Blessings Brought From Illness
By Xiao Lan, China
In 2014, the Communist Party started smearingwith the May 28 Zhaoyuan Case and arresting brothers and sisters left and right. Most of the church leaders in our area were captured and some of the brothers and sisters new to the faith were living in fear and negativity. It was at this critical time that I was promoted to be responsible for the work of several churches. I thought to myself, “Taking the helm in a time of crisis is a huge responsibility, and I can’t let God down.” So, I threw myself into my duty, facing the danger that I could be arrested at any moment. I felt that God would approve of me protecting the church’s work through such a time of danger and that I would certainly be worthy of being saved by God and of entering His kingdom. And then out of nowhere, I became seriously ill.
One evening in October of 2014, I suddenly dropped my bowl on the floor while I was eating dinner. I thought I had just dropped it out of carelessness, so I rushed to pick the bowl up and tried to get a tissue to wipe off my hands when I realized that I didn’t have control over my own hands and that I couldn’t pick up the tissue. Before long, I lost all feeling in my hands and feet and I just sat there in a chair, not able to move at all. My family took my blood pressure, which turned out to be over 200. I took some medication to reduce blood pressure, but this did nothing at all. I was so confused, and wondered, “How could this have happened? Could this be something serious?” But then I figured that I’d been putting so much into my duty over all those years of faith, so I was sure I’d receive God’s grace and that it couldn’t be anything serious. Even if I was sick, I thought God would protect me and heal me. I felt a lot calmer after that occurred to me. When I woke up the next morning, I started gently trying to move my hands and feet and found that everything felt normal on the right side of my body, but that my left arm and leg were still numb, and I could hardly feel a thing. I tensed up right away, thinking “Why aren’t I completely better? Am I going to be partially paralyzed? If so, there’d be no way to do my duty anymore. Will I become useless and be eliminated? Will I still have a chance at salvation?” But then, I thought that what happened was so severe and that recovering halfway overnight must be a blessing from God. If God healed me, then my recovery should be a simple thing, right? I felt like I had God’s protection and that I didn’t need to worry too much.
I went to the doctor that morning, and after a CT scan, the doctor said with a grave look on his face, “You had a right-side intracranial hemorrhage with about 10 ml of blood. If the site of bleeding had been just a little higher, that would have been the locus for speech. You would have lost your ability to speak, and probably would have become a vegetable. Seeing as how this happened last night, you’re incredibly lucky that you’ve made it this far. You need treatment immediately.” He went on to say that they’d start with an infusion and approach treatment conservatively and that if the blood clots in my brain didn’t dissolve, they’d have to do brain surgery. My mind went totally blank at the mention of brain hemorrhage. I’d never dared to imagine that it could be something so serious. “I’m not even 50 years old,” I thought to myself, “if the treatment isn’t successful and I stay partially paralyzed, or become a fully paralyzed zombie, what kind of a terrible life will that be? And brain surgery is so risky, it could even cost me my life. Then could I still be saved and get into God’s kingdom? I’ve been giving my all over my years of faith, so why do I have such a serious health problem? Why isn’t God protecting me?” I got more upset the more I thought about it and couldn’t even get lunch down. Around my fifth day in the hospital, an old woman in the bed next to mine suddenly got a lot worse and had to be transferred to another hospital. Seeing this made me nervous again, and I thought, “We were admitted on the same day, and she was walking all around, but now they’re wheeling her out. It seems like you can’t tell if someone will survive something like this or not. Will I suddenly take a turn for the worse, too?”
Even after nearly a week in the hospital, I still didn’t have any real feeling in my left leg. I thought, “Why isn’t God looking out for me? I can’t do my duty at such a critical time, have I lost my chance at salvation?” This thought sent a real chill through my heart, and I started crying and couldn’t stop. I’d worked so hard over my nine years of faith, never letting anything stand in my way. I had never hesitated to take on any kind of difficulty or problem that arose in the church, and I didn’t shrink back even when I was facing the real danger of being arrested. I always kept doing my duty. Over my years as a leader, I’d suffered more and put more into my duty than the other brothers and sisters. I thought that by giving so much, and with that kind of sacrifice, God should bless me. How could I have gotten so seriously ill so suddenly? How had God not protected me? If I didn’t get better and I couldn’t take on a duty, could I still be saved? If not, then were all those years of sacrifice and hard work in vain? I felt like I wouldn’t have put in so much if I’d known this would happen. I was feeling more miserable the more I thought about it. I didn’t even want to pray or ponderanymore. I was feeling really agitated, and without realizing it I put my arm receiving the infusion under my head, dislodging the needle, which made my hand swell up. Seeing my swollen hand left me feeling miserable. I thought about the brothers and sisters out there bursting with energy, sharing the gospel and doing their duty, while I was just lying in the hospital, not able to do any duty at all. Wasn’t I utterly useless? And with it being the time to spread the kingdom gospel, the others were all able to perform their duty and do good deeds while I would probably be eliminated. I felt like I wasn’t going to be saved by God after all. That night, I was tossing and turning in bed, and couldn’t sleep at all. Totally lost in my misery, I came before God in tears and prayed: “Oh God, I’m really suffering right now. I know that You have allowed this to happen to me and I shouldn’t misunderstand You. Please guide me to understand Your will, so I can submit to Your rule and arrangements.”
While I was in the hospital, a sister sent me an MP5 player, and when everyone else was asleep, I put in my earphones and listened to God’s words. One of the passages was incredibly helpful for me. God’s words say, “For all people, refinement is excruciating, and very difficult to accept—yet it is during refinement that God makes plain His righteous disposition to man, and makes public His requirements for man, and provides more enlightenment, and more actual pruning and dealing; through the contrast between facts and the truth, He helps man know himself better, and gives man a greater understanding of the truth and God’s will, thus allowing man to have a truer and purer love of God. Such are God’s aims in carrying out refinement. All the work that God does in man has its own aims and significance; God does not do work that is meaningless or unbeneficial 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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only by Experiencing Refinement Can Man Possess True Love). As I thought this over, I realized that when God tests and refines people, it’s not to eliminate them, but to purify and transform them. But I wasn’t seeking God’s will or trying to understand His work. Since my stroke, I’d just been misunderstanding and blaming God. I’d been so foolish! So I said a prayer to God. I was willing to submit, read God’s words to reflect and know myself, and learn a lesson.
I read this in God’s word, “The saddest thing about mankind’s belief in God is that man conducts his own management amidst the work of God and yet pays no heed to God’s management. Man’s biggest failure lies in how, at the same time as seeking to submit to God and worship Him, man is constructing his own ideal destination and plotting how to receive the greatest blessing and the best destination. Even if one understands how pitiable, detestable, and pathetic they are, how many can readily abandon their ideals and hopes? Who can halt their own steps and not think only of themselves? God needs those who work closely with Him to complete His management, those who submit to Him, devoting body and mind to the work of His management, not those who hold out hands to beg from Him every day, much less those who give a little and then wait to be rewarded. God despises those who give a trifle then rest on their laurels, those cold-blooded ones who resent His management work and only wish to speak of going to heaven, being blessed. He loathes even more those who exploit the opportunity of His work of salvation. That’s because these people have never cared about what God wants to achieve and gain through His management work. Their only care is how to use the opportunity of God’s work to gain blessings. They care not about God’s heart, but think only of their prospects and fate. Those who resent the work of God’s management and lack even the slightest interest in how God saves mankind and His will do just what pleases themselves, detached from God’s management work. Their behavior is neither remembered nor approved of by God—much less is it favorably looked upon by God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Man Can Only Be Saved Amidst God’s Management). God’s words revealed exactly the state I was in. When I first became a believer, I saw what God promised to man and I thought that as long as we work hard and make sacrifices for God, and pursue the truth, we can be saved and get into God’s kingdom. So I threw myself wholeheartedly into my duty, through any adverse conditions that came my way. When other brothers and sisters had difficulties, I’d rush to support and help them. I even kept doing my duty when I was facing the very real danger of arrest. I thought that this kind of sacrifice would certainly earn me God’s protection and blessings, and that I’d have a place in the kingdom of heaven. When I got sick and I was facing the possibility of being partially paralyzed, I felt like God hadn’t protected or blessed me and that I’d lost my chance at a good future and destination. I was filled with complaints, I misunderstood and conflicted with God and even wanted to settle accounts, calculating everything I’d done. With all of the effort I had put in, I was reasoning with God, arguing with Him, crying out against Him. Was I not precisely what God meant when He said “those who give a little and then wait to be rewarded” and “those who give a trifle then rest on their laurels”? In the face of major illness, my hidden motive to gain blessings and the transactional perspective lying behind my sacrifices in my faith all came to the fore. I wasn’t doing my duty to gain the truth and cast off corruption, rather, I had been wanting to use superficial sacrifices in exchange for God’s grace and blessings, in exchange for the blessings of the kingdom. I was doing deals with God, using Him and cheating Him. How could an opportunist like me be worthy of heavenly kingdom? If it hadn’t been for that stroke, I would have been completely fooled by all of my superficial efforts and I never would have recognized my despicable motives to pursue blessings, or the adulteration in my faith. I would have kept resisting God in my faith, without any idea of what I was doing.
I kept on reflecting to myself after that, and on why I was always trying to do deals with God in my duty. I read this in God’s words in my seeking: “All corrupt humans live for themselves. Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost—this is the summation of human nature. People’s faith is self-serving; they give things up, expend themselves for God, are devoted to Him, but all for themselves. In sum, all is to gain blessings themselves. In the world, all is for personal gain; faith is merely for blessings reaped. People forsake all and bear much suffering for the sake of gaining blessings: This is all empirical evidence of man’s corrupt nature” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition). God’s words showed me the root of my transactional attitude in my faith. Sayings like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” and “Never lift a finger without a reward” were satanic ideas that had rooted themselves deep in my heart and had become laws of survival for me. In everything I did, my personal benefit was first and foremost, so I felt I should be rewarded for what I contributed. Even in my work for God, I was just trying to do a deal with Him and I thought that gaining blessings in my faith was perfectly natural. When I had a stroke after having worked so hard and made so many sacrifices, and I realized I could die at any moment, and that I lost all hope of being saved, of having a good outcome and destination, so I immediately stood against God and blamed Him. I was calculating everything I’d done, arguing with God, going up against Him. I was living by Satan’s poisons, without any kind of human likeness at all. If I didn’t repent, I’d be eliminated and punished sooner or later.
There were a couple more passages of God’s words that I read later on that gave me an understanding of the mistaken perspective on pursuit in my faith. (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks). “If what you seek is the truth, if what you put into practice is the truth, and if what you attain is a change in your disposition, then the path that you tread is the right one. If what you seek is the blessings of the flesh, and what you put into practice is the truth of your own notions, and if there is no change in your disposition, and you are not at all obedient to God in the flesh, and you still live in vagueness, then what you seek will surely take you to hell, for the path that you walk is the path of failure. Whether you will be made perfect or eliminated depends on your own pursuit, which is also to say that success or failure depends on the path that man walks” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks). When I gave this more thought, it was really enlightening for me. When God measures a person, it’s not based on what they’ve contributed on the surface, rather, this measurement is based on their attitude, perspective, and stance in the face of things, and whether they can put the truth into practice and submit to God. But I thought that as long as someone made sacrifices and worked hard, God would rejoice in this and bless them, then they’d have a good destination. Wasn’t that clearly contrary to God’s words? In the Age of Grace, Paul went to most of Europe sharing the gospel of the Lord. He suffered plenty, completed a lot of work, and established many churches. But everything he did wasn’t out of submission to God or to do the duty of a created being at all. It was so that he would personally be blessed and rewarded. That’s why, after so much traveling and so much hard work, he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7–8). Paul was blatantly demanding a crown from God. His sacrifices weren’t sincere and they didn’t come from submission to God. In the end, not only did he not get into the kingdom, but he was punished. In my faith, I wasn’t looking at things from the truth and God’s words, but I was measuring God’s work according to Satan’s logic and with a transactional attitude. That was totally ridiculous of me. God’s words say, “If what you seek is the truth, if what you put into practice is the truth, and if what you attain is a change in your disposition, then the path that you tread is the right one” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks). I realized that I had to pursue the truth and focus on knowing myself through the process of doing my duty, to address my wrong perspectives, my wrong motives and my corrupt disposition, achieve obedience to God, and do my duty out of consideration for God’s will and nothing else. That is the only way to be saved by God. Once I realized all of this, I said a prayer: “No matter what happens with my health, I’m ready to submit. If I live and get out of the hospital, I’ll do my duty to repay God’s love down to my last breath!”says, “When man measures others, he does so according to their contribution. When God measures man, He does so according to man’s nature. Among those who seek life, Paul was someone who did not know his own substance. He was by no means humble or obedient, nor did he know his essence, which was in opposition to God. And so, he was someone who had not undergone detailed experiences, and was someone who did not put the truth into practice. Peter was different. He knew his imperfections, weaknesses, and his corrupt disposition as a creature of God, and so he had a path of practice through which to change his disposition; he was not one of those who only had doctrine but possessed no reality. Those who change are new people who have been saved, they are those who are qualified in pursuing the truth. People who do not change belong to those who are naturally obsolete; they are those who have not been saved, that is, those who are detested and rejected by God. They will not be remembered by God no matter how great their work. When you compare this with your own pursuit, whether you are ultimately the same kind of person as Peter or Paul should be self-evident”
On my 12th day in the hospital, I asked if I could be checked for possible discharge from the hospital, and after an exam, the doctor said, “The hemorrhage has stopped, but the blood clots haven’t totally dissolved. This is looking really good for just 12 days of treatment.” I was thrilled to hear this, and I gave thanks to God for protecting me. The doctor also told me that when I got out of the hospital, I needed to focus on my recovery and not wear myself out, and that my cerebral blood vessels were really fragile, so I had to be sure not to fall, otherwise, the consequences of a second stroke would be absolutely terrible. The day I got back home, I got a message saying that Sister Zhang, a sister I worked with, had gone out four days ago but still hadn’t returned to her host’s house. It was very likely that she had been arrested. Hearing this was really concerning. It meant the gathering places she’d been to and the homes where the church offerings were kept were all in danger, so they had to be notified to take precautions right away. But that included a lot of places, and having just gotten out of the hospital, I couldn’t physically handle all that jostling around. Why couldn’t this have happened before this, or after this? Why did it have to happen at such a critical juncture? If I were to have another stroke, it might even leave me unable to stand, and going out to notify all those people was really dangerous. If I were arrested, could I physically withstand the police’s brutal torture? It would probably be the end of me. But only Sister Zhang and I knew where these brothers and sisters lived, so if I didn’t go tell them and they ended up getting arrested, and the offerings being taken by the police, it would be a terrible loss. Conflicted, I thought of the prayer I’d made before getting out of the hospital, “If I live to get out of the hospital, I will devote myself to my duty and repay God’s love down to my last breath.” Now that something was happening, how could I forget about my promise just like that? I prostrated myself before God and prayed, “God, I know You are observing me, seeing what attitude I have. I am willing to uphold the work of God’s house and do my duty.” I also thought about what happened when thewas nailed to the cross, which was really moving for me. The Lord Jesus went to the site of His crucifixion without ever looking back, all to redeem mankind, and suffered unimaginable pain and humiliation. God’s love for mankind is so great. He gave up His life for us, so why couldn’t I let go of my personal interests and protect the work of God’s house to repay God’s love? As a created being, I couldn’t just enjoy God’s grace and think of nothing but my own blessings. If I didn’t do my duty, I wasn’t even worthy of being called human. Encouraged by God’s words, I started making arrangements to take care of matters. Just as I was on my way to the second host’s home, I found out that Sister Zhang hadn’t actually been arrested. I was so grateful to God. I also felt much more at peace, because I’d been able to correct my motives and perspectives and put the truth into practice.
These six years have gone by really fast. I’m not entirely better, my left hand and foot still have some numbness, but I know that my health is in God’s hands. Not recovering fully serves as a protection for me, a reminder not to make my efforts about getting blessings, not to end up on the wrong path like Paul. I’ve suffered through all of this, but it’s helped me understand my corruption and adulterations better and correct my mistaken perspectives on being blessed. I’ve understood that in my faith, I should be pursuing the truth and submitting to God, and doing the duty of a created being. I have the right aim in my pursuit now—this illness has been a blessing in disguise! I never could have gained all of this in a comfortable environment. Thank God for His salvation!