75. An Ordeal of Illness
By Zhongxin, China
Almighty God says, “My deeds are greater in number than the grains of sand on the beaches, and My wisdom surpasses all the sons of Solomon, yet people merely think of Me as a physician of little account and an unknown teacher of man. 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). When I read this before, I merely said that everything God says here is a fact, but I never truly understood it. I thought that since I’d believed in God for years, given up my job and family, expended myself, and suffered a lot for my duty, I wouldn’t blame God or betray Him in the face of suffering and ill health. But when I did undergo an ordeal of a major illness, I misunderstood and blamed God. My motivation to be blessed and to make deals with God was exposed to the light of day. Only then was I fully convinced of God’s words that expose people and my views on pursuit in my faith underwent a change.
One day in July 2018, I found a small, hard lump on my left breast. I didn’t think much of it and figured some anti-inflammatories would sort it out. But over the next two months, it just got worse and worse. I had night sweats and no energy, and the area around the lump really hurt. I began to wonder whether there was really something wrong, but I consoled myself again that it was no big deal. I had faith in God and was busy every day in the church doing my duty. I figured God would protect me. One night, I was woken by a sharp pain. Yellow fluid was leaking from my breast, and I knew something was wrong. My husband and I rushed to the hospital to get it checked. The results came back: I had breast cancer. My heart skipped a beat when I heard the doctor say that. “Breast cancer?” I thought. “I’m only over 30 years old! How could that be?” I just kept telling myself, “No way. This couldn’t happen to me. I’m a believer, and I’ve been doing my duty in the church for years. God will look after me and protect me. The doctor must have gotten it wrong.” I so hoped it wasn’t true. I don’t even remember how I got home from the hospital that day. My husband saw a dazed look on my face and tried to comfort me, saying, “This is a small hospital and the doctors aren’t that skilled. They could be wrong. Let’s get you checked over at a big hospital.” I felt a glimmer of hope when he said that. Unfortunately, the doctor at the big hospital confirmed the diagnosis: It was breast cancer. She also said that it was mid- to late-stage, and that I had to be admitted for chemo and surgery, otherwise it could be terminal. My mind went totally blank and my heart dropped. I thought, “How much is all this going to cost? What if I die halfway through chemo? How will my family cope with all that debt?” I was in despair and felt utterly helpless.
After my first round of chemo, my whole body was wracked with pain. I didn’t want to do anything and was always groggy. It was only after the drugs wore off a few days later that I began to recover. I’d believed in God for years, made sacrifices and expended myself for my duty. I always did my duty, through thick and thin, and never missed a gathering. I always helped my brothers and sisters with their problems. I’d worked so hard, and for what? Why wasn’t God protecting me? Now I couldn’t do any duty. I was practically at death’s door. Did God want to eliminate me? I had five more rounds of chemo and then an operation. How was I going to cope? Apart from all the pain and suffering, if I died, would that mean all my years of faith had been a waste of time? That thought brought me to tears. I was really tormented over those few days. I read God’s words but they didn’t sink in, and I wasn’t willing to pray. My spirit was so dark and I was getting further and further from God.
One day, Sister Li from the church came to see me and kindly asked about my condition. Seeing me in such pain and feeling so down, she gave me fellowship. She said, “God permits illness to befall us. We have to pray and seek more and God will surely lead us to understand His will. …” Hearing her fellowship stirred my heart. Maybe God didn’t want to eliminate me but there was just a lesson He wanted me to learn! After she left, I went before God to pray, saying, “God, I’ve been living in pain ever since I got sick, misunderstanding and blaming You. Through my sister’s reminder today, now I know that there is Your will behind this illness, but I still don’t know what the lesson I should learn in this situation is. Please guide me.”
After that, I went before God and prayed to Him like this every day. One day, I read these words of God: “Entry into trials leaves you without love or faith, you lack prayer and are unable to sing hymns, and without realizing it, in the midst of this you come to know yourself. God has many means of perfecting man. He employs all manner of environments to deal with the corrupt disposition of man, and uses various things to lay man bare; in one regard, He deals with man, in another He lays man bare, and in another He reveals man, digging out and revealing the ‘mysteries’ in the depths of man’s heart, and showing man his nature by revealing many of his states. God perfects man through many methods—through revelation, through dealing with man, through man’s refinement, and chastisement—so that man may know that God is practical” (“Only Those Who Focus on Practice Can Be Perfected” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). As I pondered God’s words, I finally began to understand His will. God works in the last days to perfect people by exposing our corrupt dispositions through all kinds of situations, and by using the judgment and revelations of His words to make us understand our satanic dispositions, seek and practice the truth, and ultimately have our corrupt dispositions cleansed and changed. I understood that God had allowed me to get sick not because He wanted to eliminate me or hurt me on purpose, but to cleanse and change me. I couldn’t misunderstand God or wallow anymore. I had to submit, seek the truth in my sickness, and reflect on and know myself. Once I’d understood God’s will, I no longer felt so dejected or in such pain. I said a prayer of submission to God.
And once I’d finished, a line from God’s words came to mind: “Your pursuit is only to live in comfort, for no accidents to befall your family, for the winds to pass you by, for your face to be untouched by grit…” (“The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I hurriedly looked it up in my book of God’s words and found this passage: “You hope that your faith in God will not entail any challenges or tribulations, or the slightest hardship. You always pursue those things that are worthless, and you attach no value to life, instead putting your own extravagant thoughts before the truth. You are so worthless! You live like a pig—what difference is there between you, and pigs and dogs? Are those who do not pursue the truth, and instead love the flesh, not all beasts? Are those dead ones without spirits not all walking corpses? How many words have been spoken among you? Has only a little work been done among you? How much have I provided among you? So why have you not gained it? What do you have to complain of? Is it not the case that you have gained nothing because you are too in love with the flesh? And is it not because your thoughts are too extravagant? Is it not because you are too stupid? If you are incapable of gaining these blessings, can you blame God for not saving you? What you pursue is to be able to gain peace after believing in God, for your children to be free from illness, for your husband to have a good job, for your son to find a good wife, for your daughter to find a decent husband, for your oxen and horses to plow the land well, for a year of good weather for your crops. This is what you seek. Your pursuit is only to live in comfort, for no accidents to befall your family, for the winds to pass you by, for your face to be untouched by grit, for your family’s crops to not be flooded, for you to be unaffected by any disaster, to live in God’s embrace, to live in a cozy nest. A coward such as you, who always pursues the flesh—do you have a heart, do you have a spirit? Are you not a beast? I give you the true way without asking for anything in return, yet you do not pursue. Are you one of those who believe in God? I bestow real human life upon you, yet you do not pursue. Are you no different from a pig or a dog? Pigs do not pursue the life of man, they do not pursue being cleansed, and they do not understand what life is. Each day, after eating their fill, they simply sleep. I have given you the true way, yet you have not gained it: You are empty-handed. Are you willing to continue in this life, the life of a pig? What is the significance of such people being alive? Your life is contemptible and ignoble, you live amid filth and licentiousness, and you do not pursue any goals; is your life not the most ignoble of all? Do you have the gall to look upon God? If you continue to experience in this way, will you not acquire nothing? The true way has been given to you, but whether or not you can ultimately gain it depends on your own personal pursuit” (“The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words precisely exposed my desire to be blessed in my faith. I thought back over my years of faith, back when all was well at home, I was healthy, and everything was good, I’d actively engaged in my duty and seemed to have endless energy. But once I got cancer, I became negative and I misunderstood, and blamed God for not protecting me. I capitalized on the work I’d done and argued with God. I even regretted all my years of sacrifice. I lived in a state of shunning and betraying God. Only when I was exposed through getting sick did I see that I hadn’t been doing my duty and making sacrifices to pursue the truth or do the duty of a created being, but I’d been doing those things to get peace and blessings. I’d been making deals with God to be blessed in return for the sacrifices I’d made. I wanted everything in this life and eternal life in the world to come. Now I had cancer, and when it looked like I was going to die and I wouldn’t be blessed, I blamed God for being unjust—I had no humanity at all. I thought over my years of faith. I’d received so much grace and so many blessings from God and had been watered and sustained a lot by the truth. God had given me so much, but I never thought of repaying His love. When I got sick, I didn’t submit to God at all. I just misunderstood and blamed Him. I was totally without conscience and sense! I finally understood that God had allowed me to get sick to expose and cleanse my motivation to be blessed in my faith and my wrong views on pursuit, and to get me to focus on pursuing the truth and seeking a change in my disposition. I felt such regret and reproached myself after I understood God’s good intentions. I silently made this resolution: “Whether I get better or not, I won’t make any more senseless demands of God. I just want to put my life and death in God’s hands and submit to His arrangements.” I felt so much calmer after that. I wasn’t as anxious and distressed anymore, and I could quiet myself to read God’s words, pray, and seek with God.
Once I’d submitted, going back to have chemo wasn’t as painful as it had been. Though I still felt a bit nauseous, everything was fine. The other patients were surprised and envious. I knew in my heart that this was entirely God’s mercy and protection. I felt so grateful to God. After several rounds of chemo, the egg-sized tumor had gotten smaller. It didn’t hurt as much and there wasn’t any more oozing. The doctor said my recovery was going well, and that if things carried on like that, then after six rounds of chemo I may not even need an operation. I was so happy to hear this, and kept thanking God. My faith in God grew and grew and I thought that if I reflected and tried to know myself in earnest, then perhaps I’d get better without needing an operation.
One day in March, I had my last chemo. I was both nervous and hopeful. When it was over, the doctor said I still needed an operation, then two more rounds of chemo, and then some radiotherapy. My heart dropped into my stomach and my mind was buzzing. I thought, “How could this be? I’ve reflected like I should and understood what I should. Why aren’t I better now? It’s a major operation, and besides the scarring, the chemo and radiotherapy I’ll need will be so painful. I could still die.…” I felt more and more unhappy and my whole body went limp. I began to cry at the injustice of it all. The night after my operation, once the anesthetic had worn off, the pain from the incision was so bad that it made me cry. I couldn’t even take a deep breath. I felt so helpless and wronged. It was too much for me—when would the pain end? In my suffering, I read these words of God: “For all people, refinement is excruciating, and very difficult to accept—yet it is during refinement that God makes plain His righteous disposition to man, and makes public His requirements for man, and provides more enlightenment, and more actual pruning and dealing; through the comparison between the facts and the truth, He gives man a greater knowledge of himself and the truth, and gives man a greater understanding of God’s will, thus allowing man to have a truer and purer love of God. Such are God’s aims in carrying out refinement. All the work that God does in man has its own aims and significance; God does not do meaningless work, and nor does He do work that is without benefit to man. Refinement does not mean removing people from before God, and nor does it mean destroying them in hell. Rather, it means changing man’s disposition during refinement, changing his intentions, his old views, changing his love for God, and changing his whole life. Refinement is a real test of man, and a form of real training, and only during refinement can his love serve its inherent function” (“Only by Experiencing Refinement Can Man Possess True Love” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Every one of God’s words entered my heart and I felt very moved. I knew that God’s will in me getting sick was to have me develop some true self-knowledge, to enable me to seek the truth, and to have my corrupt dispositions cleansed and changed. Before, although I realized I shouldn’t pursue blessings in my faith, I hadn’t fully let go of my motivation to be blessed. I was still harboring extravagant demands of God deep in my heart. I thought, as I’d reflected on myself and come to know myself a little, God should then take my sickness away. My self-reflection and self-knowledge were tainted with personal motives and they were just covers for my desire to make a deal with God. I hadn’t truly repented at all! God had scrutinized my thoughts and used my sickness to expose me, to make me reflect on myself further and truly repent. This was God’s love for me. Afterward, I prayed to God, saying, “Dear God, I now understand Your will. I wish to forgo all personal choices and requests and seek the truth in the situation You’ve arranged. Please guide me.”
A few days later, I read this in God’s words: “When people begin to believe in God, which of them does not have their own aims, motivations, and ambitions? Even though one part of them believes in the existence of God and has seen the existence of God, their belief in God still contains those motivations, and their ultimate aim in believing in God is to receive His blessings and the things they want. … Every person constantly makes such calculations within their heart, and they make demands of God which bear their motivations, ambitions, and a transactional mentality. This is to say, in his heart man is constantly testing God, constantly devising plans about God, constantly arguing the case for his own individual end with God, and trying to extract a statement from God, seeing whether or not God can give him what he wants. At the same time as pursuing God, man does not treat God as God. Man has always tried to make deals with God, ceaselessly making demands of Him, and even pressing Him at every step, trying to take a mile after being given an inch. At the same time as trying to make deals with God, man also argues with Him, and there are even people who, when trials befall them or they find themselves in certain situations, often become weak, passive and slack in their work, and full of complaints about God. From the time when man first began to believe in God, he has considered God to be a cornucopia, a Swiss Army knife, and he has considered himself to be God’s greatest creditor, as if trying to get blessings and promises from God were his inherent right and obligation, while God’s responsibility were to protect and care for man, and to provide for him. Such is the basic understanding of ‘belief in God’ of all those who believe in God, and such is their deepest understanding of the concept of belief in God. From man’s nature essence to his subjective pursuit, there is nothing that relates to the fear of God. Man’s aim in believing in God could not possibly have anything to do with the worship of God. That is to say, man has never considered nor understood that belief in God requires fearing and worshiping God. In light of such conditions, man’s essence is obvious. What is this essence? It is that man’s heart is malicious, harbors treachery and deceit, does not love fairness and righteousness and that which is positive, and it is contemptible and greedy. Man’s heart could not be more closed to God; he has not given it to God at all. God has never seen man’s true heart, nor has He ever been worshiped by man” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I felt so ashamed when I read this. God’s words revealed my true state exactly. I’d believed in God for so many years and had always wanted to be blessed, always making deals with God. I felt that, since I believed in God and had always done my duty and expended myself in the church, God should look after me and protect me, and keep me from all sickness and harm. I thought this was only right and proper. When I found out I had cancer, I immediately started to complain to God and wanted to capitalize on my years of suffering and sacrifice to argue with Him. When I began to get better, I said “Thank You God” with my mouth, but in my heart, I wanted even more. I wanted God to take my sickness away entirely so I wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. When my extravagant desire wasn’t satisfied, my devilish nature reared its head again, and I once again blamed God and tried to argue with Him. My behavior was just as God reveals in His words: “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, suddenly treating their benefactor of yesterday as their mortal enemy, without rhyme or reason. If these demons are not cast out, these demons that would kill without blinking an eye, will they not become a hidden danger?” (“God’s Work and Man’s Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). These words of God pierced my heart. Though I’d believed in God for years, I wasn’t worshiping or submitting to Him like I should. Instead, I was treating Him like a powerful doctor, like a refuge. I was using God to achieve my own ends, trying to get peace in this life and future blessings from Him. I saw that my faith in God had been nothing but bare-faced deal-making and I’d been using God to get grace and blessings from Him. Hadn’t I been cheating and resisting God? I saw just how selfish and deceitful I was, without a shred of humanity, living out nothing but satanic dispositions. How God must have loathed and hated me!
I then read this in God’s words: “Job did not talk of trades with God, and made no requests or demands of God. His praising of God’s name was because of the great power and authority of God in ruling all things, and it was not dependent on whether he gained blessings or was struck by disaster. He believed that regardless of whether God blesses people or brings disaster upon them, God’s power and authority will not change, and thus, regardless of a person’s circumstances, God’s name should be praised. That man is blessed by God is because of God’s sovereignty, and when disaster befalls man, so, too, it is because of God’s sovereignty. God’s power and authority rule over and arrange everything about man; the vagaries of man’s fortune are the manifestation of God’s power and authority, and regardless of one’s viewpoint, God’s name should be praised. This is what Job experienced and came to know during the years of his life. All of Job’s thoughts and actions reached the ears of God and arrived before God, and were seen as important by God. God cherished this knowledge of Job, and treasured Job for having such a heart. This heart awaited God’s command always, and in all places, and no matter what the time or place it welcomed whatever befell him. Job made no demands of God. What he demanded of himself was to wait for, accept, face, and obey all of the arrangements that came from God; Job believed this to be his duty, and it was precisely what was wanted by God” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I felt so moved as I contemplated God’s words. I thought, “God is the Creator. God can bestow grace and blessings on us, and He can judge, chastise, test and refine us. Couldn’t God give us trials despite the fact that He loves us?” I thought of Job. God bestowed great wealth on him and he thanked and praised God, but he didn’t covet material wealth. When God took everything from him, he could still extol God’s name through his trial, saying, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Job knew that everything he had came from God and that God was righteous, whether God gave to him or took things away. Job’s faith in God was not tainted by personal motives and he gave no thought to whether he’d be blessed or meet with disaster. He didn’t complain no matter what God did. He was able to take his place as a created being to worship and submit to God. Seeing Job’s humanity and reason, I really felt ashamed. Everything I had, even my very breath, was given by God. But I hadn’t been grateful at all, instead blaming God when I got sick. I had no conscience or reason whatsoever! I believed in God but didn’t know Him, and I didn’t know my proper place before Him or how I should submit to the Creator. Believing in God with my notions, imaginings, and my ideas about making deals, I complained to God and resisted Him in the face of illness. Even so, I always wanted blessings and grace from God, and wanted to get into God’s kingdom. I truly knew no shame! I saw that, even if I died right then, it would be God’s righteousness for my rebelliousness and corruption. I found the path of practice in the experiences of Job. No matter how long I would be sick for, or whether I got better or not, I wished only to submit to God’s rule and arrangements. This was the reason I should have as a created being. This thought brought me a great sense of release.
It was time for radiotherapy before I knew it. The other cancer patients said radiotherapy was really hard on the body and that it would cook my flesh. They said I’d get dizzy and nauseous every time, and that I wouldn’t be able to taste anything. When I heard all this, I started asking God to help me escape this situation again, but I quickly realized that my state was wrong and prayed to God. Some lines from a hymn of God’s words then came to mind: “Since you were created, you should obey the Lord that created you, for you are inherently without dominion over yourself, and have no ability to control your own destiny. Since you are a person who believes in God, you should seek holiness and change” (“What a Believer in God Should Pursue” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). I knew that this situation was God testing me and that I couldn’t senselessly ask God for things or hurt Him anymore. I knew I had to submit to His arrangements. Once I’d submitted, although I had to have radiotherapy every day and my body hurt in places, it wasn’t as bad as the other patients had said. I knew this was God being merciful and taking care of me. When I’d finished my radiotherapy, my physical recovery was really fast. I both looked and felt really good. My brothers and sisters in the church said I didn’t look like a cancer patient at all. Some time later, I started doing my duty again. My faith in God grew through this experience and I began to cherish the opportunity to do my duty even more.
It’s been almost 2 years since then, but whenever I think back to those ten months when I was sick, it feels like it happened only yesterday. Though my flesh suffered a little, I came to understand my motivation for blessings and my mistaken views on what to pursue. I know now that I have to pursue the truth and seek to obey God in my faith. Whether I am blessed or I meet with disaster, I must always submit to God’s orchestrations, rule, and arrangements. This is the sense of reason a created being should possess. I could never have gained all this if everything in life had gone smoothly. This is the wealth of life God has given me. Thank Almighty God!