By Zhong Qin
Editor’s Note: “I believe in God so why would I suffer from this kind of illness? Why wouldn’t God protect me?” When we become ill we always tend to have these kinds of complaints about God. The woman in this story is no exception. When her condition deteriorates she starts to blame God because she’s unable to endure the torment of her illness, but when she genuinely prays to God and submits to His orchestrations and arrangements, she’s able to calmly face her own mortality and her condition miraculously improves. Do you want to know what her experience was? Please read on.
Tolerating Her Illness So Her Children Aren’t Inconvenienced
A few women were casually chatting under an old banyan tree at one end of the village. Not far off, Yuan Xiu was inching forward step by step with the help of her son, Li Jun.
One of the women, Mrs. Zhang, said, “Hey, isn’t that Yuan Xiu? Didn’t she test positive for liver ascites at the provincial hospital? How could she have been released so soon?”
“Liver ascites? No matter how much money you spend there’s no telling if you’ll survive! Even as an inpatient there’s not much hope, plus Yuan Xiu’s so old. My daughter had liver ascites a few years ago and we funneled the entire family’s money into the hospital, but we lost her and our money!” Mrs. Fu said this as she shook her head sadly.
With concern at seeing her so unsteady, Li Jun emotionally pleaded with his mother: “Mom, getting out of the hospital in this condition, I’m still worried about you. Can’t we just go back to the hospital to have you treated? No matter what happens, even if I end up with a lifetime of debt, I just can’t watch you sit at home waiting to die!”
“Jun, I don’t want to be a burden on you. I’ll take some medicine and recuperate at home, and I’ll be fine. Maybe I’ll get better.” In spite of the swelling all over her body, Yuan Xiu forced herself to say this casually to comfort her son.
In Critical Condition, She Places Her Hope in God
When she got home Yuan Xiu lay in bed feeling limp and feeble all over. The pain she felt all over her body was unbearable. As she stared blankly up at the ceiling tears flowed down her face like little strings of pearls and the doctor’s words echoed in her head: “You have liver ascites caused by cirrhosis. A course of treatment with imported medication will cost more than 10,000 yuan and you need at least three or four courses. But that can just control your condition, not treat the root cause.” She let out a long sigh and said to herself, “Ugh! I was doing perfectly fine—how could I have come down with something so serious? What if I really am about to die? No, it can’t be! Even though my condition is really serious, I believe in God. He will take care of me.”
Yuan Xiu thought about how right after she became a believer her granddaughter, who was 14 years old at the time, developed coronary heart disease. Her daughter and son-in-law scraped together all the money they could for her treatment, but when they took her to a major hospital all the doctors said that her condition was really serious and they couldn’t do anything about it. Yuan Xiu made a heartfelt prayer to God and left it in His hands—her granddaughter miraculously improved and still hadn’t recurred. She also thought about how she had been coughing up blood for years, and by leaning on God, it suddenly got better. Thinking of all these things alleviated her concerns—she believed that God would protect her again and guide her out of this difficult time. So, Yuan Xiu very confidently prayed to God and entrusted her illness to Him while also taking medication as recommended by her doctor.
Her Condition Worsens and She Blames God
However, Yuan Xiu took a turn for the worse after a period of time. She developed edema all over her body and became weaker and weaker, even needing a cane just to walk. She also suffered from frequent vomiting and diarrhea and couldn’t sleep peacefully at night.
Late at night, Yuan Xiu rubbed her swollen face and legs, tolerating wave after wave of pain from her abdominal dropsy. She was in emotional pain, as well, and was filled with blame for God. “I pray to God every day, so why would I not only not recover, but would get worse and worse? Why isn’t God helping me with my illness? Am I supposed to just sit at home and wait for death?” As she thought this she couldn’t help but start crying.
One day a woman who lived in the neighborhood came by to see Yuan Xiu and said to her, shaking her head with regret, “Yuan Xiu, you should accept this and move on. Just tell your kids whatever you feel like eating and drinking.” She then let out a sigh and left. This was really hurtful for Yuan Xiu and her complaints welled up again: “I’ve been a believer for more than 10 years and I’ve always done my duty in the church. I’ve kept going even through the wind and the rain but now I’ve developed an untreatable condition. Why isn’t God protecting me, allowing me to be cured?” The more she thought about it the more she suffered; she couldn’t hold back her tears. She felt like death was getting closer and closer—she was sad and in despair.
God’s Words Reveal Her Erroneous Perspective on Faith
In her terrible suffering, a passage of God’s words suddenly occurred to her: “The environment around us as well as the people, matters and objects, all are permitted by His throne. Do not have a complaining heart, or God will not bestow His grace upon you. … To dwell in sickness is to be sick, but to dwell in the spirit is to be well” (“Chapter 6” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning).
God’s words brightened her heart, driving out the darkness within her; she realized that her illness had occurred with God’s permission, and that His benevolent will was within it. However, she hadn’t learned anything from this, instead blaming God when she saw her condition growing more and more serious. Yuan Xiu thought about how God is the Lord of creation and she herself is a created being, even more insignificant than a speck of dust. How did she have any right to reason with God or blame Him? That was so unreasonable! When she realized all of this she wasted no time saying a prayer to God: “Oh God, Your will is within this illness I’ve developed, but I’m too rebellious and didn’t know to look to You in seeking, instead misunderstanding and blaming You. God, please protect my heart so that I do not sin with my words. I ask You to guide me to understanding Your will within this.”
Yuan Xiu teared up after saying this prayer, laboriously hoisted herself up, and got her book of God’s words from her nightstand. She read these words from God: “How many believe in Me only so that I might heal them? How many believe in Me only so that I might use My powers to drive unclean spirits from their bodies? And how many believe in Me simply to receive peace and joy from Me? How many believe in Me only to demand from Me more material wealth? How many believe in Me just to spend this life in peace and to be safe and sound in the world to come? How many believe in Me only to avoid the suffering of hell and to receive the blessings of heaven? How many believe in Me only for temporary comfort but 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 originally 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, then man disappeared without a trace. Therefore, 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?”).
God’s words shook her heart and only then did she realize that her perspective on faith had been wrong; she had believed in God and expended herself for Him just to gain His grace and blessings. She thought of when she had first become a believer; through prayer, her granddaughter’s medical condition had miraculously improved, and her years-long issue of coughing up blood also got better, so she thought that as long as she was a good believer, God would bestow grace and blessings upon her. She threw herself into her duty in the church so that God would give her even more grace and blessings; she went no matter what the weather and was very willing to suffer and pay a price. She tolerated her family’s lack of understanding as well as the ridicule and mockery of others in the world. When Yuan Xiu developed liver ascites and her doctor said he wasn’t sure if it could be cured, she extravagantly hoped that God would take her illness away. But when her condition worsened instead of getting better, she developed misunderstandings and blame for God, and even tried to reason with Him on the basis of her past work and service, making unreasonable demands of Him. The more she thought about it the more ashamed and guilty she felt. She saw how selfish and despicable she was, that she had believed in God all those years but was still trying to conduct transactions with Him, wanting to use her external hard work in exchange for His grace and blessings. She had absolutely no genuine faith or obedience to God, and she completely lacked the reason that a created being should possess. How could that kind of faith ultimately gain God’s approval? Then Yuan Xiu finally understood that God had allowed that illness to befall her to shift her incorrect perspective on having faith just to gain His blessings and grace. It was also to cleanse her of her despicable transactional motivations with God. Yuan Xiu had a deep experience of God’s kind intentions, and she couldn’t stop offering up thanks and praise to God from her heart.
Yuan Xiu mustered all of her strength to pull herself out of bed and kneel down to God in prayer: “Oh, God! I give thanks to You for guiding and enlightening me, allowing me to see my incorrect perspective on faith from this illness. God, I wish to turn back toward You, and whether my condition ever improves or not, whether or not I’m able to continue living, I will never again blame You. I only wish to submit to Your orchestrations and arrangements.”
After praying she felt a significant release in her heart and she stopped lamenting over her illness. She lay down and went to sleep before long.
No Longer Constrained by the Thought of Death Through the Guidance of God’s Words
Yuan Xiu woke up in the middle of the night in incredible pain, feeling like something was piercing her very bones. She was pouring sweat and soon started to vomit. The pain was so tortuous that she was totally unable to go back to sleep. She felt that just like cancer, her liver ascites was going to steal her life away from her; she also knew that she could no longer blame God or make any demands of Him.
It then occurred to her that only God’s words can soothe her soul and relieve her suffering, and so without hesitation she sat up, grabbed her book of God’s words, and read this: “Since the Creator has determined a fixed set of circumstances for a person’s birth, it goes without saying that He has also arranged a fixed set of circumstances for one’s death. In other words, no one is born by chance, no one’s death is unexpected, and both birth and death are necessarily connected with one’s previous and present lives. The circumstances of one’s birth and death are both predetermined by the Creator; this is a person’s destiny, a person’s fate. … Everyone wants an illustrious birth, a brilliant life, and a glorious death, but no one can overstep their own destiny, no one can escape the Creator’s sovereignty. This is human fate. Man can make all kinds of plans for his future, but no one can plan the manner and time of their birth and of their departure from the world. Though people do their best to avoid and resist the coming of death, yet still, unbeknownst to them, death silently draws near. No one knows when they will perish or how they will do so, much less where it will happen. Obviously, it is not humanity that holds the power of life and death, not some being in the natural world, but the Creator, whose authority is unique. Mankind’s life and death are not the product of some law of the natural world, but a consequence of the sovereignty of the Creator’s authority” (“God Himself, the Unique III”).
God’s words, so full of authority, allowed Yuan Xiu to understand that He is the Creator, humans are created beings, and every person’s time of birth and death is ordained and arranged by God. Some people are weak and prone to illness for their entire lives but still live to an advanced age, while some are usually very healthy but then suddenly become ill and die. These facts show that people have no control over their own fate. Yuan Xiu realized that even though her condition was very serious, whether or not she would improve, when that may happen, and whether she lived or died was all in God’s hands—He had the final say. Even if she only had a single breath left in her, God wouldn’t allow her to die until the mission she was born to carry out was completed. This suddenly brought light into Yuan Xiu’s heart; she knew that she should lean on God and go through her sickness according to God’s words, and submit to His orchestrations and arrangements. God’s words comforted Yuan Xiu’s fragile heart, giving her strength. She suddenly felt full of fortitude and gained the faith to experience God’s work.
From then on Yuan Xiu devotedly read God’s words and sang hymns in praise of God every day. She took her medicine when she was supposed to and continued to get her exercise. As for how her illness would progress, she became willing to let nature take its course and obey God’s orchestrations and arrangements. When she was unbearably tormented by her illness she prayed to God and asked Him to give her the strength to not complain to Him, and to not fear death. When she overheard her relatives or neighbors idly gossiping about her condition, she would quiet herself before God and lean on God so that she wasn’t disturbed or constrained by their talk. This is how Yuan Xiu maintained an attitude of peace and equanimity every day that passed. Gradually, her condition began to improve and she started doing household chores to the extent that she was able.
A little while later the church arranged to have some brothers and sisters hold gatherings at Yuan Xiu’s house because of her physical condition, so once every few days she was able to participate in gatherings and read God’s words with others, and have fellowship on their understanding and experiences of God’s words. She was living every day within the guidance of God’s words and she started feeling better and better. She no longer seemed to be a very ill person—she gave thanks to God from her heart.
Recognizing God’s Rule After Her Miraculous Recovery
Yuan Xiu went to the hospital for a checkup one day, and when the doctor took a look at her exam results, he said in surprise, “Have you been taking some kind of new medicine? How could you have recovered so well? You’ve recovered your liver function and your ascites isn’t showing up. It’s incredible!”
Hearing this was very exciting for Yuan Xiu, and she knew deep in her heart that this was God’s wondrous doing, that He had been the One to cure her. She thought of other people who had also gotten liver ascites, Mrs. Fu’s daughter from her village and Mr. Wu from the next village over—they had gone to a major hospital for several months of treatment and had spent quite a bit of money on it, but they ended up dying. She, on the other hand, had relied on God and under the guidance of God’s words, she miraculously recovered from her illness. She gave genuine thanks to God!
On her way back home Yuan Xiu walked along steadily with a smile on her face. Her fellow villagers all looked shocked when they learned of her recovery. Seeing their expressions of surprise, Yuan Xiu knew in her heart that regaining her health was entirely due to God’s grace—it was really an embodiment of His authority! Just as God’s words say, “The authority and power of God are unconstrained by time, geography, space, or any person, matter or thing. The breadth of God’s authority and power surpasses the imagination of man; it is unfathomable to man, unimaginable to man, and shall never be completely known by man” (“God Himself, the Unique I”).
After going through this test of her brush with death, Yuan Xiu’s erroneous perspective on her faith shifted and she gained true understanding of God’s authority; her faith was also strengthened. She deeply felt how precious God’s words are and that they are the foundation of people’s lives. She only wished to focus on experiencing God’s words, perform her duty well, and repay God’s love in all of her days that followed.