41. What Is the Nature of God’s Love?
Siqiu Suihua City, Heilongjiang Province
“If you’ve always been very loyal and loving toward Me, yet you suffer the torment of illness, the impoverishment of life, and the abandonment of your friends and relatives or endure any other misfortunes in life, then will your loyalty and love for Me still continue?” (“A Very Serious Problem: Betrayal (2)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Whenever I see this passage of God’s words, I feel particularly unhappy and think: “Dear God, how can You allow those that are loyal to You and love You to meet with such misfortune?” As a result, I’ve had a hard time understanding the meaning of the man used by the Holy Spirit who said, “God’s last demand of man is loving and sincere.”
Recently, the sister with whom I was coordinating developed hyperthyroidism. Gradually, her condition got to the point where she had to eat six meals a day. Due to the stress of illness, her strength gradually diminished, and she lived every day in depression, weakness and fatigue. Her body simply couldn’t comply with her desire to fulfill her duties, and her illness became more and more advanced. I couldn’t understand why this was happening: This sister had left her family and a high-paying job with good benefits to devote herself to the fulfillment of her duties and she was very loyal. How could it be that, for all that she had given, she would be saddled with the torment of this illness in return? I didn’t reveal my feelings outwardly, but my heart was in tumult—whenever anyone raised this issue I would lose my calm.
Not long after, that sister and I parted ways, but I never forgot about her. One day, I asked my leader how the sister was doing. The leader said: “At first she was in a very negative state and failed to understand the work of God. Later, she consciously adjusted her condition, and sought out God’s intention within the torment of her illness. Through God’s words, she began to know herself and realize that she had not had true belief. Within her belief there was still an element of “exchange,” still a desire to gain blessings through her belief in God. She also identified many other elements of rebelliousness within herself. Once she had realized these things about herself, her health improved dramatically. She’s recovering day by day. She’s back down to three meals a day and her condition is much better. She’s even able to often fellowship about the truth to help the brothers and sisters of her host family….” When I heard this good news, I was truly shocked. I had thought that the torment of illness would wear down the sister’s resolve and cause her great suffering. Wracked by sickness, I believed she would end up groping in the darkness more and more. I even suspected that she might be unable to go on. Today, faced with the reality of her situation, I was left standing agape. Not only had she not lost faith in God, but, through the refinement of her illness, had actually come to understand God’s work and recognize her corruption. She had learned from her experience and had made improvements to her life. Was this illness not a manifestation of God’s true love and real salvation of man?
Later, I read the following passage from Sermons and Fellowship: “Number 5: ‘If you’ve always been very loyal and loving toward Me, yet you suffer the torment of illness, the impoverishment of life, and the abandonment of your friends and relatives or endure any other misfortunes in life, then will your loyalty and love for Me still continue?’ God’s work is not in line with people’s notions. God has worked according to this principle to bring salvation to people throughout the ages. All those who have experienced this work of God will be aware of this fact. People are loyal and loving toward God, and God in turn imparts His love to them. … If we are truly loving and loyal to God, when we meet with all manner of misfortune, this, too, is the manifestation of God’s love. If we truly understand God’s will, we should be even more loyal and love God even more till the end. If we are unable to see God’s will in the trials we suffer and even misunderstand God and betray God, we certainly do not know the work of God. Even if we love and are loyal to God, there are still elements of betrayal within us. No one would debate that. God tries and refines man to purify and save him” (“God’s Last Demand of Man Is Loving and Sincere” from the Above’s Fellowship). Only after reading this passage of fellowship did I realize that I have always judged God’s work in terms of my flesh-bound thinking. I mistakenly believed that God’s love consists of bounteous gifts of grace and assurance of fleshly joy and peace. I never thought that suffering is a form of God’s blessing. Only after learning of my sister’s experience, did I realize that the refinement of suffering is a true manifestation of God’s love. God creates certain situations and inflicts misfortunes upon His people—be it through physical ailment, financial hardship, or any other difficulties—not out of ill will but out of His loving kindness. To address the corrupt disposition and inadequacies of man, God tries and refines him. Through these real-life situations, He purifies, transforms and puts truths into man so that man may live according to God’s words. Only in this way can man’s life gradually develop. Though the flesh must undergo incredible hardship in the process of refinement, which may be perceived as misfortune or suffering, this allows man to know himself, reveals all the impurities, wrong intents and viewpoints, extravagant desires, incorrect goals of pursuit that a person has in believing in God, and so on. When man has some understanding of the truth and substance of his corruption, he sees God’s holiness and righteousness, understands God’s dearness and loveliness, and realizes God’s earnest intention to save mankind. He develops fear and obedience toward God, has a more and more normal relationship with Him and slowly cultivates love for God in his heart. Such benefits cannot be obtained through a life of leisure. When man absorbs the lessons obtained from the torment of his trials and reflects back on the road he has taken, he deeply understands that God’s judgments and chastisements, His smiting and discipline were all full of His infinite love. God’s love is not just kind and compassionate. It is not only about bestowing material benefits, but is also harrowing refinement, smiting and discipline.
Dear God, thank You for working through all aspects of my surroundings to correct my absurd and misguided way of thinking and allow me to see that even if Your love is not in line with our notions, its manifestation is always aimed at transforming and saving us. Your love is always imbued with Your earnest intentions and Your ineffable wisdom. I also realize that I previously didn’t have the slightest understanding of You and didn’t comprehend that Your love is often hidden within the situations I encounter. Dear God, in honor of the love that You share with mankind, I offer You praise and gratitude! I also hope that one day I too will receive this kind of love. Should this love be visited upon me, I vow to accept any degree of suffering, so that I may experience and testify to Your love.