5. Persecution and Suffering Made Me Love God Even More
By Liu Zhen, Shandong Province
My name is Liu Zhen. I am 78 years old, and I am just an ordinary Christian in The Church of Almighty God. I am grateful to Almighty God for choosing me, an elderly woman from a rural village who is unremarkable in the eyes of the world. After I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days, every day I prayed to God, listened to recitations of God’s word, and went to meetings and fellowshiped with my brothers and sisters, and gradually, I began to understand some truths and to have a clear comprehension about certain things. I felt filled with joy, and I lived with a happiness I’d never previously experienced. Because I am old and I find walking difficult, I was unable to leave home to attend church meetings, so out of concern for me, my brothers and sisters held the meetings in my home. They never missed a meeting due to winter cold or summer heat, and wind, rain, and snow never stopped them from coming to visit and care for me, just an old woman as I am. Especially when we read God’s word, if there was anything I didn’t understand, they would always patiently fellowship with me about it, and never ignore me or look down on me. I was deeply moved by this, because if it were not for God’s love, who would have shown such patience and affection for me? In my interactions with my brothers and sisters, I saw that they were very different from laypeople. What they lived out were tolerance and love, and they were able to open up their hearts and treat each other with sincerity, without any barriers or distance between them. They were as close as a family, and this made me feel even more certain about Almighty God’s work. As I came to understand more truths, I realized that I should fulfill my duty as a created being, so I told the church I wanted to take up duties. Because my age prevented me from performing most duties, however, the church assigned me to hosting duties at my home. I accepted, grateful to God for assigning me a duty based on my capabilities. And so, I got along with my brothers and sisters very well, and I felt a great sense of relief in both body and mind. Some illnesses I had been suffering from also began to get better, and so I was even more grateful to Almighty God for His grace and mercy.
However, the good times didn’t last long, because my brothers and sisters in the village and I were reported by an evildoer. My brothers and sisters were all arrested by the police, and they ordered the village Party secretary to bring me to the police station. Once I got there, the police asked me, “How did you come to believe in God? Why do you believe in God?” I said, “Believing in God is an unalterable principle. By reading God’s word every day, we can understand many truths, be good people according to God’s word, and walk the right path in life. Believers in God don’t beat or curse others, and we always abide by the law, so what’s wrong with believing in God? Why are you arresting us?” The officer looked at me contemptuously and asked harshly, “Who preached the gospel to you? Does anyone else in your family believe?” I said I was the only one in my family who believed. They saw that they wouldn’t get any information from me, so they released me the same day. After I left, I wondered why the police had released me so easily. It was only once I arrived back home that I learned that, when my family found out that I’d been taken to the police station, they had used their connections and paid 3,000 yuan to the police to release me. But the police were still sowing discord between my family and me, as they’d asked my family to prevent me from believing in God. My daughter-in-law fought with my son about this and threatened to kill herself by drinking pesticide if I continued to believe in God. That was when I realized that the CCP police were rotten to the core. I had a perfectly peaceful family, and yet now they’d stirred things up so much that we were all at each other’s throats! I believed in the one true God who created all things in heaven and on earth, and today, Almighty God has come to save us by asking us to understand the truth, live out a human likeness, speak and act in ways which accord with our conscience and what is right, and not do things that go against our humanity or morality. All I did was stay at home and read God’s word, hold meetings, and fulfill my duty, but the CCP police actually framed me and charged me with “disturbing public order.” They were blatantly distorting the facts, deliberately twisting the truth, arbitrarily accusing people of false crimes! Satan is truly despicable. It was nothing but bald-faced slander and malicious libel. The police had learned from the informant that I hosted meetings with my brothers and sisters at my house, so they didn’t stop bothering me after that. Soon after, they brought me in to the police station to question me, and threatened me by saying, “Tell us the names of your church leaders and the people you host at meetings. If you don’t tell us, we’ll put you in prison!” Sternly yet righteously, I answered, “I don’t know anything! I have nothing to say to you!” The police were furious beyond words, but because God protected me, they didn’t dare lay a finger on me.
After the police released me, they continued their surveillance of me, vainly hoping to use me as bait to catch a “bigger fish.” I feared implicating my brothers and sisters, so I no longer dared stay in contact with them, and thereafter I fell out of church life. Without church life, my heart felt empty and without refuge, and I gradually became estranged from God. I spent each day living in panic and dread, deeply afraid the police would come to take me away again. In the past, I had spent each day listening to God’s word and Sermons and Fellowship, but now that was impossible, because if they saw me praying or I even mentioned the word “God,” I would get an earful of complaint from my family. My daughter-in-law spoke coldly to me all the time because I had been fined by the police, and my husband and son scolded me at every turn. The family that once supported my belief in Almighty God now opposed and persecuted me however they could. This made me feel very sad, my spirit felt very oppressed, and I lived in a darkness and pain I had never felt before. Because I had no recitations of God’s word to listen to and was unable to fellowship with my brothers and sisters, my spirit felt incredibly parched. Every night I tossed and turned in bed and couldn’t sleep, and I often missed the happy times I’d spent at meetings with my brothers and sisters. At times like these, I hated the CCP government. It had caused all of this misery, it had caused me to lose the rights of a created being to freely believe in and worship God, it had caused me to lose my church life, stopped me from fellowshiping on God’s word with my brothers and sisters, and stopped me from performing my duties. In my misery, I could only silently pray to God: “O God! I live in darkness, I feel like my spirit has become parched, and I want to live the church life with my brothers and sisters. O God! I beg You to open a path for me!”
I went before God and continued to call out to Him in this manner, and God truly heard my prayers, as He arranged for my brothers and sisters to visit me. One of my sisters knew that I often went to the cotton field to pick cotton, so she secretly went there to see me, and we set a time to hold meetings there. Each time we met, I was out in the field picking cotton early, and while everyone else was eating lunch, I squatted down with my sister in the field to read God’s word. Seeing my sister was like seeing a long-lost relative. I couldn’t stop the tears of happiness from flowing. I told her about the injustice and misery I had endured, as well as my family’s misunderstandings. She comforted me while God’s words watered me, and she fellowshiped on God’s will with me, and gradually, my state began to improve. This was how the CCP government persecution made it so that I could only hold meetings squatting in a cotton field. One day, we read a passage of God’s word: “There is not one person among you who is protected by the law—you are, instead, punished by the law. Even more problematic is that people do not understand you: Be it your relatives, your parents, your friends, or your colleagues, none of them understand you. When you are ‘abandoned’ by God, it is impossible for you to continue living on earth, but even so, people cannot bear to be away from God, which is the significance of God’s conquest of people, and is the glory of God. … Blessings cannot be obtained in a day or two; they must be earned through great sacrifice. Which is to say, you must possess a love that has undergone refinement, you must possess great faith, and you must have the many truths that God requires you to attain; what is more, you must turn toward justice, without being cowed or evasive, and must have a constant and unabating love for God. You must have resolve, changes must occur in your life disposition, your corruption must be healed, you must accept all of God’s orchestrations without complaint, and you must be obedient even unto death. This is what you ought to attain, this is the final aim of God’s work, and it is what God asks of this group of people” (“Is the Work of God As Simple As Man Imagines?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s word made me understand that my current suffering was something I ought to endure. China is a country ruled by atheism where believers in God are persecuted and shamed, but this suffering was temporary and limited, and it was carefully arranged by God to perfect my faith and obedience to Him, so that I could better receive God’s promise and blessings in the future. I now had no other desires, because having God was enough. At the same time, I saw that the laws formulated by the CCP government are simply tricks to deceive people. To the outside world it claims to support religious freedom, but in reality, believers in God don’t even have the right to read God’s word or hold meetings. It simply doesn’t tolerate the existence of believers in God, and it doesn’t allow people to follow God or walk the right path in life. Just as Almighty God’s words say: “Religious freedom? The legitimate rights and interests of citizens? They are all tricks for covering up sin!” (“Work and Entry (8)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). The heaven and earth created by God are vast, but in China believers in God don’t even have a toehold. Anyone who believes in God suffers the CCP government’s arrest and persecution and has their freedom restricted. The CCP government wants nothing more than to kill off every believer in God and transform China into a godless nation. It is so corrupt, evil, and reactionary. It truly is irreconcilable with God, an enemy of God that cannot abide His existence!
And so, I continued to meet with my sister secretly in the cotton field. But time passed, and soon it would be winter. The leaves of the cotton plants withered and fell, and the cotton field no longer provided any cover for us to hold meetings, so I once again found myself without brothers and sisters with whom to fellowship on God’s word. At first, I was able to keep God’s word and maintain a normal relationship with God, but without the provision and watering of God’s word, my spirit became more and more barren and dry, and before long, I again fell into darkness. I felt that I had descended from heaven into hell, and I was in such misery that death would have been preferable. My family believed the police’s lies, so they kept watch over me every day, and threatened me with beatings if I continued to believe in Almighty God. At home, I didn’t dare to pray. I could only pray hiding under my blankets at night or when no one else was at home, and I passed every day in this manner. Besides enduring the recriminations of my family, I also had to endure the rumors and gossip of the villagers. Facing all this, I felt especially miserable, spiritually I felt weak and helpless, and I was in low spirits every day. I felt that, after losing the church life, being unable to read God’s word, and not being able to see my brothers and sisters, simply being alive was misery, that it had lost all its joy. I thought of how in the past, when I felt miserable and weak, God’s words always comforted me, my brothers and sisters patiently supported me, and after I’d understood God’s will, I would immediately feel at ease and liberated, and my spirits would rise again. But now, because of police persecution and surveillance, I had lost the right to read God’s word, and I couldn’t even see my brothers and sisters. Every day was a long, bitter struggle, and seeing the way I lived without feeling alive, as if I were dead, and considering how full of life I had been in the past when I’d lived in God’s presence in the church, I felt anguished and miserable. And when I thought of how my family had been fooled and deceived by the CCP government, how they didn’t understand me, and how they’d gone along with the CCP government in restricting my freedom, I felt even more heartbroken. But just when I was feeling like I had nowhere to turn, I prayed continually to God and begged Him to open a path for me: “O God! Now, I can’t read Your word, nor can I live the church life, and this life is too much for me to bear. O God! My family has been deceived by the CCP government and tries with all their strength to prevent me from believing in You. Please, help me, allow me to testify to Your deeds, and stop them from being deceived and used by Satan any longer. O God! I wish to entrust my family to You, and I ask that You show me a way out.”
Thanks be to God, He genuinely heard my prayers. Some time later, I suddenly passed out in front of my bed one evening. My husband was frightened out of his wits and didn’t know what to do, so my son quickly called emergency services. When the first hospital that responded heard the patient was an old woman who was seriously sick, they refused to accept me. My son called another hospital’s emergency line, and the doctor said I didn’t stand much chance of regaining consciousness, that there was no point in doing anything to save me, and that my family should prepare for the worst. But my son refused to give up, and begged them until they had no option but to relent and bring me to the hospital. However, even after emergency rescue procedures, I remained unconscious. There was nothing the doctors could do, and my family was certain I wouldn’t survive. Yet for God, nothing is impossible, because this was when a miracle happened! After being in a severe coma for 18 hours, I slowly regained consciousness. Everyone present was stunned. When I opened my eyes and saw the doctors, I thought I was looking at angels. I asked them where I was, one of them told me I was in the hospital, and as they hurriedly checked my vitals, they kept muttering, “It’s really a miracle….” Before long, I sat up, and I felt very hungry. The nurse fed me, and after I finished eating, I felt full of energy and strength. I knew that this was one of Almighty God’s miraculous deeds, that God had heard my prayers and opened a way forward for me. As I sat on the bed I couldn’t help but sing in praise of God. The surprised doctor couldn’t help but ask, “Ma’am, who is this God that you believe in?” I said, “I believe in the one true God who created all things in heaven and on earth—Almighty God!” The doctor responded by looking at me in shock, and my family looked surprised and delighted as they watched me singing. After I got out of the hospital, I went home, and one by one my neighbors came to see me, saying, “It’s amazing! The doctors all said there was no hope for you, but you actually woke up. It’s a miracle!” I testified to God to them, saying that this was due to God’s great power, that God had saved me, that without God I would be dead now, and that it was God who had given me a second chance at life. I told them all of humankind was created by God, that life is given to us by God, that God administers and rules over our lives, and that people cannot turn away from God’s guidance, because to turn away from God means death. After experiencing this, my family no longer opposed my belief in God, and God also granted me an unexpected blessing—my husband also accepted God’s current stage of work. After that, my husband often went to meetings with me to fellowship, and I felt incredibly happy, at peace, and secure. I then spent every day living in joy, because I had truly seen God’s almightiness and wisdom, and I thanked and praised God from the bottom of my heart!
Through my experience, I genuinely came to appreciate that no matter what God does to a person, He does it out of love. Behind His permitting Satan to persecute me lay God’s good intentions. The CCP government wanted to use my arrest and persecution to make me shun God and betray God, but it had no idea that God’s wisdom is exercised based on Satan’s tricks. The CCP government’s oppression not only failed to make me shun God or betray God, but instead it allowed me to clearly see the CCP government’s evil essence of resisting God and acting against Heaven, and further solidified my certainty that Almighty God’s word is the truth, the way, and the life! It also allowed me to see God’s great power and miraculous deeds, thereby strengthening my love and loyalty for God. Just as Almighty God’s word says: “In My plan, Satan has, all along, been stalking behind each step and, as the foil of My wisdom, has always been trying to find ways and means to disrupt My original plan. Yet could I succumb to its deceitful schemes? Everything in heaven and on earth serves Me; could the deceitful schemes of Satan be any different? This is precisely where My wisdom intersects; it is precisely that which is wondrous about My deeds, and it is the principle of operation for My entire management plan” (“Chapter 8” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). The more the CCP government wildly resists God and persecutes God’s chosen people, the more we are able to discern and forsake it, and the more we can understand the truth and know God’s wisdom and miraculous deeds. Our faith in following God also grows, and we become more able to produce resounding testimony for God. Through experiencing the CCP government’s persecution, I saw clearly that, in God’s work, Satan simply acts as a foil, and is a serving object for God, and I also came to know more clearly God’s earnest desire to save humankind. In the future, no matter what difficulties or obstacles I face, I wish to fulfill my duties to the best of my abilities and do my part to meet God’s will.