31. What Is the Nature of God’s Love?
God’s words say: “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 read this demand that God has of man, I feel an inexpressible sadness, and think: “O God, how can You allow those that are loyal to You and love You to meet with such misfortune? The brother from the above previously gave a fellowship that said, ‘God’s last demand of man is loving and sincere.’ How should we understand this?” These words had always puzzled me.
Recently, the sister with whom I was performing my duty 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 a view of trade with God, 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 give frequent fellowship about the truth to help and sustain the brothers and sisters.” When I heard this good news, I felt happy for her. But at the same time, I more so felt shocked. I had thought that the torment of illness would wear down the sister’s willpower and cause her great suffering physically and mentally. Wracked by sickness, I believed she would end up groping in the darkness more and more on the road of believing in God. 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, she 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 a sermon: “Fifth, God says, ‘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?’ This requirement is not a small trial for humanity. … What foundation are one’s loyalty to and love for God built on? How can it be proven that one truly has loyalty to God? How can it be shown that one truly possesses love for God? These need to be proven through trials and refinements. … When you encounter this kind of trial, God’s first purpose is to expose you to see whether or not your loyalty and love are really true. His second purpose is to purify you, because there exist impurities in your loyalty and love. If you are aware of these impurities, which are revealed when you encounter a variety of trials, then you will be cleansed of them. If people possess true loyalty to and true love for God, then no matter what befalls them and no matter what kinds of trials they encounter, they will not fall down, but instead will continue to be loyal and loving toward God without wavering. For those whose loyalty and love contain impurities and a desire to get something in return, it will not be easy to stand firm when trials come upon them, and they will be liable to topple. Such people will easily be revealed, will they not?” (“Only by Satisfying God’s Final Requirements Can One Be Saved” in Sermons and Fellowship II). 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 and love. 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 of suffering upon people—be it through physical ailment, financial hardship, or any other misfortune in life—not to deliberately make things difficult for people, but out of His love. To address the satanic 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 man’s flesh must undergo incredible hardship in the process of refinement, which may be perceived as misfortune or bad things, this reveals many impurities, wrong intents and viewpoints, extravagant desires, and incorrect goals of pursuit that man has in his belief in God so that he can know himself. 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 Him 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 are 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.
I prostrated myself before God and offered a prayer: O God, thank You for working through all aspects of my surroundings to remedy my absurd and misguided viewpoints on things and to allow me to see that, even if Your love is not in line with human notions, it is always there to transform and save us. Your love is always imbued with Your earnest intentions and Your ineffable wisdom. O 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. I vow to accept any degree of suffering so that I may experience and testify to Your love.