Life Testimony: How God Changed My Life After My Dreams Were Crushed
By Shi Lan
Editor’s Note: Most people believe that “knowledge can alter one’s destiny,” but is this really the case? In the pursuit of knowledge, many people go through grueling periods of diligent study, but, as a result, they overtax their brains, lead unbalanced lifestyles and end up suffering from all kinds of illnesses. Ultimately, not only are they unable to attain success and fame, they must live with the torment of their shattered dreams. Shi Lan used to be one such person. When her dreams were cut short, how did she overcome the ensuing agony and find a new direction in life? Read on to hear her experience.
- To Realize My Dream of Attending College, I Pushed My Body to the Brink
- With My Dreams Shattered, My Life Entered Into a Very Dark Phase
- God’s Words Revealed That All Along I Had Pursued the Wrong Direction in Life
- Grasping the Meaning of Life, Changing the Direction of Life’s Pursuit
- With Great Gratitude for God’s Grace, My Resolve to Follow God Grew Even Stronger
“Someone has jumped from the roof!”
“Call 911 right away!”
One morning, there was a big commotion in our neighborhood. When I asked my mom about it, she told me that a 28-year-old college student in our building had developed depression due to school-related stress and had committed suicide by jumping off the roof.
Hearing this, it seemed to me a great pity that this student had been cut down in the prime of life. At the same time, I had a very personal reaction, for I too was a student and had previously become very sick due to the stress of studies …
To Realize My Dream of Attending College, I Pushed My Body to the Brink
I was born in a farming community and, because of our humble circumstances, I held to the maxim that one should “Distinguish oneself and bring honor to one’s ancestors” more rigidly than most. I hoped that I could test into a prestigious university, find a good job after graduation, enjoy the spoils of luxury and wealth and earn the admiration of my fellow townsfolk. To this end, from an early age, I studied diligently and when I got to junior high, I began to work even harder. I felt that going home for lunch was just delaying my studies, so most days I would just stay at school and continue working while nibbling on a cold steamed bun. During that time, the phrase “No pain, no gain” was what motivated me to continue with my diligent studies. Three years later, just as I had wished, I tested into the best high school in the entire county. I was so excited and thought to myself that I was drawing closer and closer to realizing my dreams. My parents were very proud of me and all my relatives praised my accomplishments. I never imagined, however, that this would be the beginning of the biggest ordeal of my life.
All the most talented students in the whole county attended this high school. Compared to most of these students, I was no standout. Even though I studied night and day ceaselessly, my university entrance examination scores still didn’t meet the entrance requirements for the most prestigious schools. However, I didn’t give up and accept my failure and decided to repeat my final year. During that year, I often thought to myself, “If I still don’t test into a prestigious school this year what will I do? How will others think of me? Will I still have any prospects for the future?” Under this immense pressure, I was wound up like a watch spring, working ceaselessly through all hours of the day. I only slept for one or two hours a night and would even study during meals. I wouldn’t even speak to my classmates about anything other than our studies. Because I had gone so long without sleep, toward the end of the first half of the semester I began to experience insomnia and also developed tinnitus, auditory hallucinations and a variety of other symptoms. I was forced to suspend my schooling and was admitted to a hospital for treatment. However, ever-ambitious, I wasn’t willing to give up on the entrance exam, so as soon as my condition had stabilized a bit, I immediately returned to school and plunged back into the stressful world of studies, making the final push before the entrance exam. Through these unceasing efforts, I finally passed the entrance exam.
Just as I was celebrating the fact that I had taken another step closer to my dreams, the stress of school and my own anxiety led me to fall ill once more. I was readmitted to the hospital before I even got to receive my diploma. This episode was much worse than the previous one, I wasn’t even able to care for myself, but spent the whole day on my hospital bed in a semi-stupor. My doctor said that it would be hard to control further relapses without lifelong medication and that I wouldn’t be able to put myself under too much stress in the future …
With My Dreams Shattered, My Life Entered Into a Very Dark Phase
After this, I stopped being able to live like a normal person. The prospect of holding a job became a far-off hope, not to mention building a career. Because of the unstable nature of my illness, I was forced to take sleeping pills to regulate my sleep, but slowly I began to build up resistance. Even after taking my medication, I would still be unable to sleep and so I gradually had to increase my dose. One time, I took seven pills before I was able to get to sleep, but this led me to slip into a coma, which absolutely terrified my parents. They took me to all kinds of doctors and spent exorbitant amounts of money. The expensive medical fees were a heavy burden on my parents, who weren’t in a great economic situation to begin with. I was in great agony. I thought to myself, “Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of my life? Is there really no hope of recovery?” Whenever I thought about how my dreams of distinguishing myself and bringing honor to my ancestors were completely shattered, I became hopeless and felt an unspeakable sadness. Especially when I thought about how not only had I been unable to improve the lives of my parents, but had increased their burden, I became incredibly sad and pessimistic and felt there was no meaning in living this way. I just wanted to end my life and let it be done with …
Just when I was feeling most tormented and helpless, my mother accepted God’s work in the last days. The brothers and sisters would often come to our house for meetings. They didn’t discriminate against me because I was an invalid, but rather showed concern and solicitude for my condition. I felt that the brothers and sisters were quite warm and kind and I really enjoyed interacting with them, meeting with them, reading God’s word and singing in praise of God. Gradually, my emotional state improved and I was able to sleep at night.
However, whenever I heard about one of my classmates getting a promotion or striking it rich, I would feel anguished. One day, I heard that my best friend from school had been hired as a government employee, was working in a government agency and had already been promoted to assistant section chief. I felt extremely envious and a little unhappy. I thought to myself, “We used to be classmates and our grades were more or less the same, but now she has achieved professional success, while I’ve stooped to this low point!” I called my friend to congratulate her, but, to my surprise, she just made a few perfunctory remarks and then found an excuse to hang up the phone. I felt incredibly sad—I knew that she looked down on me because I was ill and didn’t have a job. If I had a shiny job like her, certainly everyone would admire me. I suddenly had the urge to go out into the world and try to make it big, but my parents wouldn’t let me move away for work and found me a job as substitute teacher at an elementary school.
However, I was like an overinflated balloon, given the slightest amount of pressure I would pop. I hadn’t been working for very long when I fell ill again. My head often felt heavy and my ears constantly rang. At night I began experiencing insomnia again, and I started to sleep during the day and stay up through the night. As a result, I was unable to work my normal hours. Despite the fact that the teaching job was fairly relaxed and there was a lot of down time, I still couldn’t handle it and had to resign and continue recuperating at home. My mother sighed and moaned in despair and my father was so frightened by the whole affair that he wouldn’t let me go out and get another job, fearing that if I relapsed at work I wouldn’t be able to find my way home. Everyone in the town had their opinions about me. They said I had over-exhausted myself with study and my cousin would make fun of me calling me a “good-for-nothing.” When I thought of how I had once been the pride of my family and how now everyone looked down at me and avoided me, I felt incredibly sorrowful. Hadn’t all of my efforts in study just been so that I could distinguish myself and be admired? So why was it that all I got for my diligent studies was this disease-ridden body and the jeers and scorn of my peers? My dreams and hopes had become unattainable goals—so what value was there in living life like this?
God’s Words Revealed That All Along I Had Pursued the Wrong Direction in Life
Things persisted in this way, until one day I read a passage of God’s word and finally understood the source of my suffering. God’s word says, “In fact, no matter how lofty man’s ideals are, no matter how realistic man’s desires are or how proper they may be, all that man wants to achieve, all that man seeks for, is inextricably linked to two words. These two words are vitally important to the life of every person, and they are things Satan intends to instill in man. What are these two words? They are ‘fame’ and ‘gain.’ Satan uses a very subtle kind of method, a method very much in concert with people’s notions, which is not at all radical, through which it causes people to unknowingly accept its way of living, its rules to live by, and to establish life goals and their direction in life, and in doing so they also unknowingly come to have ambitions in life. No matter how grand these life ambitions may seem, they are inextricably linked to ‘fame’ and ‘gain.’ Everything that any great or famous person—all people, in fact—follow in life relates only to these two words: ‘fame’ and ‘gain.’ People think that once they have fame and gain, they can then capitalize on those things to enjoy high status and great wealth, and to enjoy life. They think fame and gain are a kind of capital that they can use to obtain a life of pleasure-seeking and wanton enjoyment of the flesh. For the sake of this fame and gain which mankind so covets, people willingly, albeit unknowingly, hand over their bodies, minds, all that they have, their futures and their destinies, to Satan. They do so without even a moment’s hesitation, ever ignorant of the need to recover all that they have handed over. Can people retain any control over themselves once they have taken refuge in Satan in this way and become loyal to it? Certainly not. They are completely and utterly controlled by Satan. They have completely and utterly sunk into a quagmire, and are unable to free themselves” (“God Himself, the Unique VI”).
Having read God’s words, I recognized that the source of all my suffering was Satan’s corruption and torment. In the past, because I had been under the subtle influence and poisoning of such satanic principles, logic and life philosophies as, “Distinguishing oneself and bringing honor to his ancestors,” “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards” and “No pain, no gain,” I had from a young age thought that only by testing into a top university, finding a good job, living the lifestyle of the elite and earning the admiration of my peers would my life have value and meaning. As a result, from elementary school to university, I was a “study machine”: I studied ceaselessly, staying up all hours of the night and was even willing to sacrifice my own health in the process. However, in the end, not only did I not gain success and fame, I ended up developing a mental illness as the result of over-exhaustion and was unable to lead a normal life. Despite all this, whenever I heard that one of my classmates had been promoted and struck it rich, I would become discontented with my average life, and would desire to go out in the world and make it big, utterly disregarding my illness. However, to my surprise, this would only cause me to relapse and I would be forced to go home to recuperate. It was only then that I realized that Satan had used fame and fortune to tempt me and goad me into spending over ten years of my life in grueling study—and what did I gain from all this? I was tormented by a recalcitrant illness, developed mental health problems, became disabled and my heart and soul were plunged into the utmost suffering. I thought back to how when I was at the hospital receiving treatment, I saw many like me who had overtaxed their brains through study and developed psychological conditions as a result. In their state of stupefaction, they would continually mutter, “I want to test into Tsinghua University” or “I want to test into Peking University.”[a] It was a sorry state to behold. Having thought of this, it was even clearer to me that fame and wealth are not positive things, but rather the tools which Satan uses to tempt, corrupt, sabotage and devour men. Who knows how many have given up everything in the pursuit of fame and wealth, exhausting themselves and subjecting themselves to all manner of suffering; and who knows how many have fallen for Satan’s trap, sacrificing a potentially wonderful childhood and precious life in the name of fame and wealth? If it had not been for the revelation of God’s words, I never would have realized the root of my suffering and ultimately would have been struck down by Satan without even knowing what had happened—how terrible Satan is! Having realized all this, I saw that God’s word is truly precious. Only by reading God’s word and understanding the truth are we able to discern positive and negative things, see through Satan’s treacherous plot, and keep ourselves at a far remove from Satan’s harm.
Grasping the Meaning of Life, Changing the Direction of Life’s Pursuit
After that, I diligently read God’s word at home every day. One time, I read the following two passages of God’s word from, “God Himself, the Unique III”: “Because of the Creator’s sovereignty and predestination, a lonely soul that started out with nothing to its name gains parents and a family, the chance to become a member of the human race, the chance to experience human life and see the world. This soul also gains the chance to experience the Creator’s sovereignty, to know the marvelousness of the Creator’s creation, and more than that, to know and become subject to the Creator’s authority. Yet most people do not really seize this rare and fleeting opportunity. One exhausts a lifetime’s worth of energy fighting against fate, spends all of one’s time bustling about, trying to feed one’s family and shuttling back and forth between wealth and status. The things that people treasure are family, money, and fame, and they view these as the most valuable things in life. All people complain about their fates, yet still they push to the back of their minds the issues that are most imperative to examine and understand: why man is alive, how man should live, what the value and meaning of life are. They spend their entire lives, however long they may last, merely rushing about seeking fame and fortune, until their youth has fled and they have become gray and wrinkled. They live in this way until they see that fame and fortune cannot stop their slide toward senility, that money cannot fill the emptiness of the heart, that no one is exempt from the laws of birth, aging, sickness, and death, that no one can escape what fate has in store.” “When one does not have God, when one cannot see Him, when one cannot clearly recognize God’s sovereignty, every day is meaningless, worthless, miserable. Wherever one is, whatever one’s job is, one’s means of living and the pursuit of one’s goals bring one nothing but endless heartbreak and suffering without relief, such that one cannot bear to look back on one’s past. Only when one accepts the Creator’s sovereignty, submits to His orchestrations and arrangements, and seeks true human life will one gradually begin to break free from all heartbreak and suffering, and to be rid of all the emptiness of life.”
Through pondering God’s word, I came to recognize that God the Creator has arranged for us to enter this world and become a created being of the human race so that we may come before God and worship Him, experience His work in our lives, witness His almighty sovereignty, become acquainted with His authority and finally achieve knowledge of and submission to God. I, by contrast, hadn’t understood God’s intentions, had lived according to Satan’s philosophy and principles, trying to distinguish myself and bring honor to my ancestors, and, as a result, I had been duped and ravaged by Satan and nearly lost my life in the process. It occurred to me that every person’s fate and the role that they will play in society is predetermined by God and cannot be changed through their own personal effort. What’s more, even if I were to achieve success and fame and win the admiration and envy of my peers, if I didn’t come before God, didn’t pursue the truth and had not the slightest knowledge of God, I would not receive His commendation. What would be the value of such a life? Having realized all this, I no longer envied my successful classmates and I stopped entertaining empty hopes and extravagant dreams, stopped struggling so bitterly to change my fate and satisfy my desire to distinguish myself. I desired only to pursue the truth, cast off my corrupt, satanic disposition, fulfill my duties as a created being and become a person that pleased and satisfied God.
After this, I read God’s word every day and also often met with brothers and sisters, fulfilled my duties, trained myself to seek the truth in all things, practiced according to God’s word and pursued knowledge of God’s sovereignty. Gradually, my desire to pursue wealth and fame diminished and my health began to improve. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of serenity and calm. Thanks be to God!
With Great Gratitude for God’s Grace, My Resolve to Follow God Grew Even Stronger
One day, I ran into the uncle of my old classmate Hui and asked him how Hui was doing. He said Hui was very unhappy, that after graduating from university she had gone to several large cities to try to advance her career in the last ten years, but switching from job to job, she was never satisfied and still hadn’t settled down. Hearing this news, I couldn’t help but sigh with emotion: Hui had worked even harder than I had! In high school she had tested into university in the discipline of her choice, but because she was determined to test into one of the top universities in the country, she decided to repeat her final year and test again. Ultimately, she did make it into one of the top universities, but in the years that followed she had worked ceaselessly to find a job that would bring her both fame and wealth, dueling against her fate and living in misery. At this point, I gained an even greater understanding of how if we don’t have God’s guidance in our life in this world, no one can vest themselves from Satan’s torment, but will be caught up in the vortex of struggle for wealth and fame, living in great misery. By contrast, now that I am able to believe in and follow God, I am truly blessed!
Later on, my long struggle with mental illness finally came to a close and I made a full recovery. What’s more, even though I theoretically would be unable to have children because of my prior illness, I ended up giving birth to a very healthy daughter after marriage. I truly experienced God’s love and salvation and witnessed God’s amazing power.
Thinking back to how I had lived in that vortex of pursuit of wealth and fame, without a true life purpose and in utter agony…, I don’t dare imagine how I would have been corrupted and ravaged by Satan if God hadn’t reached out His hand in salvation. Now, it was only when God’s word gave me a direction in life that I realized that we must come before God to seek the truth, submit to God’s sovereignty, and fulfill our duties as created beings to live a life of value and meaning. Thanks be to God for His salvation!
a. Tsinghua University and Peking University are the two best universities in China. They are both located in the northwest section of Beijing.