After My Son’s Death
By Wang Li, China
One day in June 2014, my daughter called unexpectedly and said my son suffered an electric shock while fishing. She wasn’t sure of the exact details, but she told me to prepare myself. Hearing this news, I sat there on the bed, my mind awhirl. My son was the pillar of the family. How would we get by if something happened to him? When I regained some clarity, I figured, I’d been a believer for so many years and had always done a duty, so God would protect him. He’d be fine! I stood up, unsteady on my feet, and found someone to take me to the scene of the accident. When I arrived, I saw a forensic examiner doing an autopsy on my son. I was dazed, unable to accept what was right in front of my eyes, and lost the strength to walk. Someone braced me and walked me over to his body, step by step. Looking at his corpse, I couldn’t help but squat down and sob. My little grandson was just four months old. My husband and I were getting up there in years. How would we all get by without my son? Seeing me this way, my daughter said quietly, “Mom, he’s gone, but you still have me, and you still have God!” Her words “You still have God” awakened me in my grief. It was true. God is my support—how could I forget Him? I held back my grief, wiped away the tears, and went to deal with the necessary arrangements.
After I got back home, the thought of my son’s face brought tears to my eyes. I was really in pain. Friends, relatives, and neighbors smiled and said cuttingly, “So you believe in God, but your son still died from electrocution? God didn’t protect your family, in spite of your faith!” Later on my daughter criticized me too, saying, “Why did my brother die if you’re a believer? Why didn’t God protect him?” Hearing these things really rubbed salt in the wound for me. I couldn’t tolerate their ridicule—I started to have notions and misunderstandings of God. I thought of how I’d been expending myself during my faith in the Lord. Sometimes I’d ride my bike miles and miles to go support other believers, and summer or winter, in rain or wind, I never delayed. After accepting God’s work of the last days, I sacrificed even more to do my duty, and I participated enthusiastically in spreading the gospel and watering new believers. I kept following God even when the great red dragon oppressed me and ransacked my home. Why hadn’t God protected my family, after everything I’d given? Why would that happen? I was feeling more and more wronged, and I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I was so distraught for a few days. I didn’t want to reador pray, but I muddled my way through each day with darkness in my heart. Realizing I was in a dangerous state, I prayed to God, saying, “God, I can’t let go of my son’s death. I’m misunderstanding and blaming You. God, I’m so negative and weak right now. Please save me, help me understand Your will and come out from my incorrect state.”
I read this in God’s words after praying: “If they wish to be saved, and wish to be completely gained by God, then all those who follow God must face temptations and attacks both great and small from Satan. Those who emerge from these temptations and attacks and are able to fully defeat Satan are those who have been saved by God” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II). “People who have not been saved are prisoners to Satan, they have no freedom, they have not been relinquished by Satan, they are not qualified or entitled to , and they are closely pursued and viciously attacked by Satan. Such people have no happiness to speak of, they have no right to a normal existence to speak of, and moreover they have no dignity to speak of. Only if you stand up and do battle with Satan, using your faith in God and obedience to, and fear of God as the weapons with which to fight a life-and-death battle with Satan, such that you fully defeat Satan and cause it to turn tail and become cowardly whenever it sees you, so that it completely abandons its attacks and accusations against you—only then will you be saved and become free. If you are determined to fully break with Satan, but are not equipped with the weapons that will help you defeat Satan, then you will still be in danger; as time goes on, when you have been so tortured by Satan that there is not an ounce of strength left in you, yet you have still been unable to bear testimony, have still not completely freed yourself of Satan’s accusations and attacks against you, then you will have little hope of salvation. In the end, when the conclusion of God’s work is proclaimed, you will still be in the grip of Satan, unable to free yourself, and thus you will never have a chance or hope. The implication, then, is that such people will be completely in Satan’s captivity” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II). From God’s words, I understood that my son’s passing was a test for me. I had to rely on my faith to get through it and stand witness for God, not be negative and weak like I was then, lose faith in God, and misunderstand and blame Him. I thought of when Job was tested by Satan. Hillsides of his livestock and all his possessions were stolen by robbers, all 10 of his children died, and he himself was completely covered in boils. But Job preferred to curse the day of his birth, rather than denying God’s name and blaming Him. He said, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21). Job gave beautiful, resounding testimony for God and shamed Satan. But as for me, I was misunderstanding and blaming God after just losing my son. I couldn’t remotely compare to Job—I was so ashamed. I also thought of how, when Job was tested, his wife told him to just abandon God and die. It looked like his wife was denouncing him, but behind the surface, it was Satan testing him. Weren’t my friends, relatives, and my daughter playing the part of Satan? Satan was using the mockery of those around me to test and attack me so I’d betray God. If I kept living in negativity, misunderstanding and blaming God, I’d be falling for Satan’s trick and become its laughingstock, through and through. It was then that I realized, Satan was watching me through that whole ordeal, and God was hoping that I’d stand witness for Him and humiliate Satan. Over all my years of faith, I knew I’d enjoyed so much sustenance from God’s words, and now that it was time for me to give God testimony, I had to stop misunderstanding and blaming Him, and giving Satan a laugh. I had to stand witness and shame Satan! At this, I didn’t feel as miserable and helpless as before. My faith grew and I was ready to lean on God and get through that situation.
Later on, I was wondering why I got so negative and full of complaints in the face of that situation. Then one day, I read a passage in God’s words. “You hope that your faith in God will not entail any challenges or tribulations, or the slightest hardship. You always pursue those things that are worthless, and you attach no value to life, instead putting your own extravagant thoughts before the truth. You are so worthless! … 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? … Your life is contemptible and ignoble, you live amid filth and licentiousness, and you do not pursue any goals; is your life not the most ignoble of all? Do you have the gall to look upon God? If you continue to experience in this way, will you not acquire nothing? The true way has been given to you, but whether or not you can ultimately gain it depends on your own personal pursuit” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment). I saw from God’s words that I misunderstood and blamed God after my son’s death because I had the wrong perspective in my faith. Since gaining faith, I’d held on to the motive of being blessed, thinking that a whole family should be blessed from one person’s faith. I still thought that way after accepting God’s work of the last days, thinking as long as I expended myself for God, suffered and paid a price, God was certain to bless me, to protect my family and keep them safe and sound. That’s why, no matter what duty the church arranged for me, I submitted and proactively went along no matter how hard it was, trying hard to push on forward, happily accepting any amount of suffering. However friends and family slandered and rejected me and the government oppressed me, I kept doing a duty, never shrinking back. But when my son unexpectedly died of electrocution, I was living in misery every day, with no desire to pray or read God’s words. I didn’t have the same desire for pursuit, and I even tried to reason with God, using my previous efforts as capital. I blamed God for not taking into account all the sacrifices I’d made, not protecting my son. I didn’t see my true stature until it was revealed by that situation. I’d always thought before that I could make sacrifices for God, suffer and pay a price, so that was being devoted and obedient to Him, and He’d surely save me in the end. But my son’s death revealed my true stature and then I saw that there were too many motives and adulterations in my efforts. It was all in exchange for grace and blessings, and when my aim and hope for that were shattered, I didn’t have the slightest will to strive, or to perform my duty. This showed me that all those years of hard work were just for blessings, to strike a deal with God, not to do my duty to satisfy Him. I was using God, cheating Him. It was such a vile, ugly outlook on faith. Seeing that, I felt really indebted to God and hated myself for being a believer all those years, but not pursuing the truth or standing witness for God. I kneeled down before God and prayed, in tears, “God, I’ve been living in a negative state for some time now, misunderstanding and blaming You. That’s so hurtful and disappointing for You! O God, I want to repent!”
Then one day, I read this in God’s words: “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. From man’s perspective, if parents receive blessings, then their children should be able to, too, and if children commit evil, then their parents must atone for those sins. This is a human perspective and a human way of doing things; it is not God’s perspective. Everyone’s outcome is determined according to the essence that comes from their conduct, and it is always determined appropriately. No one can bear the sins of another; even more so, no one can receive punishment in another’s stead. This is absolute” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together). Pondering God’s words, I saw that everyone’s destination is determined according to their essence, and whether they do good or do evil, and it’s unrelated to others. In my faith and duty, no matter how much I suffered or paid a price, I was just doing my duty, fulfilling the responsibility, the obligation of a created being. That had nothing to do with my son’s fate or outcome, and he wouldn’t benefit as a result of my ordeals and efforts. A whole family being blessed from one person’s faith is something from the Age of Grace, but now in the last days, everyone is sorted according to their kind. God determines each person’s outcome according to their performance. I thought because I’d put out some effort for my duty, God should watch over my son. But that was an absurd perspective that wasn’t at all in line with the truth. God is the Creator, and all things’ fates and everyone’s destiny in life are in His hands. God determined a long time ago how many years my son would live for. When he died, that was the end of the lifespan God had ordained for him, and no one could change that. Whether they believe in God or not, everyone is a created being in His hands. He has the power to make the appropriate arrangements for every single creature, and whatever orchestrations and arrangements He makes, He is righteous. I should submit to His rule. This understanding brightened my heart right away, and I didn’t feel so miserable. My state gradually improved and I prayed and read God’s words every day. Sometimes I’d fellowship with brothers and sisters on my state and my son’s death didn’t impact me so much anymore.
That November, I became a church leader. I was so grateful to God, and I really threw myself into it. Before long, the compensation for my son’s death was disbursed, but to my shock, my daughter-in-law wanted to take it all. She even secretly took all the money he’d saved during his life and everything he had that was of value. She ran off with their son, too. I was left looking at their empty bedroom and thinking of when he was alive. Before, our family was all together, talking and laughing, but now both a life and property had been lost. I couldn’t keep the bitter tears back. My son was gone, and his wife had left. She’d also run off with all the valuables. Our family was broken and destitute—I had nothing. I’d been a believer for so many years, doing my duty through any and all conditions, and I’d been busy working in the church every day since becoming a leader. I didn’t run away from any difficulty, no matter how great. I was a true believer and I made genuine efforts for God. Why didn’t God do something about the way my daughter-in-law treated me? I was feeling more and more wronged, incredibly desolate and in pain.
One day, crying and sad, I remembered a passage of 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. In your experience, no matter what refinement you undergo through God’s words, what God requires of mankind, in brief, is their faith and their love for Him. What He perfects by working in this way is people’s faith, love, and aspirations. 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. When Job reached this point, God appeared to him and spoke to him. That is, it is only from within your faith that you will be able to see God, and when you have faith God will perfect you. Without faith, He cannot do this” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement). Thinking this through over and over, I saw that God perfects our faith and love through hardship. No matter what we face, what kind of pain and difficulties we encounter, God hopes that we’ll rely on our faith to get through it and stand witness for Him. I thought of Job losing all of his family’s possessions and his children, turning from a wealthy man into a penniless, destitute one. But he was still able to fall to the ground and praise the name of Jehovah God because he never believed that he gained his riches through his own labor and he didn’t see his children as his personal property. He knew very clearly that it had all come from God. On the surface it looked like robbers had stolen everything, but he didn’t look at things superficially—he accepted things from God and submitted. Job’s faith and reverence for God was refined through one trial and tribulation after another. And there was Abraham, who didn’t have a son until he was 100 years old, but when God told him to offer up his son as a sacrifice, though it was really painful for Abraham, he didn’t negotiate with God or reason with Him. He knew God had given him that son, so if God wanted him back, he should return him. Job and Abraham both had such a great conscience and reason, and their faith and submission could withstand the test of reality. But taking a look at myself, I misunderstood and blamed God when my son passed away, and later when I understood God’s will a bit thanks to His words, I submitted a little, so I thought I’d gained some stature and could stand witness. But when my daughter-in-law took off with our family valuables, complaints arose within me again. I saw I only wanted to enjoy God’s blessings and gifts, but couldn’t take any disaster or misfortune. Otherwise, I’d be negative and have complaints. I didn’t have any true reverence or submission for God. What these situations revealed time after time showed me my true stature. Without that, I’d still be blinded by my outward good behavior, and think that continuing to do a duty after my son’s death meant I possessed some devotion and stature. But God knew how deeply entrenched my transactional mentality and aim for blessings were. I had to go through all of these things so I could gradually gain some purification and change. God allowing all that to happen to me was His salvation for me. I felt guiltier the more I thought about it, and prostrated myself before God to pray: “O God! Now I see that after all my years as a believer, I still don’t have true faith in You. I still complain when something happens that I don’t like, and I totally lack testimony. God, I want to repent to You. Please guide me to know myself.”
Later on I read a passage of God’s words that gave me some true understanding of the path I’d really been on all those years. God’s words say, “Since the people of today do not possess the same humanity as Job, what of their nature and essence, and their attitude toward God? Do they fear God? Do they shun evil? Those who do not fear God or shun evil can only be summed up with three words: ‘enemies of God.’ You often say these three words, but you have never known their real meaning. The words ‘enemies of God’ have essence: They are not saying that God sees man as the enemy, but that man sees God as the enemy. First, when people begin to believe in God, which of them does not have their own aims, motivations, and ambitions? Even though one part of them believes in the existence of God and has seen the existence of God, their belief in God still contains those motivations, and their ultimate aim in believing in God is to receive His blessings and the things they want. In people’s life experiences, they often think to themselves, I’ve given up my family and career for God, and what has He given me? I must add it up, and confirm it—have I received any blessings recently? I’ve given a lot during this time, I’ve run and run, and have suffered much—has God given me any promises in return? Has He remembered my good deeds? What will my end be? Can I receive God’s blessings? … Every person constantly makes such calculations within their heart, and they make demands of God which bear their motivations, ambitions, and a transactional mentality. This is to say, in his heart man is constantly testing God, constantly devising plans about God, constantly arguing the case for his own individual end with God, and trying to extract a statement from God, seeing whether or not God can give him what he wants. At the same time as pursuing God, man does not treat God as God. Man has always tried to make deals with God, ceaselessly making demands of Him, and even pressing Him at every step, trying to take a mile after being given an inch. At the same time as trying to make deals with God, man also argues with Him, and there are even people who, when trials befall them or they find themselves in certain situations, often become weak, passive and slack in their work, and full of complaints about God. From the time when man first began to believe in God, he has considered God to be a cornucopia, a Swiss Army knife, and he has considered himself to be God’s greatest creditor, as if trying to get blessings and promises from God were his inherent right and obligation, while God’s responsibility were to protect and care for man, and to provide for him. Such is the basic understanding of ‘belief in God’ of all those who believe in God, and such is their deepest understanding of the concept of belief in God. From man’s nature and essence to his subjective pursuit, there is nothing that relates to the fear of God. Man’s aim in believing in God could not possibly have anything to do with the worship of God. That is to say, man has never considered nor understood that belief in God requires fearing and worshiping God. In light of such conditions, man’s essence is obvious. What is this essence? It is that man’s heart is malicious, harbors treachery and deceit, does not love fairness and righteousness and that which is positive, and it is contemptible and greedy. Man’s heart could not be more closed to God; he has not given it to God at all. God has never seen man’s true heart, nor has He ever been worshiped by man. No matter how great the price God pays, or how much work He does, or how much He provides to man, man remains blind and utterly indifferent to it all. Man has never given his heart to God, he only wants to mind his heart himself, to make his own decisions—the subtext of which is that man does not want to follow the way of fearing God and shunning evil, or to obey the sovereignty and arrangements of God, nor does he want to worship God as God. Such is the state of man today” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II). The revelation and judgment of God’s words were so poignant for me. The words “enemies of God” were particularly hard for me. I never imagined that I’d be exposed as an enemy of God after all my years of faith, but God’s words really did reveal the truth about me. “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost” and “Never lift a finger without a reward” were satanic poisons I lived by. I’d become so selfish, vile, and self-serving. I put my own interests above all else and in everything I only considered whether or not I’d be blessed, whether I’d benefit. I always put my personal interests first. When I first became a believer, it was with the goal of receiving grace and blessings. After accepting God’s new work, I didn’t directly ask God for those things, but deep down I felt that since I was expending myself, God should watch over me and give me all the blessings I wanted. I even brazenly thought that it was what I deserved, that since I’d paid a price, God had to give back, and otherwise He wasn’t righteous. When my family was safe and well and I could see God’s grace and blessings, I was full of energy in my duty and felt like any amount of suffering was worth it. When my son died of electrocution, I saw God wasn’t protecting my family, so I was full of resentment toward Him. When my interests were compromised, I blamed God for not watching over me. I even used my efforts and suffering as a bargaining chip to reason with God. I felt like any amount of grace from God was a matter of course, but when He did something I didn’t like, I became unhappy with Him right away, griping and misjudging Him. I saw I was both selfish and malicious, without any conscience or reason. I was a nonbeliever, and I was absolutely an enemy of God! I thought of Paul who went all over Europe sharing the gospel and he suffered quite a bit, but all that hard work was just in exchange for the blessings of God’s kingdom. After he’d done quite a bit, 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). What a thing to say. What Paul meant by that was that he’d suffered so much to spread the gospel that God had to give him a crown, that it was what he deserved, otherwise God wasn’t righteous. By saying that, he was coercing God and was essentially instigating, clamoring, openly challenging God. In the end he offended God’s disposition and was punished by Him. I saw I was the same. I blamed and misunderstood God when I couldn’t see His grace and blessings, judging Him in my heart as unrighteous. Wasn’t I on the same path as Paul, going against God?
After that, I read more of God’s words: “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 very 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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Difference Between the Ministry of God Incarnate and the Duty of Man). It’s true. A duty is God’s commission for us, and it’s a responsibility that we can’t shirk. It’s right and proper, just like children being filial to their parents. It has to be unconditional. As a created being, making some sacrifices in my faith and my duty is a responsibility, an obligation I should fulfill. I shouldn’t treat it as capital or a bargaining chip to make deals with God. Whether I end up enjoying blessings or suffering misfortune, I should submit to God’s rule and arrangements, and do my duty. From birth to death, through calamity or fortune, whether someone’s a believer or an unbeliever, they’re bound to encounter plenty of difficulties and setbacks throughout their lives. My son’s early death and the other misfortunes in my family were all perfectly normal things to encounter. But I had too strong of a desire for blessings and I’d made some sacrifices in my duty, I felt I’d made a real contribution, so I wanted to use these things to demand God’s rewards. I misunderstood and blamed God when I didn’t get them. I saw how selfish and vile I was by nature, and what an absurd perspective I had. I thought about what enormous suffering and humiliation God has suffered twice in the flesh for our salvation, but He’s never expressed how much blood, sweat and tears He’s paid for that. He just quietly expresses truths in obscurity, performing His work to save mankind. His love for us is so great! As a believer for years, I’d enjoyed so much of God’s grace and blessing and so much watering and sustenance from the truth, but I always wanted to use my paltry little sacrifices as capital, audaciously demanding that God bless me and protect my family members. I saw I really was shameless, and terribly unreasonable. I felt more regret and guilt as I thought about it. I remembered God’s words: “Those without humanity are incapable of truly loving God. When the environment is safe and secure, or there are profits to be made, they are totally obedient toward God, but once that which they desire is compromised or finally refuted, they immediately revolt. Even in the space of just one night, they may go from a smiling, ‘kind-hearted’ person to an ugly-looking and ferocious killer, suddenly treating their benefactor of yesterday as their mortal enemy, without rhyme or reason. If these demons are not cast out, these demons that would kill without blinking an eye, will they not become a hidden danger?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Work and Man’s Practice). God’s words left me feeling I had nowhere to hide. I was precisely this type of person. My faith was so that I would gain blessings, and when my wishes weren’t fulfilled, when something unfortunate happened in my family, I immediately stood against God and got resentful of Him, even treating Him like an enemy. It was the revelations in God’s words that ultimately made me see my true face. It turned out I was opposed to God by nature. Realizing this filled me with regret and guilt. I kneeled before God and tearfully prayed, full of remorse, “God, I’m exactly the kind of person lacking humanity that You describe. I wanted to use what little I’d given to do a deal with You. I was cheating and resisting You—I owe You so much! God, I want to repent to You. No matter what You arrange, I’m ready to submit and accept it, to pour my all into my duty to repay Your love!” After that, I made an effort to pray to God and read His words more and put all my energy into my duty. By doing this, I regained my peace and joy, and I was no longer consumed by the pain of losing my son.
Even though this was a painful experience, it was exactly that type of suffering that showed me my vile aim of pursuing blessings, the corruption and adulteration in faith, and I gained some understanding of my satanic nature of resisting God. Without going through these difficulties, without the revelation of the facts, I wouldn’t have seen my true stature. This experience really taught me that the more we encounter unpleasant things, the more truths there are to seek. God’s love and salvation for us is behind it. Thank God!