Illness and Hardship Showed My True Colors
By Tingting, China
I was prone to headaches from the time I was little, and sometimes it hurt so much that I would just roll back and forth in bed. When I was in my teens I went to see a doctor about it, who said they were caused by cerebral vasospasms and required medication, but when I saw all the side effects of the medicine he prescribed, I was too afraid to take it. I just tolerated the pain. After accepting’s work, my condition got much better out of nowhere. I gave God heartfelt thanks. After that I threw myself into attending gatherings and doing my duty, thinking that since I was a believer, God would certainly watch over me, He would open up a path whenever I had difficulties, keep my family safe and well, and protect me from any health problems. Later on I quit my job and left home to do my duty full time. Several years passed that way in no time at all while I performed my duty tirelessly. But my health started deteriorating a few years ago, and I would often feel fatigue, tightness in my chest, and shortness of breath. Some mornings I didn’t even dare open my mouth, because saying just a few words would wear me out and I would be exhausted all morning. I didn’t pay it much notice at first, thinking, “My condition is in God’s hands. I need to keep doing my duty and then at some point I’ll get better.” But two years passed and my health was just getting worse and worse. Aside from the fatigue, sometimes out of nowhere my heart would start pounding, or I’d break out in a cold sweat and get really antsy, and have to lie down immediately. I couldn’t even talk. The worst part was that the headaches started up again, and at times it felt like my blood vessels were about to burst. I took some Chinese medicine, but nothing helped. I went to get it checked out, and the doctor said it was a serious myocardial ischemia and cerebral vasospasm. He said that if my blood vessels burst, I was in danger of dying at any moment. Hearing this made me think of my grandpa, who died after a cerebral blood clot, plus my dad had an acute cerebral hemorrhage when he was 40, and died three days later. Now I was having intensely painful headaches all the time. Was I going to have a blood vessel burst one day, just like my dad? I’d left my family and my job behind to do my duty for years, so why was my health getting worse? I felt like God should be protecting me. In the days that followed, I was still doing my duty, but I was constantly moping because of my condition. Even though I prayed and sought God’s will and read His words about how to get through illness, I lost my will to pray and seek when I didn’t see any improvement. I went back to my family to help pay for treatment, but my mother-in-law told me that the factory my husband worked at had gone bankrupt and hadn’t paid him. This was so upsetting for me to hear. I was really unwell, my husband had lost his job, and he wasn’t even paid. Forget about treatment—what would we live on? Over those days, thinking about my deteriorating health and my husband’s unemployment left me in unbearable pain. I thought, “I’ve given up so much for my duty. Why isn’t God watching over me?” But then I thought, “I can’t blame God, I have to submit. Who knows, my husband might find a good job and make up for those paychecks he never got.” So I prayed, “God, whether my husband finds work or not is up to You. I’m putting his employment into Your hands….” I had a shred of hope as I prayed, and I longed for him to find work soon. But a few months went by and he still hadn’t found anything. I was really disappointed and totally lacking energy. I looked like I was doing my duty, but when I thought about my health or family, I’d get really upset. There were times I could have done my duty better if I put a little more into it, then I’d think, “This is good enough. What good will it do if I put more energy into it?” And so, I lost the enthusiasm for my duty that I’d had before. Progress was slow on the work I was responsible for, and I didn’t have a fire under me like I used to. When I saw brothers and sisters run into problems in their duty, I never felt like stepping in and helping out. My negative, lax approach seriously impacted the church’s work, but at that point I was so numb that I didn’t think anything of it. I was really miserable over what was going on in my family, so I prayed to God, “God, I’ve been miserable for a while now. I’m always making demands of You and my heart isn’t in my duty. I know I should submit, but I just can’t let go and I don’t know how to get through all of this. Please guide me to understand Your will.”
One day not long after that prayer, a passage of (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. How to Know God’s Disposition and the Results His Work Shall Achieve). I realized that God does different work and sets up different environments for everyone. He wants to see their attitudes in different situations, and whether they can fear God and shun evil. That was a wake-up call for me. I’d been getting sicker all this time, my husband had lost his job and there was no source of income. This was all done with God’s permission. I should submit, seek the truth, and learn a lesson. But I wasn’t seeking God’s will or thinking about how to bear witness. Instead I was depressed and complained. Wasn’t that rebelling against and resisting God? I thought of Job who had hillsides of livestock and lots of wealth that was all stolen, and then his whole body was covered with boils. Still, he never blamed God, but prostrated himself, saying, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21). Job’s faith was true faith. Thinking about Job’s experience made me feel ashamed. He hadn’t read that many words from God, and in the face of such a great trial, he still kept his faith and stood witness for God. But I got to enjoy the guidance and sustenance of God’s words every single day, and still didn’t have true faith or submission for God. Facing illness and my husband’s unemployment left me depressed and grumbling. I was so rebellious!popped into my head: “Over the course of His work, ever since the beginning, God has set out trials for every person—or you could say, every person who follows Him—and these trials come in various sizes. There are those who have experienced the trial of being rejected by their families, those who have experienced the trial of adverse environments, those who have experienced the trial of being arrested and tortured, those who have experienced the trial of being faced with choices, and those who have faced the trials of money and status. Generally speaking, each of you has faced all manner of trials. Why does God work like this? Why does He treat everyone this way? What sort of result does He seek? Here is the point I wish to communicate to you: God wants to see whether or not this person is the type who fears Him and shuns evil. What this means is that when God is giving you a trial, and facing you with some circumstance or other, His intention is to test whether or not you are a person who fears Him and shuns evil”
Right then, I prayed to God in submission, willing to repent, and asked Him to enlighten me so I could know myself. There were a couple passages of God’s words that I read after that. Almighty God says, “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?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment). “What of your belief in God? Have you truly offered up your life? If you suffered the same trials as Job, none among you who follow God today would be able to stand firm, you would all fall down. And there is, quite simply, a world of difference between you and Job. Today, if half your assets were seized you would dare to deny the existence of God; if your son or daughter were taken from you, you would run the streets crying foul; if your only way to make a living reached a dead end, you would try and take it up with God; you would ask why I said so many words in the beginning to scare you. There is nothing you would not dare to do at such times. This shows that you have not gained any true insights, and have no true stature” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Practice (3)). God’s words revealed my precise state. I didn’t have a shadow of a doubt. I appeared to be doing my duty every day, but I was hiding despicable motives within my heart, thinking that since I was doing my duty in the church, God should protect my health and my family, and everything should go smoothly. When my demands and desires weren’t met, when my interests were encroached upon, I started blaming God for my health not improving, for my husband not finding work. How was that any different from wanting to “take it up with God”? At that point I realized that my faith had been driven by the desire for blessings all along. I had faith only for blessings. “Never lift a finger without a reward,” “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” were satanic poisons I’d lived by. I had applied a worldly transactional mindset to God, using Him and using my duty to achieve my despicable goal of getting blessings. I was making deals with God, cheating Him and fighting Him! God brought me into His house, always watering and sustaining me with His words, so that I could gain the truth, be freed from my satanic dispositions, and be saved by God. But instead of thinking about pursuing the truth and doing my duty well to repay His love, I was being calculating, cheating God. I tried to reason with God and I blamed Him when my desires were unmet. I was hideous and despicable, and unworthy of living before Him. From the heart, I really hated myself and wondered how I was so devoid of conscience and reason. I thought of the Israelites complaining when they were in the wilderness. They weren’t thanking God for saving them from the Egyptian Pharaoh’s grasp, but blamed God because they had no meat in the wilderness, driving God to unleash His anger, saying, “They should not enter into My rest” (Psalm 95:11). In the end they died in the wilderness. Based on God’s righteous disposition, my complaints should have earned me God’s punishment. But God did not take my life away. Instead, He judged, exposed, enlightened, and guided me with words so that I could see my wrong views about faith, and my awful drive to gain His blessings. He gave me the chance to repent and change. This was God’s love and salvation for me!
I read more of God’s words later on that helped me gain even deeper self-knowledge. Almighty God says, “Though their mouths might not say it, when people first start believing in God, in their hearts they may well be thinking, ‘I want to go to heaven, not hell. I want not only me to be blessed, but my whole family. I want to eat nice food, wear nice clothes, enjoy nice things. I want a good family, a good husband (or wife) and good kids. Ultimately, I want to reign as king.’ It’s all about what they want. This disposition of theirs, these things they think in their hearts, these extravagant desires—they all typify the arrogant nature of man. What makes Me say this? It comes down to people’s status. Man is a created being that came from dust; God formed man of clay, and breathed into him the breath of life. Such is the lowly status of man, yet still people come before God wanting this and that. Man’s status is so ignoble, he should not open his mouth and demand anything from God. So what should people do? They should knuckle down and gladly obey without any complaints It’s not a question of gladly embracing humility; this is the status people are born with; they should be innately obedient and humble, for their status is humble, and so they should not demand things from God, nor have extravagant desires toward God” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. An Arrogant Nature Is the Root of Man’s Resistance to God). God’s judgment totally laid me bare. It’s true—God is the Lord of creation, the Ruler of all. He is so honorable, so great, but I am just a creature made out of dust by the hand of God. In essence, I am lowly and worthless, plus I’ve been deeply corrupted by Satan and am full of satanic dispositions without a shred of humanity. I wasn’t worthy of demanding things of God. Being alive today, breathing this breath that God gave me is already by God’s grace. But I was arrogant, unreasonable and was constantly making demands of God, thinking that because of my faith, God should bless me and protect me at every turn so I could maintain my health, be free of misfortune, and my husband could find a good job, so that everything went without a hitch. Otherwise, I just complained and blamed God. I was really lacking self-awareness, and totally without reason or a sense of shame! I really despised myself in that moment. I thought of this in God’s words: “If you have always been very loyal, with much love for Me, yet you suffer the torment of illness, poverty, and the abandonment of your friends and relatives, or if you endure any other misfortunes in life, will your loyalty and love for Me still continue?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. A Very Serious Problem: Betrayal (2)). I read another passage, too: “In his belief in God, Peter sought to satisfy God in everything, and sought to obey all that came from God. Without the slightest complaint, he was able to accept chastisement and judgment, as well as refinement, tribulation and going without in his life, none of which could alter his love for God. Was this not the ultimate love for God? Was this not the fulfillment of the duty of a creature of God? Whether in chastisement, judgment, or tribulation, you are always capable of achieving obedience unto death, and this is what should be achieved by a creature of God, this is the purity of the love for God. If man can achieve this much, then he is a qualified creature of God, and there is nothing which better satisfies the desire of the Creator” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks). These words really inspired me, and I felt like God was right in front of me, asking me, “If this illness remains with you for the rest of your days and you face more financial troubles, will you still devotedly do your duty?” It felt like in that very moment, God was waiting for my answer. I thought of Peter, who was a fisherman. Sometimes he’d work all day without a single catch, but he never complained to God for what he lacked, because he wasn’t pursuing material riches, but he sought to know and love God. Ultimately, he was perfected by God. But I wanted fleshly comforts without illness or hardship, and even if I was physically satisfied, I wouldn’t have gained the truth. I couldn’t have gotten God’s approval. Then wouldn’t it be meaningless? Just take unbelievers. They go after money and physical pleasures, and even if they have everything they want, they don’t have faith or the truth, their lives are empty and full of pain. When the great disaster comes, they will succumb to it, weeping and gnashing their teeth. Even though I was lacking some material things in my life, I had God with me, and I had His words guiding and sustaining me. If I could understand the truth, live out a human likeness, and gain God’s approval in the end, that would bring me more enjoyment than any amount of money could. So I silently said a prayer to God: “God, whether I ever get better or not, whether a way out of this ever comes in my life, I am willing to submit to Your rule and arrangements and do my duty. I won’t barter with You anymore. God, please give me strength so I can stand witness for You.” My heart felt full of light and joy after my prayer and I could feel God so close to me.
Then I read another passage of God’s word that gave me a path of practice. Almighty God says, “No matter what trial befalls you, you must treat it as a burden given to you by God. Say some people are beset by great sickness and unbearable suffering, some even face death. How should they approach this kind of situation? In many cases, the trials of God are burdens He gives to people. However great the burden bestowed upon you by God, that is the weight of burden you should undertake, for God understands you, and knows you will be able to bear it. The burden given to you by God will not exceed your stature or the limits of your endurance, so there is no question that you will be able to bear it. No matter what manner of burden God gives you, what kind of trial, remember one thing: Whether or not you understand God’s will and whether or not you are enlightened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit after you pray, whether or not this trial is God disciplining you or warning you, it does not matter if you do not understand. As long as you do not cease performing the duty that you ought to perform and can faithfully abide by your duty, God will be satisfied, and you will stand firm in your testimony. … If, in your faith in God and pursuit of the truth, you are able to say, ‘Whatever sickness or disagreeable event God allows to befall me—no matter what God does—I must obey, and stay in my place as a created being. Before all else, I must put this aspect of the truth—obedience—into practice, I implement it, and live out the reality of obedience to God. Moreover, I must not cast aside what God has commissioned to me and the duty I should perform. Even on my last breath, I must abide by my duty.’ Is this not bearing testimony? When you have this kind of resolve and this kind of state, are you still able to complain about God? No, you are not” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Path Comes From Often Pondering the Truth). Thinking this over helped me see that my illness and the unfortunate events at home were things I needed to submit to. Whether my health ever improved, or how bad it might get, I had to continue doing my duty and bear witness for God.
After that, I was still struggling with my health and nothing had changed at home, but I didn’t feel any resentment. Sometimes when it got worse, my chest felt tight, I had a hard time breathing, and my headache got really bad, I’d pray to God, “Oh God, no matter what happens with my health, I’m willing to submit. Even if this is my very last breath, I will do my duty and stand witness to satisfy You.” After praying, I’d feel a sense of strength in my heart and the pain would subside. Amazingly, once I’d learned my lesson, after some time my health gradually started improving and those episodes came less and less. My husband ended up finding work, too. This experience taught me that whether what God does conforms with our notions or not, it’s all for the sake of cleansing and purifying us. Getting sick meant I suffered physically, but it’s very beneficial to my life. I was able to correct this mistaken view in my pursuit. I give thanks for God’s salvation!