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A Spiritual Battle: When Illness Strikes, How Should We Keep Our Faith in God?
By Audree Ashmore, Philippines
Dear friends, did you come across one difficulty after another after you accepted God’s work of the last days? Perhaps it was trouble in your family or perhaps it was a health issue that caused you—who had previously been immersed in God’s love—to feel negative and dejected, to the point where you may even have misunderstood and blamed God. Actually, I’ve experienced this myself. If you too have come across some difficulties while you were investigating the true way, then I’d like to tell you that these things you are experiencing actually have God’s good will behind them, and that it is precisely these difficulties that God is using to enable us to grow. Take a look at my experiences.
I used to be a co-worker in the Baptist Church, and in July 2018, I began to investigate the work of Almighty God. From Almighty God’s words, I understood that God was expressing many millions of words in order to perform His work of judgment and purification in the last days, so that we might recognize the truth of our corruption by Satan and so that our corruption may be slowly cleansed away. Almighty God’s words brim with authority and power and they enabled me not only to see my own insufficiencies, shortcomings and rebelliousness, but I also came to recognize the holiness and righteousness of God. Thereupon, I became certain that Almighty God is the truth, the way and the life, and that He is the Lord Jesus returned. Upon welcoming the Lord’s return, my heart felt such peace and joy that I could not put into words. Afterward, I avidly read God’s words and began to actively lead the church life. Little did I know, however, that a month later I would be struck by one illness after another …
I had always managed to maintain good health until, one day, I suddenly caught the flu. The accompanying symptoms were fever, coughing, headaches, difficulty breathing, and my entire body ached. I’d never had such a severe case of the flu before and it had come upon me without any warning. Worried that I would get sicker and sicker, I began to take medicine to alleviate the symptoms, and I also prayed to God, asking Him to cure me. Not only did I not get any better, however, but on the contrary I got worse and worse. One evening, I wasn’t even able to maintain regular breathing and I could hardly sleep all night. I couldn’t help but wonder: “How come I’m suddenly sick now that I’ve accepted the work of Almighty God? Why isn’t God protecting me? What shall I do if my condition just continues to get worse and worse?” The more I thought about it, the more down I felt. I no longer wanted to attend gatherings with my brothers and sisters, either, but instead just wanted to rest.
The next day, one of the sisters I attended gatherings with sent me a message asking how I was. I told her about my illness and she then read to me a passage of God’s words: “God works, God cares for a person, looks upon a person, and Satan dogs His every step. Whoever God favors, Satan also watches, trailing along behind. If God wants this person, Satan would do everything in its power to obstruct God, using various evil ways to tempt, harass and wreck the work God does in order to achieve its hidden objective. What is its objective? It does not want God to have anyone; it wants all those that God wants, to occupy them, control them, to take charge of them so they worship it, so they commit evil acts alongside it. Is this not Satan’s sinister motive?”
She then gave me fellowship, saying, “God’s words tell us that, when God performs His work to save us, Satan does some things to harass and disturb us, doing all it can to stop us from following God. Satan does this because it doesn’t want us to believe in or worship God, but wants to make us worship and pledge allegiance to it instead. Once we are keeping pace with God’s footsteps, this signifies that we want to escape the dark influence of Satan, belong to it no longer and no longer be subjected to its corruption and control. Satan, however, doesn’t give up on us so easily. It therefore does everything it can to harass us, and it causes a multitude of difficulties—even disasters—to befall us, so as to sow discord between God and ourselves, to make us misunderstand God and blame God to the point where we even betray God, so that we ultimately end up being stolen away by Satan and devoured. So in fact, behind the sickness that you have suddenly come down with, there is Satan trying to harass you. We must be able to thoroughly understand Satan’s sinister motive and pray more and rely more on God. We must also have, as whether our sicknesses get better or not is in His hands. Although what has befallen us is the harassment of Satan, without God’s permission, Satan can do nothing to harm us. All we have to do is rely more on God and stand firm in our testimony.”
I understood from the sister’s fellowship that this illness that had suddenly come upon me was the harassment of Satan. Satan was doing this to disrupt my relationship with God, to make me blame God in my sickness, and not want to read God’s words or attend gatherings. By doing this, I would ultimately end up becoming estranged from God—Satan is so insidious! I had to be discerning and could not afford to be caught up in Satan’s cunning scheme again. I prayed to God: “O God! Satan is now using this illness to harass me. I ask that You strengthen my heart and enable me to shake off its harassment. O God, I believe that You hold sovereignty over all things, and so my life is also in Your hands. I ask that You protect me and watch over me.” After praying, I felt very peaceful and at ease and I was no longer worried about how my illness might develop. I later took some medicine, and my body didn’t feel as achy as it had before. Over the days that followed, I did all I could to draw closer to God. I read God’s words and listened to hymns, and my condition gradually began to improve. A week later, I was completely better, and I was able once again to regularly attend gatherings with my brothers and sisters.
Through experiencing this situation, I saw that I had too little faith in God and that, just by encountering one little adverse circumstance, I had begun to doubt God and did not want to attend gatherings anymore. If this illness hadn’t befallen me, then I wouldn’t have been able to see my true stature, much less have any discernment of Satan’s cunning schemes. Thanks be to God that I was able to learn something by Satan harassing me.
What I hadn’t realized, however, was that Satan was not done with me yet. A month later, Satan relaunched its attack against me …
Satan Once Again Employs Its Cunning Schemes
One day, my left eye suddenly became swollen. It turned red and my eyelid swelled up. It was both painful and itchy and my vision in that eye became blurry. I began to worry and was afraid that, if my eye continued to get worse and worse, then I wouldn’t be able to work any longer. I felt mentally weak, but I persisted in praying to God: “O God, I believe that You hold sovereignty over all things, so no matter what happens, I will keep believing in You.”
I later went to hospital to get it checked out and the doctor there said that my eye had become infected, and I was prescribed some antibiotics. The pills had no effect, however, and it hurt so much at nighttime that I was unable to sleep. My heart was in turmoil, and I thought to myself: “Why have I gotten sick all of a sudden again? Is it still Satan trying to harass me? Why would God allow this kind of situation to happen to me again? What will I do if I lose sight in my eye?” I felt as though I couldn’t take much more, and I had no mind to read God’s words. Even my prayers had no feeling to them, and I didn’t want to attend gatherings anymore.
When my church sister discovered that I’d become sick again, she read God’s words to me: “People’s faith is required for when something cannot be seen by the naked eye, and your faith is required for when you cannot let go of your own notions. When you are not clear on God’s work, what is required is your faith and that you take a firm stance and stand witness. When Job reached this point, God appeared to him and spoke to him. That is, it is only from within your faith that you will be able to see God, and when you have faith God will perfect you. Without faith, He cannot do this. God will bestow upon you whatever you hope to gain. If you don’t have faith, you cannot be perfected and you will be unable to see God’s actions, much less see His omnipotence. When you have faith and you can touch His actions in your practical experience, God will appear to you, and He will enlighten and guide you from within. Without that faith, God will be unable to do that. If you have lost hope in God, how will you be able to experience His work?”
The sister then gave fellowship. “We can see from Almighty God’s words that when we encounter matters we do not thoroughly understand, and which do not accord with the interests of our flesh, we must have faith in God. This is because God is the Sovereign of all things and, no matter what situation may befall us, God’s good will is behind them all, and only by keeping our faith in God will we be able to witness His deeds. Take Job, for example. When he was being tempted by Satan and he lost his wealth, his property and his ten children, though he was unaware that all this was Satan tempting him and though he didn’t understand God’s will, he didn’t deny God or betray God. Instead, he extolled the name of Jehovah and he stood firm in his testimony for God. When he was tempted by Satan once again, his whole body erupted in painful boils, and all he could do was sit amongst the ashes and scrape his body with a potsherd. His wife mocked him, moreover, and tried to make him reject God. But no matter how much pain he was in, Job’s faith never swayed, and he sternly rebuked his wife, saying, ‘Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’ As he was undergoing Satan’s repeated temptations, no matter whether it was losing his material possessions and beloved children, or whether it was losing his physical health, all the while he kept his faith in God; he did not deny or betray God because of the calamities that befell him, and he never once spoke sinfully. When Satan saw Job’s true faith, it retreated in shame and never dared try to tempt Job again. God also appeared to Job and spoke to him, and Job was doubly blessed. We can see from Job’s experiences that the things we encounter that we do not fully understand—undesirable situations in particular—always have God’s will behind them, and they always contain the temptations and harassment of Satan. If we have true faith in God, then no matter how great the adversity we encounter, we will always be able to stand on the side of God, persist in reading God’s words,, worship Him and not complain to God—that is what it means to stand firm in one’s witness, and one then becomes qualified to receive God’s blessings. Therefore, once we begin believing in God, though we may get sick again and again and though this may look from the outside like a bad thing, it is in fact God’s special blessing. On the one hand, God wants us to realize from our illnesses Satan’s sinister motive to do all it can to devour us, while on the other hand, God also uses Satan’s cunning schemes to test our faith and to see whether we truly believe in Him. When we stand firm in our testimony and we satisfy God, we are then able to witness God’s wondrous deeds. Our faith in God thereby grows greater and greater, and this is the blessing of God.”
After listening to the sister’s fellowship, I felt so ashamed. I thought of how, when I had become sick, I had lived in a state of silent misunderstanding and blame, and I’d had no true faith in God whatsoever. When I thought of this, I felt distressed, and so I said a prayer to God: “O God! Your practical revelations have shown me that I have no faith in You whatsoever and that I have not the slightest understanding of the power and authority You wield in Your sovereignty over all things. When unfortunate situations befall me, I become negative and I misunderstand You—I really am so ashamed and abashed. O God, I wish to repent to You. No matter how Satan may harass me, no matter how sick I may become, whether my eye loses its sight or not, all of it is in Your hands, and I am resolved to believe in You and follow You.” Afterward, I regularly attended gatherings and my heart was no longer constrained by my illness. To my surprise, a week later, my eye disease was cured. I had witnessed the wondrous deeds of God and I was overjoyed and thanked God from the bottom of my heart!
Tempted Once Again
A month later, however, my right eye swelled up, and this time, my eyebrow and cheek became swollen and painful as well. Whenever I blinked my eye, it would burn and hurt even more. I hurried to see the doctor and I was prescribed antibiotics and eye drops. After taking the antibiotics, however, my eye was not much better, and I went to see the doctor three times, but the swelling in my eye remained. Seeing that the treatment I was being given was having no effect, though I was in a lot of pain, I realized that this was most probably Satan trying to harass me again. No matter what happened this time, I would not misunderstand or blame God again, and I would not stop attending church gatherings. And so, I kept on reading God’s words and continued attending gatherings. After a few days, however, the pain in my eye was still hard to bear. I could not see out of my right eye so I listened to hymns, but I still felt somewhat weak and couldn’t help but think back to when I believed in the Lord as a Baptist and everything had been fine and wonderful. And yet now I had to endure the attacks and temptations of Satan over and over and endure the pain of these sicknesses—it is so hard to follow Almighty God!
Later, at a gathering, my church sister saw that I was feeling low and so she sent me a passage of God’s words: “Are you content to live under the influence of Satan, with peace and joy, and a little fleshly comfort? Are you not the lowliest of all people? None are more foolish than those who have beheld salvation but do not pursue to gain it: They are people who gorge themselves on the flesh and enjoy Satan. 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!”
As I contemplated God’s words, I realized that what God was talking about was precisely my actual state. I was believing in God in order to gain blessings and grace and so that I would be physically well and healthy. I was not believing in God in order to pursue the truth, much less to love and satisfy God. Moreover, I was constantly harboring a wrong view in my heart which was that, once we begin believing in God, then God’s grace and blessings should accompany us whether in work or in life, and that we should always have God watching over us and protecting us. Once I’d accepted God’s work of the last days, therefore, and had gotten sick, I had felt very distressed and had misunderstood and blamed God, so much so that I’d even wanted to give up on God. I saw that I was not someone who had true faith in God or who worshiped God, but instead had wanted to use my faith in God to obtain blessings and grace from Him—I had been so selfish, contemptible and senseless! I am a created being, and whether God bestows grace and blessings on me or not, I should always believe in and worship Him. In the last days, God has come Himself in the flesh to express so many truths in order to provide for our lives and cleanse us of our corrupt dispositions. And yet I had not been pursuing the truth or life, but had instead been pursuing transient physical comforts and pleasures. By doing this, was I not one of those people God spoke about when He said, “None are more foolish”? With such views on pursuit, how could I ever have received God’s praise? What would I have gained in the end? At that moment, I finally perceived that every situation that befell me had God’s good will behind it, for if it hadn’t been for God exposing me in this way, I would never have been able to recognize my wrong views on pursuit, much less would I have ever changed. And if I had carried on believing in God in that way, then I would never have been able to receive His praise! Once I had come to understand God’s will, my heart felt a sudden sense of release, and I knew then how I should follow the path of faith in God in the future.
Afterward, I read God’s words even more attentively and I found the faith to rely on God. Whether my illness got better or not, I would not blame God, but would continue to attend gatherings and perform my duty. After I began to practice in this way, my mind no longer felt harassed, and I no longer worried about my illness. As time went on, my eye gradually got better.
After Experience Comes Understanding
After these experiences, I understood that sicknesses that befall us all have God’s good will behind them. On the one hand, my experiences allowed me to see clearly the despicable and evil ugly countenance of Satan; it is constantly trying its best to attack us and tempt us so that we will betray God. On the other hand, suffering repeated illnesses allowed me to see that I had no true faith in God, while at the same time they remedied my incorrect views on pursuit, and I saw that God is so almighty and wise! God’s words are the truth: They can give us faith and strength, enable us to break through the temptations and harassment of Satan, and they can guide us along the right path of faith in God. I am now filled with faith in God, and no matter what difficulty may arise in the future, I will always pray to God and rely on God, seek God’s will, and do my utmost to practice the truth and satisfy God!
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