Seeing God’s Hand in the Hardships of Selling and Buying a Home
Deep in the night when all was quiet, Ma Ling stood in silence by the window thinking about a conversation she had had with a church leader that day.
The leader, Sister Bai, said: “Sister Ma, one of the people taken in the most recent wave of arrests of brothers and sisters by the CCP government was a sister who used to stay at your home. We’re afraid that the police will track her movements through video surveillance recordings, and in that case you would certainly be implicated. The duty that you’re currently performing would be impacted too. I don’t know if you have any particular plans.”
Ma Ling pondered this for a moment, then responded resolutely, “I’ll sell my home! The CCP government has always tried to follow every clue to arrest more Christians. If I don’t move, the CCP police could burst in at any moment.”
Ma Ling well knew that believing in God and performing her duty in China, a country with an atheist party in power, meant being subject to the CCP police’s persecution and arrest and even the danger of losing her life; and that Christians’ homes had not been their own for a long time, and wherever they went, they couldn’t stay long—her home would have to be sold sooner or later. She knew that selling it was her best course of action at the time, but she still owed tens of thousands of yuan on her mortgage. After the divorce from her husband she could not get her residence booklet from him, so she hadn’t been able to get the deed for the property. Without the property deed, there was no way to sell the apartment. The memory from several months prior of being sent off by an employee because the documents for her property deed weren’t complete surfaced in Ma Ling’s mind and she couldn’t help but let out a sigh. She was feeling a bit anxious. The more she thought about it, the more difficult she felt it was and the more unsettled she felt. All she could do was pray to God: “Oh God! Some brothers and sisters fromhave been arrested and my home is in danger. I want to buy a different place to continue performing my duty but I can’t get the property deed, so I have no way to sell this apartment. O God! Faced with this difficulty, I don’t know what to do next. Oh God, may You guide me, and if Your will is that I sell this apartment, may You open up a path….”
After praying, Ma Ling thought of these words from God: “If you believe in the dominion of God, then you must believe that the things that happen every day, be they good or bad, don’t happen accidentally. It is not that someone doesn’t get on with you or opposes you on purpose; it is actually all arranged and orchestrated by God. … Through obeying, seeking, praying more, retreating to your spirit and coming before God then, unbeknownst to you, a change will happen in your inner condition. During this period, the reality ofis being wrought in you” (“To Attain the Truth, You Must Learn From the People, Matters, and Things Around You” in Records of Christ’s Talks). After thinking of this passage, Ma Ling’s agitated heart settled a bit. She realized that the things we encounter in our lives every day, both big and small, are within God’s rule and arrangements, and that as God had allowed her brothers and sisters to be arrested, her home becoming entangled also had God’s good intentions within it, and there had to be a truth she needed to enter into. She thought that this particular environment would force her to rely on and look to God more, and whether or not she was able to sell her home, she was willing to leave the entire matter in God’s hands, to experience God’s work and understand His almightiness and sovereignty through this. After understanding God’s will, Ma Ling determined she would try to get her property deed first thing in the morning.
The next day she still felt nervous when arriving at the Deed and Title Transferring Office. Pacing back and forth outside of the main hall, she continually prayed to God: “Oh God! I am handing the issue of applying for the property deed over to You, and look to You for it. No matter what happens today I believe that behind it is Your will. O God, I only ask You to keep watch over my heart so that no matter what the outcome, I will be able to quiet myself before You, learn to submit to the environment I am in, not complain, and not blame You.”
After praying Ma Ling clenched her fists a bit—she pushed open the door to the main hall and strode in. Clutching a stack of paperwork, she lined up at the deed applications window. Seeing the long line stretching out in front of her, she felt a little worried: “I wasn’t able to get the deed when I came before; will I get it this time? Isn’t not having my residence booklet a real problem?” In her heart she called out to God over and over to give her faith, and soon God’s words surfaced in her mind: “Any and all things, living or dead, will shift, change, renew, and disappear according to God’s thoughts. This is how God rules over all things” (“God Is the Source of Man’s Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Mulling these words over, Ma Ling gradually gained some faith and strength. She thought: “That’s right! Any and all things are within God’s rule. God can make that which did not exist, exist; He can make that which did exist, not exist. Isn’t the thinking of the employee also within God’s hands? It is ultimately up to God whether or not I can get the property deed, and I believe that with God nothing is impossible. Even if I really can’t get the deed, I’m certain that behind this are His good intentions and I must learn to obey His sovereignty and arrangements.”
Just then an employee asked Ma Ling, “Excuse me, what can we help you with today?”
She replied, “I’m here to get the deed for my apartment.”
The employee took the packet of documents she was holding and carefully looked through them page by page, then asked, “Do you have your residence booklet and marriage license?”
Ma Ling replied honestly: “I can’t bring my residence booklet with me. Is there anything at all that can be done?” Saying this, she clenched her fists a bit and silently called out to God nonstop, afraid that the employee would slam her folder of documents closed, as had happened in the past, and tell her to come back when she had everything.
To Ma Ling’s surprise, the employee paused for a moment and then said: “First go make photocopies of these documents, then find someone to help you get a photo of your residence booklet. You’ll also need to get a copy of your mortgage from the bank and a certificate of your marital status from the Civil Affairs Bureau.”
When Ma Ling heard this, her tension finally dissipated and she gave sincere thanks to God for His guidance. It looked like things were falling into place.
Ma Ling thought of a way to quickly get a photo of her residence booklet, and she even got a copy of her mortgage from the bank without going through the usual approval process. By 4:30 that afternoon she arrived at the Civil Affairs Bureau and got a certificate of her marital status in hand, without a hitch.
Seeing it was nearly 5:00 pm, closing time, Ma Ling rushed to the main hall in one go with all of her documents in hand. She hurriedly handed everything over to the employee. After looking through those documents, the employee smiled and said to her: “We have everything we need. Wait for us to get in touch with you then come back to pick up your deed.”
Hearing this, Ma Ling was both surprised and excited. She hardly dared believe that over the course of just one short afternoon her property deed had been taken care of! Generally a copy of the mortgage on her apartment from the bank needed to be applied for in advance and took two weeks to get, but she was unexpectedly able to get it on the spot. On top of that, the employees at the Deed and Title Transferring Office when she had come before weren’t willing to deal with her case. She hadn’t imagined that not only would that employee have a much better attitude this time, but would also inform her of her best course of action. All of this was God opening up a pathway for her—it was God’s guidance! Ma Ling then gained a genuine personal understanding of God’s words: “Any and all things, living or dead, will shift, change, renew, and disappear according to God’s thoughts. This is how God rules over all things.” She really felt that all things are within God’s orchestrations and are doing service for God’s work, and that this is a reflection of God’s authority.
A few days later Ma Ling had her property deed in hand and was then able to get the sale of her apartment registered with a few agents. In the following days there were people coming to look at the apartment one after the other, but they were all put off by its small size and the fact that the property deed had just been issued (According to the regulations of the State, when buying an apartment with a newly-issued deed, an additional 20,000 yuan in property taxes is required). They thought it wasn’t ideal.
One prospective buyer after another wasn’t interested in buying the apartment after seeing it, and Ma Ling became a bit concerned. An agent told her: “To be honest, the real estate market is really hot right now, and generally we can sell a place in just a few days. There have been so many people who have looked at your apartment but it still hasn’t been sold. The price is probably too high.” In hopes of getting her home sold expediently, Ma Ling had no choice but to ask the agents to reduce the price by 10,000 yuan.
Ma Ling thought that with the reduced price the apartment should sell really quickly, but after another few days without any progress, she was losing hope and feeling anxious. She started to consider: “Hm, even with the price reduction no one wants to buy the apartment. The critical issues are that it’s small and the property deed had just been issued, so most potential buyers will feel it’s not a good investment. If I lower the price even more it won’t be enough for me to buy another place. It’s no easy task to get this place sold in a hurry…. But if I can’t sell it and this drags on, what if the CCP police find my home?”
Ma Ling felt confused and overwhelmed in the face of this dilemma. In her helplessness, she realized that she was not in a good state—she was completely consumed by the difficulties of selling her home and did not have confidence in God. She prayed to God: “Oh God! The CCP government’s persecution of Christians has become worse and worse, and in some places the police have started going door-to-door to look for believers. Plus I don’t know how my brothers and sisters who were arrested are doing now, and the others who have been implicated have all been forced to flee. I’m the only one who hasn’t managed to get my affairs in order. Oh, God! I want to sell this apartment and continue to perform my duty, but my faith is not great enough, and I don’t know how to deal with the difficulties I’m currently facing. O God! May You give me true faith and strength so that I will not become negative or weak in this environment and I will be able to live relying upon Your words, and learn to obey Your orchestrations and arrangements.”
After praying Ma Ling opened up a book of God’s words and saw the following: “To put it plainly, ‘the authority of God’ means that it is up to God. God has the right to decide how to do something, and it is done in whatever way He wishes. The law of all things is up to God, and not up to man; neither can it be altered by man. It cannot be moved by the will of man, but is instead changed by the thoughts of God, and the wisdom of God, and the orders of God, and this is a fact that is undeniable to any man” (“God Himself, the Unique I” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words gave her great faith, enabling her to realize: “The heavens, earth, and all things are ruled by God and under the arrangement of God; aren’t all human affairs also within God’s rule?” Ma Ling thought of the Lordusing five loaves and two fishes to feed five thousand people in the Age of Grace and of Him raising Lazarus with a single word. In human eyes, these wonders are simply not possible, but they were really and truly done by God. All of that was the manifestation of God’s authority, so how could the issue of her home being sold not be within God’s arrangement and orchestration? Both the price it was sold for and the day when it was sold were also determined by God. If no one ever bought it and she was arrested by the CCP government, that would be what she needed to experience and there would certainly be truths that she needed to gain within that kind of environment. At this point, she was no longer willing to rely upon her own thinking to figure out if the apartment could be sold or not and realized that she needed to learn to seek God’s will, leadership, and guidance and wait and observe God’s deeds in the midst of this hardship. She felt much better after coming to understand all of that. She didn’t feel so anxious anymore, and just wanted to be able to concentrate fully on fulfilling her duty.
That day a person came to look at the apartment, who, to Ma Ling’s surprise, took a liking to it and showed genuine interest in buying it. After negotiations the selling price was 5,000 yuan higher than she had anticipated. Not only that, but with alacrity the buyer paid for it up front with a single cash deposit of over 300,000 yuan. The buyer also agreed to allow Ma Ling to continue living there after the sale was complete until she was able to find another place.
Seeing God’s rule and arrangements in all of this, on top of feeling gratitude to God, Ma Ling also gained true personal experience of God’s almightiness and sovereignty and she felt even more ashamed of her lack of faith. Thinking of everything that had taken place, from getting the property deed to selling the apartment, she saw that according to man’s mind, none of that could have been taken care of, as they were things that human means couldn’t achieve, but with what God had brought into play and arranged, everything had gone very smoothly. It was beyond human imagination. It was perfectly clear that getting a copy of her mortgage from the bank should have taken two weeks, but she got it that same day. It was quite evident that it was not an ideal apartment in several aspects, but because the buyer liked the layout of the apartment and the direction it faced, he was willing to buy it for a slightly higher price. The facts laid out before her gave her a genuine realization that all those things truly were within God’s control and His domination. They were determined by God—when it wasn’t the right time for Him, He wouldn’t do anything, and no matter how much she ran hither and thither, how much she ran herself ragged, nothing would be resolved.
After receiving the buyer’s payment, Ma Ling just had 250,000 yuan left after paying off the mortgage. Considering the fact that apartments were about 10,000 yuan/m2 on average at the time and even an unfinished garage would be sold for over 200,000 yuan, she thought there was no way she’d be able to afford an apartment with what she had in hand. Ma Ling felt a little discouraged—if she really couldn’t buy a place she’d have to rent, but the CCP government was closely investigating rented households. If she were renting, it wouldn’t be safe to perform her duty. She really didn’t know what to do.
She racked her brains, but still felt that with the little bit of money she had, buying another place was nothing but a fantasy. She prepared herself for the worst. If she couldn’t afford another place she would have to rent, and even if that might bring danger there was nothing she could do about it.
Ma Ling later read these words from God: “What man does or thinks, what man understands, the plans of man—none of this bears any relation to God. Everything proceeds according to God’s plan, in keeping with the times and stages set by God. Such is the principle of God’s work. … Do the facts prove that the behavior and conduct of man hindered the work of God? They did not hinder the work of God! Did man’s little faith in God, and his conceptions and imagination about God affect God’s work? No, they did not! Not in the least! God’s management plan is unaffected by any man, matter, or environment. All that He resolves to do will be completed and accomplished on time and according to His plan, and His work cannot be interfered with by any man. God ignores certain aspects of man’s foolishness and ignorance, and even certain aspects of man’s resistance and conceptions toward Him, doing the work that He must do regardless. This is God’s disposition, and is a reflection of His omnipotence” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Pondering over God’s words, Ma Ling thought of a matter that had happened in the Age of Law: When God promised Abraham that he would have a son, even though Abraham, who was nearly 100 years old, did not believe it was possible and fell down to the ground, laughing, God did cause Isaac to be born on the appointed day and carried out the work of the Age of Law on Abraham’s descendants. This made Ma Ling realize that human notions and delimitations cannot possibly hold back the completion of God’s work. As long as God has determined to do something, it will occur and become a fact, no matter where or when. She understood that this little difficulty she was facing in buying a home counted as nothing for God. God saw it with the utmost clarity. It was just she, foolish and ignorant, who could not see into the matter and did not have enough faith in God. Thinking of this, Ma Ling felt a rush of faith, realizing that when encountering difficulties she had always looked at the problems through her own eyes. Take buying a home this time as an example—she thought that whatever she could achieve God could also achieve, and that God couldn’t achieve whatever didn’t seem achievable. Wasn’t that lacking true understanding of God’s almightiness and sovereignty? Even if God chose not to open up a path for her to buy a new place, that wouldn’t mean He wasn’t able to do it, just that He had planned to do things that way. Either way, she should submit. When she thought of this Ma Ling’s heart felt much enlightened. She was no longer willing to rely on her own notions and imaginings in issues she encountered. As it is written: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecc 3:1). She would let things take their course with buying a home and believe that God had prepared and arranged everything.
A few days later her agent suddenly called: “There’s a two-bedroom for sale and they have the deed….” Ma Ling hung up the phone and rushed out to see it. It was in good condition, in a nice location, and the price was good. It was perfect for her, and most importantly, it was really easy to get in and out of the place so that would be beneficial for performing her duty. Ma Ling reserved the apartment. She was absolutely certain that this was what God had prepared; she silently thanked God over and over.
After moving in to her new place, it was much safer to have brothers and sisters over. They didn’t have to be as constrained as before. At the very least, the CCP police still weren’t aware that she was there so she could also perform her duty in peace.
Experiencing such wondrous orchestration and arrangement from God once again, Ma Ling felt that she was very much in His debt. She saw that her faith in God truly was too small and at the same time felt an indescribable excitement and joy. Seeing all of these things happen one after another, she came to have a bit of genuine experience and understanding of God’s words: “Of everything that occurs in the universe, there is nothing that I do not have the final say in. What exists that is not in My hands?” (“The First Utterance” of God’s Utterances to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). She thought: “It’s so true. God’s authority and almightiness are with us at all times, in all places. God has the final say in all things, and no human can fathom God’s almightiness and sovereignty.”
In the silence of the night, Ma Ling sat under the lamp at her desk and wrote in her notebook: “As one of creation, whatever I encounter, as long as I maintain a heart of accepting and obeying the sovereignty and arrangements of the Lord of creation, as long as I actively experience the leading and guidance of God’s words and observe His deeds, I will be able to personally experience His faithfulness as well as the authority and power that His words possess. As long as I genuinelyand rely on Him, no matter what difficulties I face God will be there to help me at any time.”
Thanks be to God! All the glory be to!