Facing My Son’s Terminal Illness
By Liang Xin, China
Two years ago my son suddenly developed awful pain in his waist. We went to get it checked out, and the doctor said the test results were concerning, that we should go to the larger provincial hospital for further tests. My heart skipped a beat when he said that, and I knew there was a chance my son had a serious illness. But then I thought that I’d been doing my duty and making sacrifices for God all this time, and suffered plenty. Even facing terrible oppression and arrests by the Communist Party and loved ones’ ridicule and slander, I never shrank back, but stayed strong in my duty. I figured considering everything I’d done for God, He would protect my son from anything serious. The results came back that he had liver cancer and liver cirrhosis. The doctor said he just had three to six more months to live. This was a bolt from the blue and I just sat there, paralyzed. I simply couldn’t accept this reality. He was just 37—how could he get something like that? I was holding the test results, and my hands were shaking. I wondered if the doctor had made the wrong diagnosis. I sat there at the edge of the bed, stunned, and didn’t come to for quite a while. Tears rolled down my face and I thought, “He’s so young—how could he be so seriously ill? Either one of these would be life-threatening, but two? He is our backbone. What would our family do without him? The most painful thing in a person’s life is burying a child.” I was becoming increasingly miserable. Friends and family were scolding me, saying, “How did your son get sick if you’re a believer in God? That God of yours hasn’t protected him, so what good is it?” They also told me to forget about my faith and just stay at home to take care of my son. Being reproached from them left me feeling really miserable. I was constantly on the verge of tears and in a daze. I didn’t even want to pray or read. I was really in darkness. I said a prayer, “God, with my son so seriously ill, I’m really struggling, and can’t manage this. Please guide me to understand Your will.”
One day I read this in 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. … 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” (“Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement” in). From God’s words I could see that my son getting so seriously ill was a kind of test for me and I had to rely on my faith to get through it. I thought of Job, who was robbed of all his wealth and hillsides of livestock, his children all died, and he was covered with boils. Even facing such a great trial, he was ready to curse himself before blaming God, and praised the name of Jehovah. He bore a beautiful testimony for God. And when he was going through all this, his friends mocked him, his wife criticized him, and told him to just abandon God and die. On the surface it looked like it was his wife and friends berating him, but behind that, it was Satan tempting Job with people’s words to deny and betray God. But Job didn’t fall for it, and he even denounced his wife as a foolish woman. I knew that Satan’s tricks were behind my friends’ and family’s attacks. I had to be like Job and stand witness for God. I couldn’t listen to their nonsense. At that point I didn’t feel quite so miserable and helpless.
He got surgery a couple weeks later and the cancer was brought under control. I thought God might have mercy on him because of my faith, that he might be cured if God showed some miracle. I was hoping he’d make a full recovery, thinking how great that would be. Then this passage of God’s words sprung to mind: “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? I bestow real human life upon you, yet you do not pursue. Are you no different from a pig or a dog?” (“The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words really incisively revealed my problematic perspectives on faith and motives for blessings. I felt really ashamed. When I believed in the Lord, I’d been pursuing blessings and grace, hoping my whole family would be blessed. Since accepting God’s last days’ work, I’d never brazenly prayed to God asking for His grace, but I wasn’t pursuing the truth and I didn’t truly understand God. I was wrong in wanting a hundred times as much in this present age and eternal life in the age to come. I thought that since I’d made sacrifices for God, He would commemorate and bless me, that He should protect my family from illness and disaster, make our lives smooth, and free of any terrible mishaps. So I left my home and job behind to do my duty, totally happy to endure any suffering. But when my son tested positive for cancer, I became totally mired in the pain of seeing him ill, and lost my drive for my duty. I was making petty calculations of how much I’d expended, how much I’d suffered, debating with God, blaming Him for not protecting my son. The situation I faced and God’s words of judgment and revelation showed me that my perspective on pursuit in my faith was wrong. I wasn’t giving things up for my faith to pursue the truth and rid myself of corruption, but it was in exchange for God’s grace and blessings. I was conducting transactions with God, using Him and cheating Him. I was single-mindedly pursuing God protecting my family to keep us free from storms, illness, and disaster. How was I any different from those religious people who eat the loaves and are filled? I saw how vile my perspective on pursuit was. At that point I felt so indebted to God, and I came before Him in prayer, ready to put my son’s health in God’s hands, and submit to His rule and arrangements.
My son had three or four surgeries after that, one after another, and he seemed to be doing better and better. He was eating well and could do some light activities. I was overjoyed, especially when I saw him singing and dancing with his son, looking perfectly healthy. I felt like there was hope for him. I was thinking that from a human perspective, his illness was a death sentence and he wouldn’t last another six months. But it had already been longer and he was doing so well. It was God’s blessing and protection. If things continued that way, it looked like he’d make a full recovery. But things didn’t turn out like I’d thought. He suddenly became unable to keep any food down, his abdomen started to swell up bigger and bigger, and sitting down was hard for him. He got a checkup and even though that cancer hadn’t spread, the cirrhosis was getting worse and he was getting liver ascites. I felt like death was closing in on him, bit by bit, and I fell into despair again. Seeing that my son’s condition had clearly been improving, I didn’t understand why it was getting worse again. He was such a good son, got along great with everyone, and had never done anything bad. Friends, family, and neighbors all had great things to say about him. He wasn’t too thrilled about my faith, but didn’t stand in my way either. Why would he get a life-threatening illness? Later I was thinking, my whole time as a believer I’d been sharing the gospel, front and center for anything that came up in the church. My family started to oppose my faith because of the Party’s oppression and arrests, but no matter what opposition I faced, I never pulled back. I kept doing my duty. I’d given up so much, so why was I facing this? Was this what I got in return for all my years of sacrifice? I didn’t say so, but I was overcome with this feeling that God was being unrighteous. I was pessimistic, depressed, and in a haze all the time. I felt devoid of hope. I was suffering terribly and crying all the time.
There was this one passage I read: “Righteousness is by no means fair or reasonable; it is not egalitarianism, or a matter of allocating to you what you deserve in accordance with how much work you have completed, or paying you for whatever work you have done, or giving you your due according to what effort you expend. This is not righteousness. Suppose God had eliminated Job after Job bore witness for Him: God would have been righteous then, too. Why is this called righteousness? From a human point of view, if something is in line with people’s notions, it is then very easy for them to say that God is righteous; however, if they do not see that thing as being in line with their notions—if it is something that they are incapable of comprehending—then it would be difficult for them to say that God is righteous. If God had destroyed Job back then, people would not have said He was righteous. Actually, though, whether people have been corrupted or not, does God have to justify Himself when He destroys them? Should He have to explain to people upon what basis it is that He does so? Should His decision be based on this: ‘If they are useful, I will not destroy them; if they are not, I will’? There is no need. In God’s eyes, someone who is corrupt may be dealt with howsoever He wishes; whatever God does will be appropriate, and all are the arrangements of God. … God’s essence is righteousness. Though it is not easy to comprehend what He does, all that He does is righteous; it is simply that people do not understand. When God gave Peter to Satan, how did Peter respond? ‘Mankind is unable to fathom what You do, but all of what You do contains Your good will; there is righteousness in all of it. How can I not utter praise for Your wise deeds?’ Today, you should see that God does not destroy Satan in order to show humans how Satan has corrupted them and how God saves them; ultimately, because people have been too profoundly corrupted by Satan, they shall behold the monstrous sin of Satan’s corruption of them, and when God destroys Satan, they shall behold God’s righteousness and see that it contains God’s disposition and wisdom. Everything that God does is righteous. Though it might be unfathomable to you, you should not make judgments at will. If something He does appears to you as unreasonable, or if you have any notions about it, and that leads you to say that He is not righteous, then you are being most unreasonable. You see that Peter found some things to be incomprehensible, but he was sure that God’s wisdom was present and that His good will was in those things. Humans cannot fathom everything; there are so many things that they cannot grasp. Thus, to know God’s disposition is not an easy thing” (“How to Know God’s Righteous Disposition” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words showed me that His righteousness isn’t like I’d thought—perfectly fair and egalitarian, and it didn’t mean you’d get out exactly what you put in. God is the Creator and His very essence is righteous, so whether He gives or takes away, whether we’re blessed, or we suffer through trials, it all contains His wisdom. It’s all a revelation of His righteous disposition. Job followed God’s way, fearing God and shunning evil his whole life. He was a perfect person in God’s eyes, but God still tested him. His faith and reverence for God were elevated by trial after trial, and ultimately he was a resounding witness for God and entirely overcame Satan. Then God appeared to him and blessed him so much more. That revealed God’s righteous disposition. I also thought of Paul. He suffered a lot and traveled far and wide to spread the Lord’s gospel, but he didn’t have true submission or reverence for God. He just wanted to exchange his hard work for God’s blessings. After doing quite a bit of 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’s contributions were full of his ambitions and desires and they were transactional. His disposition didn’t change at all and he was on a path against God. Ultimately he was punished by God. We can see that God doesn’t look at how much people appear to work, but if they truly love and submit to Him, if their life disposition changes. This is a better manifestation of God’s holy and righteous disposition. I thought I’d be repaid based on what I’d given, that I’d get back something equal to my contribution. That’s a human, transactional perspective that is totally different from God’s righteousness. I’d made some sacrifices and I’d done some good things as a believer, but my perspective on pursuit was wrong, and I didn’t have true submission to God. I still blamed and resisted God when my son became ill. My disposition hadn’t changed, but I was someone who resisted God and belonged to Satan. I didn’t deserve God’s blessings at all. I realized I didn’t understand God’s righteous disposition, but I felt that since I’d made some sacrifices in my duty, God should protect and watch over my son. Wasn’t I judging God’s work based on a human, transactional perspective? I thought of this from 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 fortune. No one can be a substitute for another person; this is righteousness” (“God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I thought that since I’d given things up in my faith, God should cure my son. Otherwise, I’d see Him as unrighteous. That was totally absurd of me! No matter how much of a price I’d paid, that was my duty, and what I should do as a created being. It had nothing to do with my son’s illness, with his fate or destination. I shouldn’t use that as leverage to negotiate, to make deals with God. Understanding this felt really freeing for me.
One day I read another passage of God’s words that helped me understand the essence of my mistaken perspective.says, “No matter how many things happen to them, the type of person who is an antichrist never tries to address them by searching for the truth in God’s words, much less tries to see things through God’s words—which is wholly because they do not believe that every line of God’s words is the truth, and do not accept the correct attitude that God says people ought to have in every matter. There is only one type of God they believe in: the supernatural God who shows signs and wonders, similar to false gods like Guan Yin and Buddha that also show minor signs and wonders. … In the minds of antichrists, God should be worshiped while hiding behind an altar, eating the foods that people offer, inhaling the incense that they burn, extending a helping hand when they are in trouble, offering aid and satisfying their requests—as far as He is able—if they are earnest in their entreaties. To the antichrists, only a god such as this is God. Everything that God does today, meanwhile, is met with the antichrists’ disdain. And why is that? Judging by the nature and essence of the antichrists, what they require is not the work of watering, shepherding, and salvation that the Creator performs upon the creatures of God, but prosperity and success in all things, to not be punished in this world, and to go to heaven when they die. Their point of view and needs confirm their essence of hostility to the truth” (“They Do Not Believe in the Existence of God, and They Deny the Essence of Christ (Part One)” in Exposing Antichrists). Every word from God really hit the nail on the head. In reflection, I realized I’d always felt like God should repay me, bless me for everything I’d done in my faith, that He should keep my family safe and well. So when I saw that my son was doing so much better after his surgeries, I felt it was God’s blessing, and I was grateful and full of praise. But when he got worse again, I wanted God to perform a miracle to cure him. When God didn’t do what I wanted, I went from being all smiles to all anger, mad at God for not taking all my sacrifices into account to protect and cure my son. I even regretted everything I’d given. My moods just revolved around whether I was gaining or losing something. In my faith, I hadn’t worshiped and submitted to God as the Creator, but I’d seen Him as an object to meet my demands and bless me. How was that any different from unbelievers who worship Buddha or Guan Yin? That’s not being a true believer! God has incarnated and come to earth twice, enduring incredible humiliation, people’s condemnation, resistance, rebellion and misunderstandings. It’s all to impart us with His words and truth so they become our life, so we live by God’s words and escape corruption, and we’re ultimately saved. God has paid such a great price for mankind. I’d enjoyed so much of God’s grace and blessings over my years of faith, gaining the watering and sustenance of so many truths. But I wasn’t genuine toward God at all. That’s so hurtful and disappointing for Him! I started feeling more and more indebted to God, and I knelt before Him, with tears of regret and guilt pouring down my face. I prayed and repented to God, saying, “God, I’ve been a believer all these years without pursuing the truth. I haven’t been able to stand witness for You in my son’s illness, but I’ve let You down. God, I’m indebted to You. I want to repent to You, and whether my son gets better or not, I’m ready to submit to Your rule and arrangements. Please give me faith and stay with me.” I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off of me after that prayer. I felt so much lighter, and I wasn’t as anxious about my son’s illness as I had been.
One day I read another passage of God’s words that gave me some new understanding of all of this. “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. It is through the process of doing his duty that man is gradually changed, and it is through this process that he demonstrates his loyalty. As such, the more you are able to do your duty, the more truth you shall receive, and the more real your expression shall become” (“The Difference Between the Ministry of God Incarnate and the Duty of Man” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This showed me that doing our duty has nothing to do with being blessed or cursed. As a created being, I should do my duty to repay God’s love. That’s right and proper. It’s like parents raising their children into adulthood—their children should be filial. It shouldn’t be about inheriting property, it shouldn’t be conditional. That’s the most basic thing someone should do. But I wasn’t thinking about how to repay God’s love in my duty. Instead I wanted to use the duty God gave me as leverage to make deals with God. asking for grace and blessings from God for the little bit I’d given. Without that, I blamed God. I didn’t have any conscience, and I’d really let God down. After my son got sick, I was full of demands, and was always misunderstanding and blaming God. This thought really made me hate myself. I silently resolved that whether my son got better or not, I’d never blame God again. After that my son got worse and worse. His health was clearly declining by the day. It pained me, and I was suffering, but I felt much freer at heart.
And one day I read this in God’s words: “God has already fully planned the genesis, advent, lifespan, ending of all the creatures of God, as well as their life’s mission and the role they play in all mankind. No one can change these things; this is the authority of the Creator. The advent of every creature, how long they live, their life’s mission—all of these laws, every single one of them, is ordained by God, just as God ordained the orbit of every celestial body; which orbit these celestial bodies follow, for how many years, how they orbit, what laws they follow—this was all ordained by God long ago, unchanged for thousands, tens of thousands, of years. This is ordained by God, and this is His authority” (“Only by Seeking the Truth Can One Know God’s Deeds” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). It’s true. God is the Creator, and our lifespan is in His hands. How long we live, how much we suffer, how much we’re blessed is all in God’s hands. God won’t extend someone’s lifespan just because they’ve done good deeds, and He won’t end their life early because they’ve done a lot of evil. Whether someone’s good or evil, when their predetermined time is up, God will take their life away. No one can change that. God determined a long time ago how long my son’s life would be. Anything He does is righteous and I just have to submit to His rule and arrangements. Understanding this alleviated some of my pain. I knew no matter how my son did, I had to do the duty of a created being and repay God’s love.
In March of this year, I said goodbye to my son for good. But thanks to the guidance of God’s words, I was able to face his departure correctly and I suffered a lot less. Over these two years, since my son first got sick, I’ve suffered quite a bit, but it’s been through all of this that I’ve seen my despicable aims and corruption in my pursuit of blessings in my faith. I’ve seen how deeply corrupted by Satan I am, and that if this corruption isn’t resolved, I’ll keep blaming and resisting God. This experience has really shown me how much this hardship has benefited me in my life. The more God’s deeds stray from our notions, the more truth there is to seek in it, and the more it’s for our salvation.