Who Gave Me My Freedom?
By Ruizhi, China
When I first converted, my husband said that having faith was great and sometimes he’d go to gatherings with me. Then on May 28, 2014, the Communist Party fabricated the Zhaoyuan Case and planted it on The Church of Almighty God. Those rumors were all over the media—TV, radio, and newspapers. It was a terrible time. Lots of brothers and sisters were arrested. One afternoon, right as I was getting home from a gathering, my husband said, flustered, “Oh, you’re back! You were reported for believing in God.” My heart skipped a beat and I quickly asked him, “Who told you?” He lowered his voice and said, “This morning the work unit leader and secretary of the Discipline Inspection Commission called me for a meeting which was mostly about your religion. They said the Central Committee designated The Church of Almighty God as a ‘cult’ a long time ago, and they’re really cracking down on it. Nationwide, top to bottom, from villages, factories and mines to enterprises and institutions, everyone’s looking for believers in Almighty God. They’re all being expelled. And they said Party members aren’t allowed to have a religion, and if they’re found to, they’ll be kicked out of the civil service, their kids won’t get into university, work in civil service, or get into military school.” He said that his coworker Miss Zhao was a believer, so not only was she dismissed, but even her husband was kicked out of the civil service and even though their kid scored well on the college entrance exam, he wasn’t accepted. He told me that if I kept my faith, it would impact our entire family. Then he was quiet for a while and said to me gloomily, “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Keeping believing in Almighty God definitely won’t be good for us, so for the sake of our family, I’ve decided to give it up. If you keep believing, just practice at home. You can’t do anything outside of the house. If you’re reported again for believing in Almighty God, our whole family will suffer along with you.” You know, it was really unexpected for me. At first I didn’t really know what to do, and I was really upset. I figured that my husband’s stance on this was firm, and scared by the Party’s threats, he didn’t dare believe anymore. And he didn’t want me to believe or do my duty, either. But I couldn’t not believe in God. I was certain this is the true way, that this is God’s appearance and work, He’s expressing truths to cleanse and save mankind. I absolutely had to believe. But then I thought, I’d already been reported and I no longer had my husband’s support. If I kept doing my duty I’d surely be facing obstacles, and if I were arrested, my family would be implicated. I figured I’d stop going to gatherings and doing my duty, and just practice at home. That would probably be safer and maybe it could save my family. But that idea left me feeling guilty. Some new believers were being taken in by the rumors and lies spread by the Communist Party, so they needed fellowship on the truth to help and support them. If I didn’t go out and perform my duty, wasn’t I a deserter fleeing in the face of battle? That wasn’t in line with God’s will. I couldn’t ignore my conscience. It occurred to me that things weren’t really as simple as I had thought and I couldn’t be rash. I decided to talk to my leader, Sister Li, to seek with her.
I was turning it over in my head the whole way there. My husband used to say faith was great, and he was supportive of me doing my duty, but now, unexpectedly, he was listening to his leader and stopped believing. He didn’t want me to, either. It was such a sudden change. After lots of thought, I realized he was afraid of how it would impact his position, his living. It was self-preservation. This made me feel really uncomfortable, and I thought, “Man was created by God, and having faith and worshiping God is right and natural, so why wouldn’t the Party let people have faith? Why would having faith cause trouble for your whole family’s future? Doesn’t the National Constitution guarantee freedom of belief? Then why is the Party frantically suppressing believers?” I was filled with confusion. Sister Li had me read a passage of God’s words. “In a dark society such as this, where the demons are merciless and inhumane, how could the king of devils, who kills people without batting an eye, tolerate the existence of a God who is lovely, kind, and also holy? How could it applaud and cheer the arrival of God? These lackeys! They repay kindness with hate, they have long since disdained God, they abuse God, they are savage in the extreme, they have not the slightest regard for God, they plunder and pillage, they have lost all conscience, they go against all conscience, and they tempt the innocent into senselessness. Forefathers of the ancient? Beloved leaders? They all oppose God! Their meddling has left all beneath heaven in a state of darkness and chaos! Religious freedom? The legitimate rights and interests of citizens? They are all tricks for covering up sin! … Why put up such an impenetrable obstacle to the work of God? Why employ various tricks to deceive God’s folk? Where is the true freedom and the legitimate rights and interests? Where is the fairness? Where is the comfort? Where is the warmth? Why use deceitful schemes to trick God’s people? Why use force to suppress the coming of God? Why not allow God to freely roam upon the earth that He created? Why hound God until He has nowhere to rest His head? Where is the warmth among men? Where is the welcome among people? Why cause such desperate yearning in God? Why make God call out again and again? Why force God to worry for His beloved Son? In this dark society, why do its sorry guard dogs not allow God to freely come and go among the world which He created?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Work and Entry (8)). After we read this, Sister Li shared this fellowship: “Almighty God has come in the last days to express truths to cleanse and save mankind. Many true believers have heard God’s voice and accepted Almighty God, but the Party is afraid people will gain faith, then follow God and reject it. It uses all sorts of tactics to condemn and blaspheme The Church of Almighty God, arresting and persecuting Christians like mad, and dragging in multiple generations of Christians’ families. They’ve concocted all sorts of rumors to blaspheme and slander the Church, to fool people into standing with them against God, to achieve their savage aim of maintaining their dictatorial rule. The Party is a pack of God-hating, God-resisting evil demons. Abroad, they claim to support freedom of religion, but that’s just to lie and manipulate the people of the world. Now, this May 28 Zhaoyuan Case is the CCP creating a false case to condemn and smear The Church of Almighty God and it’s always been their tactic to obliterate any dissenters. But no matter how savage it may be, the Party is an object of service in God’s hands. God allows them to act this way so you gain discernment over them, so you see their evil essence and are no longer taken in by them. Ultimately you’ll be able to fully reject Satan and turn toward God. This is God’s salvation.” Sister Li’s explanation helped me understand the CCP’s evil essence of hating God and hating the truth. It was using my husband’s and child’s futures to threaten me so I’d betray God. I could never negotiate with Satan! No matter how the Party oppressed me or how my husband stood in my way, I had to have faith and follow God, and do my duty.
I did that very night, but he wasn’t having any of it. He even said, “I’ve worked within this system all these years and I’ve seen the CCP concoct countless unfair, false cases. Don’t I know better than you? But China is an autocratic country, and China is where we were born. You have to follow Communist Party policies. Otherwise, you’ll be punished. The weak cannot defeat the strong. I used to think that your faith was a good thing, that it was just getting people to take the right path. I never imagined it would be sanctioned by the Party and could end up with lost jobs, arrest and imprisonment, or even being beat to death. The consequences are too serious. If you insist on believing in God, it’s not just you that could be arrested. I won’t be able to hang onto my job, and then what would we eat? What would we drink? Our kid will never get into college, work in civil service, or get into military school. Would you really ruin our child’s entire future for your God?” Hearing him say all this was infuriating, and at the same time, terribly agonizing. If I kept practicing my faith, I’d be facing termination from my job, my husband’s job wouldn’t be secure, and our son would never get into college. Our life as a family and my husband’s and son’s futures would all suffer. It would destroy our family and I’d become the villain. How could I face them after that? I lay in bed that night tossing and turning, unable to get a wink of sleep. In that moment, I said a silent prayer to God, asking Him to watch over my heart, to guide me, to show me the way.
I read this in God’s words later: “Man’s heart and spirit are held in the hand of God, everything of his life is beheld in the eyes of God. Regardless of whether or not you believe this, any and all things, whether living or dead, will shift, change, renew, and disappear in accordance with God’s thoughts. Such is the way in which God presides over all things” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God Is the Source of Man’s Life). After reading this I felt like a great expanse opened up within me. I realized God rules over everything, and human hearts and spirits are entirely within His grasp, and so were my husband’s and son’s fates. My husband losing his job or not and our kid getting into college—didn’t God have the final say? That couldn’t be orchestrated by any human. Besides, having faith was taking the right path in life and I hadn’t done a single thing against the law. If my family got dragged into this, that would be the Communist Party’s doing, it would be because of the Party’s evil. Once I understood this I said a prayer to God, putting the futures of my husband and son in His hands. I felt quite a bit better after that. And then I said to my husband, completely composed, “Man was created by God and it’s right that we believe in and worship Him. I can’t give up my faith to preserve our family. That would be betraying God. I can’t turn against God and hurt Him. You don’t believe anymore out of fear of the Party, of losing your job, your living. That’s your choice. But I am certain that Almighty God is the one true God and I’ve enjoyed so much of His grace, His blessings, and His provisions of the truth. I can’t be ungrateful and turn my back on Him. Besides, God rules over mankind’s fate, and everything is in God’s hands. Whether I’m expelled, whether you’re fired, whether our son can get into college is all in God’s hands, and no human being has the final say.” Displeased to see that I wasn’t doing what he wanted, my husband raised his voice and said, “I don’t care what you say—you can’t go out to gatherings anymore. Practice your faith at home.” I said, “How is it faith without going to gatherings or doing my duty? Is that any way to gain the truth? Faith in name only is being a nonbeliever. You can be in charge of all our family affairs, but I can’t do as you say as far as my faith is concerned.” Seeing how resolute I was, he stalked off, slammed the door in anger, and was gone.
When I got back from a gathering that evening, I saw our living room was full of people. My father, who was in his 80s, had come, and my uncle, sister, brother-in-law, and brother were all sitting there staring at me. Seeing me, my dad got really angry and said, pointing at me with one hand while supporting himself on the sofa with the other, “You went to a gathering, didn’t you? How could you do that? The Party is rounding up Christians like crazy. Aren’t you afraid of being arrested? What will happen to your son if you’re arrested? How will everyone get by? Starting tomorrow, you’re not allowed out of this house. I’ll be here keeping an eye on you.” My uncle heaved a sigh and said, looking despondent, “The strike against Christians in China is really serious now. What good will keeping your faith do you? Everyone in the family will be implicated if you’re arrested. Can’t you do right by your family?” My brother, wide-eyed, also chimed in: “The Party wants to totally wipe out The Church of Almighty God. My work is monitoring the movements of all employees and everyone’s on tenterhooks. How do you have the nerve to go out at a time like this? Don’t you have any fear? Aren’t you afraid you’ll be arrested? Starting tomorrow, I’m not going to work. I’m going to stay here to watch you.” And my brother-in-law added, “You’ve always thought about us in everything you do. I’ve always admired your conscientiousness, and I have a lot of respect for you. You’re like a totally different person now. Why won’t you listen to anyone? Even if you won’t think of yourself, at least think of us. If something happens to you it’ll impact the entire family. I can’t let you destroy our entire family. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be following you in the car wherever you go.” They all went back and forth. It was like one of those public denunciations in the Cultural Revolution. Seeing the way it was going, I spoke up sternly and fairly: “I’ll listen to all of you in anything else, but in anything regarding my faith, I have my bottom line and I can’t do that. Almighty God is the one true God and in the last days, He has expressed truths to cleanse and save mankind. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Anyone without faith, who doesn’t accept the truth, will end up falling into the great disaster in the last days. I’ve shared the gospel with you and you know that faith is a good thing, so why do you not only not believe, but follow the Party, standing in my way to get me to betray God? Is this really for my own good? You can’t tell good from evil, right from wrong. You just follow along with the Communist Party, doing evil and opposing God. If you don’t repent, you’ll go to hell and be punished along with all of them.” They didn’t say a single thing in response. Everyone left later that night, except my elderly father, who stayed to keep an eye on me. The next morning I was getting on my bike to leave, but my dad held on to my bike, not letting me leave. My brother also started coming every day to make sure I didn’t go out. One morning when I was trying to leave, he picked up a stool and was about to hit me with it, but he ended up smashing it on the floor in anger, breaking it in two. Seeing my family acting like this was incredibly disappointing for me. What sort of “loved ones” were they? We used to be a big, happy family, but the Communist Party’s oppression had pushed them to the point they treated me like an enemy. I was starting to really weaken in my heart, and I thought, “When will these awful days come to an end? If I just stop going out to gatherings, they won’t treat me this way anymore.” At that point I realized that I was falling for one of Satan’s tricks. Satan exploited my affections to get me to betray God. I knew I couldn’t fall for it. I prayed to God, asking Him to lead me to understand His will so I could stand witness for Him.
In a gathering, the leader found a passage that addressed that problem of mine. “When people have yet to be saved, their lives are often interfered with, and even controlled by, Satan. In other words, people who have not been saved are prisoners to Satan, they have no freedom, they have not been relinquished by Satan, they are not qualified or entitled to worship God, and they are closely pursued and viciously attacked by Satan. Such people have no happiness to speak of, they have no right to a normal existence to speak of, and moreover they have no dignity to speak of. Only if you stand up and do battle with Satan, using your faith in God and obedience to, and fear of God as the weapons with which to fight a life-and-death battle with Satan, such that you fully defeat Satan and cause it to turn tail and become cowardly whenever it sees you, so that it completely abandons its attacks and accusations against you—only then will you be saved and become free. If you are determined to fully break with Satan, but are not equipped with the weapons that will help you defeat Satan, then you will still be in danger; as time goes on, when you have been so tortured by Satan that there is not an ounce of strength left in you, yet you have still been unable to bear testimony, have still not completely freed yourself of Satan’s accusations and attacks against you, then you will have little hope of salvation. In the end, when the conclusion of God’s work is proclaimed, you will still be in the grip of Satan, unable to free yourself, and thus you will never have a chance or hope. The implication, then, is that such people will be completely in Satan’s captivity” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II). After her fellowship, I understood that the CCP was doing everything in its power to disturb and disrupt God’s work, even deluding my family members with all sorts of rumors so they’d stand on its side, attacking and oppressing my faith. It wanted to get me firmly controlled under its domain so I couldn’t follow God and take the right path in life, ending up punished in hell together with it. If I followed Satan, fretting over my family, giving up practicing my faith and doing my duty, I’d be falling for Satan’s tricks. Satan would snatch me away and I’d lose my chance at salvation. The fact that my husband and relatives had treated me like their enemy just because I believed in God meant that they were followers of the great red dragon and were its puppets, through and through. I couldn’t let Satan get away with its plot, but I had to lean on God, stand witness for Him, and humiliate Satan. After that, seeing how determined I was to follow God, my family figured I was a lost cause and loosened up. I kept doing my duty.
That was in August 2018. I had a duty out of town at the time. One day when I went back home, my husband said to me, harried, “Xiaoyu, who you shared the gospel with before, was listed as wanted for believing in Almighty God. The police came to ask some questions at work. My boss came looking for me, asking if the two of us had any connection to her and if I knew where she is now. Her husband is calling me every day asking about her, saying the only reason their family fell apart was because you preached the gospel to her. I’ve been awake all night, every night lately with my heart in my throat, worrying about you. I’m afraid one day you’ll become wanted and get arrested. And then what about our son? How would we get by?” Hearing him say this made me start feeling anxious, too. Just then, he teared up and said to me, “Do you absolutely have to believe in God? Is it really that important to you? You need to make a choice today. Are you going to choose God, or are you going to choose me, our family?” This was absolutely heartbreaking for me, and in that moment, I felt like I couldn’t bear to part with either. On one side was my husband, who I’d lived with for over two decades, and on the other side was God, who bestowed life upon me. For a moment I didn’t know what to say. I quickly said a prayer to God, asking Him to protect my heart. After my prayer, I said to him, “If you’re forcing me to choose between the two, I choose God.” He said, “Since you’re choosing God, we have to get a divorce. If you want me, you have to give up your faith, and then we can have a happy life together.” I told him, “God created man, so man should follow and worship God. Since I’ve chosen to have faith, I’ll follow God until the end. You are free to choose not to have faith in God and I won’t try to force you, but choosing to have faith in God is my freedom, too. As for getting a divorce or not, I respect your decision.” Upon hearing me say this, he pulled a long face and didn’t say anything further to me.
When our son came back for his winter break, he said to me, “Dad said that if you stop believing in God, he won’t divorce you, but if you keep believing, he has no choice but to get a divorce. From the bottom of my heart, I don’t want the two of you to divorce. I want a whole, happy family.” Hearing this from him was like a knife to my heart. I thought about my husband really going through with the divorce, that the three of us wouldn’t be together anymore, and our son either wouldn’t have a dad or wouldn’t have a mom—that would be quite a blow for him. There was no way we could keep our family intact if I kept practicing my faith. This thought was incredibly distressing for me. Just then, a passage of God’s words came to mind. “In every step of work that God does within people, externally it appears to be interactions between people, as if born of human arrangements or from human interference. But behind the scenes, every step of work, and everything that happens, is a wager made by Satan before God, and requires people to stand firm in their testimony to God. Take when Job was tried, for example: Behind the scenes, Satan was making a bet with God, and what happened to Job was the deeds of men and the interference of men. Behind every step of work that God does in you is Satan’s wager with God—behind it all is a battle. … When God and Satan do battle in the spiritual realm, how should you satisfy God, and how should you stand firm in your testimony to Him? You should know that everything that happens to you is a great trial and the time when God needs you to bear testimony” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only Loving God Is Truly Believing in God). God’s words helped me realize that it looked like my son was asking me to do something to give him a full, happy family, but behind it was Satan tempting me. Satan was playing on my emotions as a way to attack me, to get me to betray God, but God was using this to test my faith in Him, to see if it was genuine, and if I could stand witness on God’s side. In my seeking, I read another passage of God’s words: “You must suffer hardship for the truth, you must give yourself to the truth, you must endure humiliation for the truth, and to gain more of the truth you must undergo more suffering. This is what you should do. You must not throw away the truth for the sake of a peaceful family life, and you must not lose your life’s dignity and integrity for the sake of momentary enjoyment. You should pursue all that is beautiful and good, and you should pursue a path in life that is more meaningful” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment). God’s words gave me faith and strength. I knew I had to be able to suffer for the truth, that this was meaningful. If I forsook God because of my feelings for my family and lived a meaningless life under Satan’s domain, I’d be living without a shred of dignity. I thought about how the Communist Party had used my husband and family to coerce me over and over, trying to get me to give up my faith. I’d felt negative and weak a few times, thinking about giving up my duty, maintaining our harmonious family and compromising with Satan, but God stayed right by my side as my backup force, enlightening and leading me with His words, guiding me to understand the truth and see through the CCP’s anti-God, evil, demonic essence, so I wouldn’t be misled and toyed with by it anymore. This was God’s love and salvation. I knew I couldn’t betray God for my sentimentality, but I had to pursue and gain the truth, and live out a meaningful life. So I said to my son, “Your dad wants to get a divorce because he’s afraid that my faith will impact your and his future prospects. I don’t want you to be dragged in, but having faith is the right path and I am certain of my faith. There is no way I can give it up. But you should know that I’m not the one tearing our family apart—it’s the Communist Party.” He didn’t say anything more in response to that.
A few days later, my husband brought the divorce paperwork home and asked me to sign it. Seeing everything we’d built in 25 years of marriage come to an end just like that, I felt a dull ache arise in my heart … I prayed to God, saying, “God, I know all of this has happened with Your permission. Please watch over my heart so that I can stand witness.” Later, God’s words came to mind: “Believers and unbelievers are not compatible; rather, they are opposed to one another.” “Anyone who does not believe in God incarnate is demonic and, moreover, will be destroyed. … Anyone who does not recognize God is an enemy; that is, anyone who does not recognize God incarnate—whether or not they are inside or outside this stream—is an antichrist! Who is Satan, who are demons, and who are God’s enemies if not resisters who do not believe in God?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together). My husband had constrained me time and time again so he wouldn’t lose his status, his living, and he’d set our son and my family against me, to keep me from believing. He wanted a divorce when he saw he couldn’t convince me, forcing me to make a final choice between God and our family. He decided to follow the Communist Party in order to safeguard his personal interests. He was on the path of destruction. I chose to follow God, to gain the truth and life, which is the path to the kingdom of heaven. We were on entirely different paths. We were in different worlds—there’s no way a marriage like that could continue on happily. Thinking about it this way, I felt that divorce was the right thing and it would free both of us. He didn’t have to worry about getting in trouble because of me, and I could focus on doing my duty. I signed my name on the divorce agreement.
I’ve been on gospel duty in the church this whole time, and even though we’re persecuted by the Party for having faith and doing our duty in China, and we’re always in danger of arrest or losing our lives, I’ve never once regretted making this choice. I want to keep on spreading the gospel and bearing witness, and to follow God until the end!
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