the midst of the Almighty’s predestination? Does man’s life and death happen by his own choice? Does man control his own fate? Many people cry out for death, yet it is far away from them; many people want to be those who are strong in life and fear death, yet unbeknownst to them, the day of their demise draws near, plunging them into the abyss of death; many people look to the skies and sigh deeply; many people cry great, wailing sobs; many people fall amidst trials; and many people become prisoners of temptation. Though I do not appear in person to allow man to behold Me clearly, many people fear seeing My face, deeply afraid that I will strike them down, that I will snuff them out. Does man truly know Me, or does he not? No one can say for sure. Is this not so?” (“Chapter 11” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words had power and authority, and gave me confidence. God is the Creator, and God controls all. As a created being, I knew I must obey the sovereignty of the Creator. If I treasured my life and blamed God, I would be resisting Him, betraying Him, and I’d be ashamed to face Him, and my life would have no meaning. When I understood all this, I no longer felt restrained by death or disease. I said to my wife and daughters: “Don’t be sad. Even though the doctor has condemned me to death, I believe that my life and death are in God’s hands. All that God does is righteous. As long as I’m able to draw breath, I will stand and bear witness to satisfy God!” Later, I went back home to recuperate. Every day I would go before God and pray, and read God’s words. I felt calm, and at peace. The doctor gave me two boxes of serum to inject, costing less than ten yuan. I took it for a month, and the color returned to my fingers, and my appetite came back. Slowly, I started to regain my strength and vigor, until it was just as it was before I was sick. When I went back to the hospital for a checkup, the doctor said it was a miracle that I had recovered so quickly. Thanks be to God! I knew that all of this was thanks to God, that no one could have saved me besides Him. It’s like God says: “Obviously, it is not humanity that holds the power of life and death, not some being in the natural world, but the Creator, whose authority is unique. Mankind’s life and death are not the product of some law of the natural world, but a consequence of the sovereignty of the Creator’s authority” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I’d experienced God’s sovereignty, authority, and His miraculous deeds. I’d seen His love and salvation. From the bottom of my heart, I thanked and praised Him. When the people in the village saw me, they were all shocked. They said they hadn’t thought I would make it, that they never expected to see me again looking so healthy, and that I was really lucky to have had such a narrow escape! But I knew in my heart: This was nothing to do with luck. This was God’s power and authority. God saved me! Not long after, I resumed my duty at the church. Five years passed, and my disease never came back. This was more than I dared hope for. I truly thank God for what happened.
Through these trials of sickness, by the revelations of God’s words and faced with the facts, I gained some insight into my wrong views in faith and corrupt disposition, and came to know of God’s sovereignty, His righteous disposition, and His beautiful essence. I abandoned my intent to get blessings, and learned how to live my most meaningful and valuable life. I’m so grateful for God’s kindness!