8. Sufferings Are God’s Blessings
By Wang Gang, China
One afternoon in the winter of 2008, when two sisters and I were testifying of God’s work in the last days to a gospel target, we were reported by evil people. Six police officers used the excuse of needing to check our residence permits to charge into the home of the gospel target. As they came in the door, they roared: “Don’t move!” Two of the police officers seemed completely out of their minds as they pounced on me; one of them grabbed the clothes on my chest and the other grabbed my arms and used all his strength to cinch them behind me, then he fiercely asked: “What are you doing? What is your name? Where are you from?” I asked in reply: “What are you doing? What are you arresting me for?” When they heard me say this, they got really angry and aggressively said: “It doesn’t matter what the reason is, you are the one we are looking for and you’re coming with us!” Afterward, the police officers took me and the two sisters and pushed us into the police vehicle.
After we got to the Public Security Bureau, the police officers took me and locked me up in a small room; they ordered me to crouch on the floor and arranged four of them to watch me. Because I had squatted for a long time, I became so tired that I couldn’t take it. The instant I tried to stand up, they scuttled over and pressed my head down to prevent me from standing up. Not long after, I heard blood-curdling screams of someone being tortured in the room next door, and at that moment, I became very afraid: I don’t know what torture they will use on me next! I began urgently praying to God in my heart: “Oh Almighty God, I am very afraid right now, please give me faith and power, and make me firm and courageous. I’m willing to stand testimony for You. If I can’t bear their cruel torture, I would rather commit suicide by biting off my tongue than ever betray You like Judas!” After praying, I felt strength rise up inside me, and my fear subsided.
That evening after 7 p.m., they handcuffed my arms behind my back, took me to the interrogation room upstairs and shoved me to the floor. There were all kinds of torture instruments such as ropes, wooden sticks, batons, whips, etc. A policeman held an electric baton in his hands, which made wild zapping and popping noises, and he made threatening demands for information: “How many people are in your church? Where is your meeting location? Who is in charge? How many people are in the area preaching the gospel? Speak up! Otherwise, you will get what’s coming!” I looked at the looming danger of the electric baton and looked again at the room filled with torture instruments; I couldn’t help but feel nervous and afraid. I didn’t know if I would be able to overcome this torture, so I kept calling out to God. Seeing I didn’t say anything, he became flustered and violently jabbed me on the left side of my chest with the electric baton. He shocked me for nearly a minute. I immediately felt like the blood in my body had been boiled; I was in unbearable pain from head to foot and I rolled around on the floor screaming incessantly. He still wouldn’t give up on me and suddenly he started dragging me up and used a baton to lift my head up by my chin, yelling: “Speak up! You won’t confess anything?” In facing the insane torture of these demons, I only feared that I would not be able to bear their torture and would thus betray God, and so I desperately prayed to God in my heart. At this time, I thought about God’s words, “Those in power may seem vicious from the outside, but do not be afraid, for this is because you have little faith. As long as your faith grows, nothing will be too difficult” (“Chapter 75” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words gave me faith and power again, and I recognized that even though the evil police officers in front of me were crazed and unbridled, they were arranged by the hand of God. Without God’s permission, they couldn’t kill me. As long as I leaned on faith and relied on God and didn’t give in to them, they would inevitably fail in humiliation. In thinking about this, I summoned all the strength of my body and replied in a loud voice: “Why have you brought me here? Why are you electrocuting me with an electric baton? What crime have I committed?” The evil policeman suddenly became like a deer in the headlights and weighed down with a guilty conscience. He stuttered and couldn’t say anything. Then they left with their tails between their legs. In seeing the disgraceful situation of Satan’s dilemma, I was moved to tears. In this predicament, I truly experienced the power and authority of Almighty God’s words. As long as I put God’s word into practice, then I would see God’s deeds. Two police officers came in five or six minutes later, but this time they tried another tactic. A skinny officer said to me really warmly, “Just play nice for a bit. Answer our questions, otherwise we won’t be able to let you go.” I didn’t say a word, so he brought over a piece of paper for me to sign. Seeing the words “reeducation through labor” written on it, I refused. The other officer landed a vicious smack on my left ear, nearly hard enough to send me to the floor. My ear was ringing for a while and it took me quite a while to regain clarity. They handcuffed me again and locked me up in that small room.
After returning to the small room, I was bruised and battered, the pain was unbearable. I couldn’t help but feel sick at heart and weak: I preached the gospel with good intentions, I showed people that the Savior had come and that they had to hurry up and pursue the truth and be saved, and yet I have unexpectedly suffered this persecution. In thinking about this, I felt more so that I had been wronged. I called out to God in prayer in my suffering, saying, “Oh God, my stature is too small and I’m too weak. God, I want to lean on You and stand witness for You. Please guide me.” Later, I thought of a hymn of God’s words: “Do not be discouraged, do not be weak, and I will make things clear for you. The road to the kingdom is not so smooth; nothing is that simple! You want blessings to come to you easily. Today, everyone will have bitter trials to face. Without such trials, the loving heart you have for Me will not grow stronger and you will not have true love for Me. Even if these trials consist merely of minor circumstances, everyone must pass through them; it’s just that the difficulty of the trials will vary from one person to another. Trials are a blessing from Me, and how many of you come often before Me and beg on your knees for My blessings? You always think that a few auspicious words count as My blessing, yet you do not recognize that bitterness is one of My blessings” (“The Pain of Trials Is a Blessing From God” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). I understood from God’s words that being faced with this persecution and hardship was so that He could perfect my faith and love. That environment was God’s blessing. How could I complain and blame God? I was arrested and tortured, but throughout the entire ordeal God was guiding me with His words; this was God’s love. I sang that hymn in my heart, and the longer I sang it, the more invigorated I felt. It also restored my faith and I swore to God: “God, no matter how the police torture me, I wish to stand witness and never betray You. I’m determined to follow You until the very end.”
At the detention house, the police officers continued to use all sorts of torture methods on me and frequently incited the prisoners to beat up on me. In the chilling cold of winter, they instructed the prisoners to pour buckets of cold water on me and forced me to have a cold shower. I was shivering with cold from head to toe. Experiencing palpitations and breaking out in a sweat, my heart hurt to the point that my back was in agony, too. The prisoners there were machines making money for the Chinese Communist Party and didn’t have any legal rights. They had no other choice but to endure being squeezed and taken advantage of like slaves. During the day, the prison guards forced me to print paper money used as burnt offerings for the dead. At first, they set a rule that I had to print 1,000 pieces of paper per day, then they increased it to 1,800 pieces per day, and finally to 3,000 pieces. This amount was impossible for an experienced person to complete, let alone an inexperienced person like me. In fact, they intentionally made it so I couldn’t complete it all so that they could have an excuse to torment and ravage me. As long as I couldn’t meet the quota, the evil police officers would put fetters around my legs that weighed over 5 kg, and they bound my hands and feet together with shackles. All I could do was sit there, bow my head and bend my back, not able to move. Even more despicable was that these inhuman and unfeeling police officers didn’t ask or care about my basic necessities. Even though the toilet was in the jail cell, I was completely unable to walk over and use it; I could only plead with my cellmates to lift me up onto the toilet. If they were slightly better prisoners, then they would pull me up; if nobody helped me, then I would have no other choice but to hold it. The most painful time was mealtime, because my hands and feet were handcuffed together. I could only lower my head with all my strength and raise my hands and feet. This was the only way I could put a steamed bun into my mouth. I spent a great amount of energy on every bite. The shackles rubbed into my hands and feet causing immense pain. After a long time, my wrists and ankles had developed dark and shiny hard calluses. Often times I couldn’t eat when I was locked up, and on rare occasions, prisoners would give me two small steamed buns. Most of the time they would eat my portion and all I got was an empty stomach. I received even less to drink; originally, everyone was only given two bowls of water per day, but I was locked up and couldn’t move, so I was rarely able to drink any water. I was subjected to that kind of inhuman torture four times, lasting a total of ten days. Even in those conditions, the officers made me work the night shift. I’d gone a long time without ever being able to eat my fill; my hunger often left me with palpitations, nausea, and tightness in my chest. I’d also turned into a bag of bones. When my hunger got to the point that I really couldn’t take it, I thought of something the Lord Jesus said back to Satan in the midst of a temptation: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). That gave me a sense of relief, and I felt ready to personally experience those words from God in Satan’s persecution of me. I quieted myself before God to pray and ponder His words, and before I knew it, my pain and hunger had subsided. Once a prisoner said to me: “There was a young person who was handcuffed and starved to death like this before. I have seen that you have not eaten much for several days and you are still in such high spirits.” In hearing his words, I silently gave thanks to God. I deeply felt that this was the power of life in God’s words supporting me. This truly made me feel that God’s word is the truth, the way, and the life and is certainly the foundation I should rely on to survive. Therefore, my faith in God unconsciously increased. In this environment of suffering I was able to truly experience the reality of the truth that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” This is truly the most precious wealth of life God has granted me, and is also my unique gift. Moreover, I could never have obtained this in an environment where I didn’t have to worry about food or clothes. This suffering had so much meaning and value!
This experience of persecution and torture intensified the hatred I had in my heart for the Communist Party. I was arrested and subjected to all manner of torture for nothing more than believing in God. It was inhuman abuse; it was utterly evil! I thought of a passage of God’s words I’d read before: “The face of the deep is chaotic and dark, while the common folk, suffering such affliction, cry to Heaven and complain to earth. When will man be able to hold his head up high? Man is scrawny and emaciated, how could he contend with this cruel and tyrannical devil? Why does he not give his life to God as soon as he can? Why does he still waver? When can he finish God’s work? Thus aimlessly bullied and oppressed, his whole life will ultimately have been spent in vain; why is he in such a hurry to arrive, and such a rush to depart? Why does he not keep something precious to give to God? Has he forgotten the millennia of hate?” (“Work and Entry (8)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This experience showed me the true essence of the Communist Party as an enemy of God, an enemy of the truth. It strengthened my resolve to stand witness for God.
One month later, the CCP police foisted the unwarranted charge on me of “disturbing the order of society and destroying the implementation of the law,” and I was sentenced to one year of reform through labor. Once I entered the labor camp, the police officers forced me to work every day. While I was in the workshop counting bags, I would count out 100 bags and then tie them together. The prisoners would always intentionally come and take one or several bags from what I had counted, then they would say that I didn’t count right and take that as an opportunity to punch and kick me. When the team captain saw me get beaten up, he would come over and hypocritically ask me what was going on and the prisoners would present false evidence that I was not counting enough bags. Then I would have to endure a barrage of stern criticism from the team captain. Whenever I felt wronged and in pain, I would sing a hymn of God’s words as I worked: “During these last days you must bear testimony to God. No matter how great your suffering, you should walk until the very end, and even at your last breath, still you must be faithful to God and at the mercy of God; only this is truly loving God, and only this is the strong and resounding testimony” (“Seek to Love God No Matter How Great Your Suffering” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). As I sang and sang, I began feeling moved and inspired, and I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing down my cheeks. I set my resolve that no matter how much I suffered, I would stand witness for God. There was another brother around my same age who happened to be locked up with me at the time. We weren’t allowed to speak when we were working during the day, but at night we’d secretly write out passages of God’s words and hymns that we’d memorized and exchange them with each other. After a while we were assigned to work together, so we’d very quietly share fellowship, helping and encouraging each other. It really helped alleviate the suffering.
In addition, I was forced to memorize the “rules of conduct” every morning, and if I didn’t memorize it, I would be beaten; they also forced me to sing songs that praised the Communist Party. If they saw that I was not singing or that my lips were not moving, then at night I would unavoidably be beaten up. They also punished me by making me mop the floor, and if I didn’t mop to their expectations, then I would be violently beaten. One time, some prisoners suddenly started hitting and kicking me. After beating me, they asked me: “Youngster, do you know why you are being beaten? It is because you didn’t stand up and greet the warden when he came over.” After each time I was beaten, I became angry but didn’t dare to say anything; I could only cry and silently pray to God, telling Him about the resentment and grievance in my heart. In this lawless, irrational place, there was no rationality, there was only violence. There were no people here, there were only insane demons! I felt so much pain and pressure living in this plight every day; I wasn’t willing to stay a minute longer. Each time I fell into a condition of weakness and pain, I would think about Almighty God’s words: “Have you ever accepted the blessings that you were given? Have you ever sought the promises that were made for you? You will surely, under the guidance of My light, break through the stranglehold of the forces of darkness. You will surely not, in the midst of darkness, lose the light guiding you. You will surely be the master of all creation. You will surely be an overcomer before Satan. You will surely, at the downfall of the kingdom of the great red dragon, stand up amid the myriad throngs to bear witness to My victory. You will surely stand firm and unwavering in the land of Sinim. Through the sufferings you endure, you will inherit My blessings, and will surely radiate My glory throughout the entire universe” (“Chapter 19” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words encouraged me. I understood that everything God had done in me was to provide for me and save me; it was to put truth into me and make truth my life. God permitted the persecution and tribulation to come upon me, and even though I suffered much physically, it allowed me to see clearly the great red dragon’s evil essence of resisting and hating God, detest and forsake it, completely escape Satan’s influence, and turn entirely to God and be made into an overcomer by God. It also allowed me to be able to truly experience that God is with me; it caused me to truly enjoy God’s words becoming the bread of my life and the lamp to my feet and the light to my path, leading me step by step through this dark hell hole. This is the love and protection of God that I enjoyed and obtained during the persecution and tribulation. At this time, I was able to see that I was so blind. In believing in God, I only knew how to enjoy God’s grace and blessing and didn’t pursue the truth and life in the slightest degree. Once my flesh suffered a little hardship, I would whine incessantly; I simply didn’t understand the will of God and didn’t seek to understand the work of God. I would always cause God to feel grief and pain over me. I was truly without conscience! In feeling remorse and self-blame, I silently prayed to God: “Oh Almighty God, I can see that everything You do is to save and obtain me. I just hate that I am so rebellious and blind. I have always misunderstood You and have not been considerate of Your will. Oh God, today Your word has awakened my numb heart and spirit and has caused me to understand Your will. I am no longer willing to have my own desires and requirements; I will only submit to Your arrangements. No matter how much suffering I have to endure, I will bear testimonies to You throughout Satan’s persecutions.” After praying, I understood God’s good intentions, and I knew that each environment God allowed me to experience was God’s greatest love and salvation for me. Therefore, I would no longer think to cower or misunderstand God. Even though the situation was still the same, my heart was truly full of joy and pleasure; I felt that it was an honor to be able to suffer hardships and persecution for my belief in God, and it was a unique gift for me, a corrupt person; it was God’s special blessing and grace for me.
After having experienced a year of hardship in prison, I see that I am so small of stature and that I lack so much truth. Almighty God truly has made up for my deficiencies through this unique environment and allowed me to grow. In my adversity, He has enabled me to obtain the most precious wealth in life, to understand many truths I didn’t understand in the past and to clearly see the CCP’s heinous crimes of persecuting God and tormenting Christians. I have recognized the repulsive appearance of Satan, the demon, and the reactionary essence of its resistance to God. I have earnestly experienced the great salvation and mercy Almighty God has for me, a corrupt person, and felt that the power and life in Almighty God’s words can bring me light and be my life and lead me to prevail over Satan and to tenaciously walk out of the valley of the shadow of death. Thanks be to God!