Reflections Through Times of Illness

March 19, 2022

By Shiji, USA

I’ve been weak and prone to illness since I was little. My mom said I was born premature and was sickly from the time I came out of the womb. Then after I became a Christian, my health gradually improved. For seven years, I didn’t have to go to the hospital or even take any medication. I was so grateful to God. And then in 2001, I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days. I was incredibly excited to welcome the Lord and felt so blessed. I gave up my business and started sharing the gospel and doing my duty. I had so much energy for traveling around for my duty, and I put my all into it. Several times I narrowly escaped arrest, and I leaned on God and never gave up. I also risked my safety to go offer support for brothers and sisters, sometimes even going into the mountains, walking for five or six hours at a time. In some places, I couldn’t even get a sip of clean water, but it didn’t feel like hardship to me. I felt that by expending myself that way, I’d definitely gain God’s approval and blessings.

It was in 2015, not long after moving abroad. I started feeling more and more unwell, and sometimes at night I’d break out in a full body sweat. I was feeling panicky, and had a hard time focusing. I took some Chinese medicine and got acupuncture, but nothing helped. At first I didn’t think much of it and figured my health was in God’s hands, so as long as I kept doing my duty well, He would watch over and protect me. But to my surprise, my health just kept deteriorating. Then in July 2016 I noticed that one side of my neck was kind of hurting, and about a month later, it suddenly got so bad when I was in a gathering one evening that I couldn’t even speak. I felt exhausted and I got a full body chill. I took my temperature and it was 103 degrees. I took some anti-fever and anti-inflammatory medications, but they didn’t do a thing. I started getting a fever every single evening after that and I’d be soaked with sweat in the middle of the night. I was in so much agony that I couldn’t get a wink of sleep all night. A sister told me I should go get it checked out and I said I would, but I was thinking that I’d be fine. I’d been working so hard and doing my duty all those years, so I thought God was sure to watch over and protect me, and even if I did have something, it wouldn’t be serious. But a couple of weeks went by and I’d had a fever nonstop, I’d lost more than 10 lbs, and my neck was visibly swollen. I felt dizzy and weak all over every single day, my heart felt fluttery, it was beating really quickly, and my hands started shaking. At one point I just couldn’t take it anymore, and a sister took me to the emergency room in the middle of the night. When I was there, multiple doctors gathered around my bed with grave looks on their faces and I wondered if I really had come down with something serious. He said their preliminary diagnosis was acute thyroiditis and thyrotoxicosis, and I had to be admitted right away. He also said there was a lump in my neck and they couldn’t rule out the possibility it was a tumor. They wanted to wait till my fever went down, then they could extract some tissues for more exams. At the time I was also showing symptoms of thyroid crisis, which could be life-threatening. The doctor said to me very soberly, “If you delay treatment like this again, do you know how serious the consequences could be?” He had such a serious look on his face. Hearing this, I just went limp and thought, “I gave up everything to work for God and do my duty all these years. I’ve suffered quite a bit for it. He should be protecting me and looking out for me. How could I have a tumor?” During that time I was praying and seeking, and I knew in principle that I should submit to God’s rule and arrangements, but in my heart I was still hoping for God’s protection, that He would take my illness away really quickly.

But it just kept coming back and I was constantly breaking out in fevers, sometimes even as high as 104. I would get really disoriented. I was breaking out in night sweats, leaving my blankets and comforters wet. The first thing I did every morning was shower and dry out my bedding. My hands were shaking so much that I couldn’t hold chopsticks steady. I had to go into the hospital every week because I was still getting fevers so much, and later on, a doctor said to me, resigned, “I’ve never seen a case like yours.” All he could do was increase the dosage of hormones he was giving me. There was nothing else he could do. But taking those hormones left me with some really obvious side effects, like swelling in my face and body, and pain in my legs. Going through all of that was really agonizing. At the time, I really didn’t have any faith left, and I was wondering if I really was going to die. After a while, a leader saw what terrible shape I was in and had me temporarily stop doing my watering duty to focus on my health. I knew that the brothers and sisters were thinking of my own wellbeing, but that was really hard for me. I felt like, if I couldn’t even perform a duty, did that mean I was going to be eliminated?

That same night I got another fever and I sat there looking at the empty room, with no one there but me, and I suddenly felt incredibly lonely and devoid of hope. I thought, “Am I really going to die here?” I thought about my son, and my mom back at home. I didn’t know if I’d ever get to see their faces again before I died. It was a living death. I couldn’t go back home, I’d lost my duty, and I felt like God didn’t want me anymore. I’d given up so much and suffered so much over the years, so how could that be all I got in return? The more I thought about it this way, the more miserable I felt, and I just started crying and crying. I was thinking that I may as well just die and be done with it. Then out of nowhere, a word suddenly popped into my head: Resistance! This word rattled around in my head, over and over, and then I thought of something that God said: “If a person has a negative attitude toward fate, it proves that they are resisting everything that God has arranged for them, that they do not have a submissive attitude” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words were a jolt for my heart, which was so numb at the time. I thought about how I’d been full of demands for God ever since my illness had come on. I felt like God should be protecting me because I’d left home and work behind to do my duty. When I found out how serious my condition was, and that I might even die, I felt like my future and my destination were gone. I regretted all my years of hard work and even wanted to die and put an end to all of it. Wasn’t that just resisting God all along the way? Where was my obedience to God? This realization was like a sudden wake-up call for me, and I finally kneeled down before God and said a prayer, in tears. I said, “God, I was wrong! I shouldn’t misunderstand You or complain, and I shouldn’t resist You. But I’m suffering so much, and so weak right now. I don’t know how to get through this situation. Please guide me.” I felt like I had some strength after my prayer, so I got myself back up with some effort and opened up God’s words. This was the passage that I saw: “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? If none of what you have imagined in your heart matches what I have done, how will you walk your future path? If you do not receive any of the things you hoped to receive, can you continue to be My follower?” (“A Very Serious Problem: Betrayal (2)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Reading this in God’s words was really painful for me. I thought of all the times I’d read this passage before, and I’d solemnly sworn to God that I would steadfastly follow Him until the end, and I’d never betray Him no matter what happened. But when I was faced with illness, the sort of faith I’d had all those years was revealed for what it was and I realized that over all my years of belief, I’d never been genuine with God or had love for Him. When my desire to gain safety from my faith wasn’t met, when my hopes for blessings were destroyed, I started to misunderstand and blame God, and I even wanted to fight against Him by dying. I saw that everything I’d sacrificed had only been for myself, had only been to be blessed. I was bartering with God. It was so rebellious of me! As a created being, every single breath I take is given to me by God, so I should submit to His rule and arrangements. How did I have the right to demand anything of God, to do deals with Him? I was filled with regret as I thought about that and I really hated how unreasonable, how unconscionable I was.

I remembered a hymn that we sang a lot: “Now, I give no consideration to my future prospects, nor am I under the yoke of death. With a heart that loves You, I desire to seek the way of life. Every matter, everything—it is all in Your hands; my fate is in Your hands and You hold my very life in Your hand. Now, I seek to love You, and regardless of whether You let me love You, regardless of how Satan interferes, I am determined to love You. I myself am willing to seek after God and to follow Him. Now even if God wants to abandon me, I will still follow Him. Whether He wants me or not, I will still love Him, and in the end, I must gain Him. …” (“I Am Determined to Love God” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). With these lyrics playing in my head, I silently resolved that no matter what my future and destination, whether I was blessed or not, I would do my duty and stand witness for God. I figured that even if I wasn’t in good health and I could hardly even leave the house, I could still do a duty online. So starting then, I threw myself into sharing the gospel online, and once I stopped thinking about my future and destination, but put all of my efforts into doing my duty, I felt totally at peace and I had some success in preaching the gospel. After a little while, I realized that my fevers weren’t as bad as they had been, and I didn’t have to go to the hospital as much. The doctor later confirmed that what I had was a thyroid nodule, not a malignant tumor. I needed to keep taking medicine and go in for follow-up, but I really was grateful to God.

I did have a better understanding of myself after that, but corruption and adulterations are really deeply entrenched, so we can’t achieve change just because we gain some understanding. There was more that I went through later on.

Two or three months after that, I got a message from home, saying that my mom had had a sudden stroke and was bedridden. My son was going everywhere trying to borrow money for her treatment. I was shocked when I got the news. It was so upsetting. For my whole life, my mom had always taken special care of me because of my frail health, more than my brother and sister. But now that she was sick and in the hospital, I couldn’t go be by her side and take care of her. I knew that whether my mom recovered or not was entirely in God’s hands and I was ready to submit, but I was still holding on to this hope that as long as I did my duty well, God might take care of and protect her. I was really hoping that she would get better and that everything would be fine at home. But a few months went by, and not only had her condition not improved, but she was totally paralyzed on her left side and was suffering from some confusion. It looked like there wasn’t much hope for her recovery. It was really painful for me. I was still suffering from my health problems, too. I was constantly getting full body chills and couldn’t stand any kind of draft. Others were using air conditioning and bamboo sleeping mats for coolness, but I needed a comforter, and I had blood pressure as low as 45 to 80 mmHg. I was anemic, hypoglycemic, and my legs hurt. My vision also really deteriorated. One evening I got a fever again. I was thinking that I hadn’t gotten better, but had to keep taking medication and going in for follow-up, plus my mom’s condition was really bad, and there was no telling how long she’d make it. I was really depressed and didn’t have any drive in my duty. In my misery, I prayed to God, saying, “God, I’m feeling really weak right now and I can’t submit to this situation You’ve set up. Please guide me so that I can see things in accordance with Your words, so that I don’t blame or misunderstand You, and I can have some understanding of my own state.”

I read this in God’s words after that: “So many believe in Me only that I might heal them. So many believe in Me only that I might use My powers to drive unclean spirits out from their bodies, and so many believe in Me simply that they might receive peace and joy from Me. So many believe in Me only to demand from Me greater material wealth. So many believe in Me just to spend this life in peace and to be safe and sound in the world to come. So many believe in Me to avoid the suffering of hell and to receive the blessings of heaven. So many believe in Me only for temporary comfort, yet do not seek to gain anything in the world to come. When I brought down My fury upon man and seized all the joy and peace he once possessed, man became doubtful. When I gave unto man the suffering of hell and reclaimed the blessings of heaven, man’s shame turned into anger. When man asked Me to heal him, I paid him no heed and felt abhorrence toward him; man departed from Me to instead seek the way of evil medicine and sorcery. When I took away all that man had demanded from Me, everyone disappeared without a trace. Thus, I say that man has faith in Me because I give too much grace, and there is far too much to gain” (“What Do You Know of Faith?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “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….” (“God’s Work and Man’s Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I felt really ashamed when I read these words from God. This judgment from God fully exposed my despicable motivation to pursue blessings in my faith. From the start, I’d wanted good health and a peaceful, happy family in exchange for my faith. When I got this grace and blessing from God, when I felt well was when I gave up everything to work for God. But once I got sick again and my mom was having health problems, too, I was complaining to God, and became negative and pulled back. I didn’t even care about doing my duty well. What kind of believer was I? Wasn’t I just using God to satisfy my desire for blessings? Wasn’t I cheating God? God had already given me plenty, and if it hadn’t been for God’s salvation, I wouldn’t have even made it that far. Even if they’re not a believer, anyone with a conscience knows to be grateful for a favor, but I’d been enjoying God’s watering and sustenance all those years giving nothing in return, enjoying so much of His grace, but I didn’t have the slightest bit of gratitude toward Him. I wasn’t approaching my duty with sincerity, but I was treating God like a cornucopia of treasure, wanting nothing but grace and blessings from Him. I realized I was lacking the most basic conscience and reason that a person should have. I was selfish, despicable, greedy and petty! At this realization, I was really disgusted by myself. I felt guilty and indebted, and I came before God in tears to pray. I said, “God, now I’ve seen that everything I’ve put in all these years has just been for blessings. I’ve been cheating You, doing deals with You. This really disgusts You. May You guide me to understand the root of my drive to pursue blessings so that I can truly repent and change.”

I read this passage of 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 believe in God for their own sakes; they abandon things, expend themselves for Him, and are faithful to Him, but still they do all these things for their own sakes. In sum, it is all done for the purpose of gaining blessings for themselves. In society, everything is done for personal benefit; believing in God is solely done to gain blessings. It is for the sake of gaining blessings that people forsake everything and can withstand much suffering: This is all empirical evidence of man’s corrupt nature” (“The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’—this is the life and the philosophy of man, and it also represents human nature. These words have already become the nature of corrupt mankind, the true portrait of corrupt mankind’s satanic nature, and this satanic nature has already become the basis for corrupt mankind’s existence; for several thousand years, corrupt mankind has lived by this venom of Satan, right up to the present day” (“How to Walk the Path of Peter” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). After reading this, I gained some understanding within my heart that the source of my pursuit of blessings in my faith was that I was really profoundly corrupted by Satan. I was living by the satanic logic of “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” so everything I did was for myself. My faith was for the sake of my own physical health and the wellbeing of my family, and all my sacrifices and hard work in my duty were so that I’d have a good destination. The moment I wasn’t benefiting from my faith, when my hopes were dashed, I lost all drive for my duty. In fact, it’s perfectly normal for people to develop health problems throughout the course of regular life. It’s a natural law. But I blamed God when I got sick, and I even complained to God when my mom became ill. I was so unreasonable! I was reminded of Job. He was upright and kind and never demanded anything of God. He believed that all had come from God, and that whether we are blessed or suffer disaster, we should still praise and worship God. That’s why, when Satan tempted Job and overnight he lost his children and all of his possessions were stolen, then his whole body was covered in boils, he didn’t make a single complaint, but even praised the name of God, saying, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21). When all was said and done, he stood witness and humiliated Satan. But even though I’d read so many of God’s words, God still didn’t have a place in my heart at all. My faith was just for my own blessings, my own benefit. I had such lowly humanity!

After that, I started thinking things through as I read God’s words. What was God’s will in these health problems? I read a couple passages of God’s words that helped. “Refinement is the best means by which God makes people perfect; only refinement and bitter trials can bring out the true love for God in people’s hearts. Without hardship, people lack true love for God; if they are not tested within, if they are not truly subjected to refinement, then their hearts will always be floating around outside. Having been refined to a certain point, you will see your own weaknesses and difficulties, you will see how much you are lacking and that you are unable to overcome the many problems you encounter, and you will see how great is your disobedience. Only during trials are people able to truly know their real states; trials make people better able to be perfected” (“Only by Experiencing Refinement Can Man Possess True Love” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “If all you seek is to be perfected by God and be blessed in the very end, then the perspective of your faith in God is not pure. You should be pursuing how to see God’s deeds in real life, how to satisfy Him when He reveals His will to you, and seeking how you ought to bear witness to His wondrousness and wisdom, and how to bear witness for how He disciplines and deals with you. All of these are things you should now be pondering. If your love for God is solely so that you can share in God’s glory after He perfects you, then it is still inadequate and cannot meet God’s requirements. You need to be able to bear witness to God’s work, satisfy His demands, and experience the work He has done on people in a practical way. Whether pain, tears, or sadness, you must experience all of these things in your practice. They are meant to perfect you as one who bears witness for God. What is it, exactly, that now compels you to suffer and seek perfection? Is your present suffering truly for the sake of loving God and bearing witness for Him? Or is it for the sake of blessings of the flesh, for your future prospects and fate? All of your intentions, motivations, and the goals that you pursue must be rectified and cannot be guided by your own will” (“Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Once I’d read these two passages of God’s words, I felt like I really gained some insight. I saw that God’s will behind my illness was to reveal the corruption and adulteration in my faith, to purify and cleanse me. If it hadn’t been for that, I never would have realized my disgusting drive to go after blessings, and I really wouldn’t have seen that all of my hard work was very blatantly conducting a transaction with God. Having faith and doing my duty that way was cheating God and resisting Him. I knew that if I didn’t repent and change, I’d end up eliminated by God. Then I understood that my illness was actually God’s love and salvation for me, and I should use that situation to reflect on and know myself, to seek the truth to resolve my corrupt disposition. Once I understood God’s will, I swore to Him that whether my mom and I got better or not, I was ready to submit, to set aside my demands and desires, and stop pursuing blessings. After that, I started throwing myself into the duty of sharing the gospel. When I went to the hospital for a check-up a few months later, the doctor said that all of my bloodwork looked normal, and the ultrasound showed that my thyroid nodule had disappeared. He also said I could stop taking medication. I knew this was entirely God’s protection and I was so grateful to Him. I just wanted to do my duty well to make up for the debt I owed to God.

I’ve been in great health for over three years, and my thyroid problem hasn’t really recurred. But in February of this year, I did suddenly feel some pain in my neck and when I looked in the mirror, I saw that there was visible swelling there. That evening it was hurting so much that I was tossing and turning, unable to sleep, and when I got up and had water the next morning, my hands were shaking as I held the glass. I felt really scared—those were the exact same symptoms as before. I wasn’t really sure at the time, so I talked to a Chinese medicine practitioner about my symptoms who said that it was my thyroid problem again. I was really worried, because there were a lot of people online who were investigating Almighty God’s work, so I was really busy sharing testimony, and sometimes I had multiple gatherings in a day. I was thinking that if I kept doing my duty that way, I could exhaust myself and start getting those fevers again, and then what would I do if my condition deteriorated? And with the coronavirus situation so bad right now, if I became ill and had to be hospitalized, on top of not knowing if my thyroid treatment would be successful, I could even catch Covid. That day, after only an hour of fellowship with a sister, my body just gave out. My neck was hurting and I was trembling all over, plus I felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen and my brain was foggy. I wondered if I should take a couple days off, and start doing my duty again after I felt better. But then I thought about all of the workers in other Christian churches that I’d arranged to share testimony with the next day. It was too late to find someone else on such short notice, so if I didn’t go, wouldn’t that delay their investigation of the true way? That evening, my neck was both swollen and painful, and I couldn’t sleep all night again. But I thought about how much work God had done in me, and when I got sick I was only thinking of myself—I felt awful. I kneeled before God to pray, saying, “God, Your good will is behind me getting sick again. Please enlighten and guide me so that I can understand Your will. I fully believe that my life is in Your hands, and no matter what happens with my health, I’m willing to submit to Your rule and arrangements.” This passage of God’s words came to mind after my prayer: “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 Path Comes From Often Pondering the Truth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). These words from God helped me understand that my duty was God’s commission, that it was my responsibility and it was right and proper for me to carry it out. No matter what happened, even if it was my very last breath, I should abide by my duty. So I steeled myself and put everything on the line. Even if my condition got worse after sharing my testimony the next day, even if I ended up hospitalized, I would carry out my duty. I gained a sense of peace once I started thinking about it that way. The next day, I was ready at my computer well before the time we’d arranged. I was surprised to find that through the several gatherings I held that day, I was clear-headed and felt more enlightened the more I spoke. I talked all day and I didn’t feel any pain at all in my neck. Ever since then, my neck hasn’t been swollen or painful at all. Seeing God’s protection once again, I felt so grateful to God, and I thought to myself that whether the problem ever recurred or not, I was ready to submit and get through it.

I truly could feel God’s love through that experience. Even though I did suffer through my illness, it really opened my eyes to my motivation to be blessed, and my corruption and adulteration in my faith. God’s words transformed my mistaken perspective on pursuit and helped me gain some submission to God. Even more, it let me see God’s authority and protection, and gave me more faith in Him. All of this was God’s true love and salvation for me.

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Next: Crossroads

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