What’s the Meaning of Life? Find the Answer Through a Comic Book Artist’s Experience
By Shen’ai, Taiwan
One day while watching the news, I saw that a famous Taiwanese comic book artist had died suddenly at just 51 years old. Hearing the news left me with a mix of emotions. He had been a really prominent person in the world of comics and had created a number of excellent works; many people envied and looked up to him. He had both fortune and fame—I had never thought he’d end up dying just like that! I couldn’t help but sigh: When someone dies, no matter how famous they are, how much status they have, what good is it? Then my own 30 years on the path of creating comics occurred to me …
I’ve liked drawing comics since I was a little boy—it was something I really delved into and put in a lot of effort. When I was 25 years old, I had the good fortune to see a comic book artist in person, and saw that there were a lot of fans surrounding him, adulating him. I was really envious and longed for the day I could be just like him, the star of the show. I knew that I needed to keep working hard to get my skills up to the level of a professional, but I thought that if I was willing to pay a price, my day would certainly come. Driven by this thought, I buried myself in it for over ten years. I didn’t hesitate to spend several months’ wages, tens of thousands of yuan, on a set of high-quality graphic novel materials for reference to improve my skills. Money was pretty tight, but I couldn’t have cared less. I would often draw until two or three in the morning so I could hone my skills, and when I got so sleepy that I really couldn’t bear it, I’d just take a short nap, and as soon as I opened my eyes the very first thing on my mind was how I would finish whatever I was working on. I would spend ten or more hours drawing every day, always in the same position, so my neck, shoulders, back, and right hand were frequently sore. My fingers even changed shape and my eyesight started to deteriorate. But for the sake of success, I just gritted my teeth and bore it. I was elated when my comics garnered praise from others and even indulged in daydreams that I was already a successful comic book artist with a nice car and a big house. But in real life, I was just an unremarkable employee in a company and I had no chance of becoming famous. No matter how well I could draw, I’d never be able to earn much. I felt really sad and dejected.
Fighting for My Dream, Facing Setbacks at Every Turn
In an effort to get ahead, I quit and got a job at the largest publishing house in Asia because a lot of famous comic book artists had made their names there. I thought that if I had the right opportunity from working there, maybe I could make a name for myself. Once, the head of a comics publisher decided to put out a magazine of comics created by local artists and was going to come to our company to look for talented people. When I heard this I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep for days—I thought the opportunity was a gift from the heavens, and that I finally had the chance to display my talent, to stand in the limelight. I fretted over it quite a bit. I considered and reconsidered everything, from the comics’ concept, source material, and plot to its coloring. I also consulted quite a few other comic books for reference. I had to work during the day, so every night I burned the midnight oil, and I finally had my final product a few days later. Brimming with hope, I went to see my boss, but to my surprise, we had conflicting visions; we even got into an argument and I offended him. He ended up selecting a colleague’s work, and my hopes of making a name for myself were dashed.
I was full of resentment after that, and I regretted my rashness at the time. However, I didn’t lose heart. I went back to the publishing house to submit my comic book; the graphic novels editor really liked my work and I became one of the in-house comic artists. Not long after that, I was assigned to work with a screenwriter to create a graphic novel and I geared myself up to throw everything into it, but I learned later on that the success of our creation would be in the hands of the boss I had offended. I experienced a myriad of emotions. I regretted my past actions, and I knew that no matter how good my work was, it could never get past that boss’ desk. All I could do was give up. I was really dejected at having lost another chance at becoming a comic book artist and hated myself for having been so impulsive. If not for that, maybe that opportunity could have been a step to success. Thinking of failure after failure after all those years of struggle and hard work to realize my dream, I was full of despair. No words can describe my suffering. I just felt that the road ahead had become incredibly murky.
Soured by my dashed hopes, for quite a while drawing became very painful for me and I didn’t even want to see pen and paper. But I still didn’t want to give up my dream of becoming a comic book artist just because of that, so I kept on drawing, and drawing, and drawing. Many years went by and I submitted my work to a number of different publishing houses, but it may as well have been a pebble dropped into the ocean. Every single failure was hugely painful for me, and I became more and more depressed. I would often just sit there alone by the river, watching the cars and the people coming and going—I was lost and didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t figure it out: Why had I worked so hard, giving it my all, but I just wasn’t fated to get it? Was it really just not meant to be? I was preordained to not make a name for myself? Why is life so hard?
Seeing me constantly out of sorts, my family advised me over and over again to give up on my dream. But I felt, how could I give up so easily after spending so much time and money, and even sacrificing my health all those years? I wasn’t willing to do that at all, so I kept on drawing, but I still hadn’t made a name for myself even into my 60s—I was overwhelmed with disappointment. Every time I saw the work of one of my former colleagues laid out on display in a store I was filled with jealousy and pain. I thought that my drawings matched up to theirs, but I had spent over thirty years on comic books with nothing to show for it! Late at night when all was quiet, I would look around at my drawings in the house and felt even more despair and suffering. I couldn’t help but frequently ask myself: “Why do I have this talent that has been so wasted, and I haven’t had an opportunity to put it to good use?” In spite of all that, my desire to become well-known was still as restless as a beast in a cage, and even if there was only the faintest hint of hope I was willing to keep working hard and trying.
Reaching the End of the Bumpy Road and Coming Before God
In 2017, I asked around and found out that there’s a really big market for graphic novels in the US and Europe, so I got the idea that maybe if I went to a western country, I could get famous and earn a lot of money. I was reinvigorated and started learning the comic styles common in the West. After some time when I had finally gotten some work ready I felt overjoyed and was planning to send it to an overseas publisher. It was just then that God’s salvation of the last days came upon me, and although I accepted it, I was still constantly preoccupied with getting my comic book together. I wasn’t at all able to keep my heart at peace and I wasn’t earnestly reading God’s words. It wasn’t until I hit another wall that I returned before God.
One day, I saw these words of God, “The fate of man is controlled by the hands of God. You are incapable of controlling yourself: Despite always rushing and busying about for himself, man remains incapable of controlling himself. If you could know your own prospects, if you could control your own fate, would you still be a creature?” (“Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination”). I thought over God’s words and had a huge awakening. I realized that our destinies are all under God’s rule and in His hands. We ourselves cannot change them because we are just created beings; we can’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so how could we be the masters of our own destinies? I thought back over the past three decades. I had struggled and fought tirelessly to become a well-known comic book artist but had faced setback after setback. Success was always just out of reach. Doesn’t that mean that I have no control over my own fate? The truth is that God long ago determined what kind of work and successes we’ll have in our lifetimes and what kind of career we’ll have. But I didn’t understand God’s rule—I kept on relying on my own ability and hard work, trying to stand out from the crowd, arrogantly thinking I could break free from His rule. As a result, I utterly exhausted myself, body and mind, and was left riddled with battle wounds and living in constant pain.
My Suffering Resulted From Having the Wrong Pursuit
Later, I read God’s words, “In fact, no matter how lofty man’s ideals are, no matter how realistic man’s desires are or how proper they may be, all that man wants to achieve, all that man seeks for is inextricably linked with two words. These two words are vitally important to the life of every person, and these are things Satan intends to instill in man. Which two words are these? One is ‘fame’ and one is ‘gain’: They are fame and gain. Satan uses a very subtle kind of way, a way very much in concert with people’s notions; it is not any kind of radical way. In the midst of unawareness, people come to accept Satan’s way of living, its rules of living, establishing life goals and their direction in life, and in doing so they also unknowingly come to have ideals in life. No matter how high-sounding these ideals in life seem, they are just a pretext that is inextricably linked to fame and gain. Any great or famous person, all people in fact, anything they follow in life relates only to these two words: ‘fame’ and ‘gain.’ Is this not so? People think that once they have fame and gain, they can then capitalize on them to enjoy high status and great wealth, and to enjoy life. Once they have fame and gain, they can then capitalize on them in their pleasure-seeking and unscrupulous enjoyment of the flesh. People willingly, albeit unknowingly, take their bodies, minds, all that they have, their futures and their destinies and hand them all over to Satan in order to attain the fame and gain they desire. People actually do this without ever a moment’s hesitation, ever ignorant of the need to recover it all. Can people still have any control over themselves once they take refuge in Satan and become loyal to it in this way? Certainly not. They are completely and utterly controlled by Satan. They have also completely and utterly sunk down into a quagmire and are unable to free themselves” (“God Himself, the Unique VI”).
God’s words were very deeply moving for me, and from what was revealed within them I realized that the reason I always wanted to become a well-known comic book artist and had been working so hard for that was that I had been misled and corrupted by Satan. I was bound by fame and gain. Through education and the influence of famous, great people, we have been inculcated with erroneous thinking such as: “Alive, be man of men; dead, be soul of souls,” “To be a man is to get ahead,” and “People struggle to go upward; water flows downward.” As a result we mistake standing out from the crowd and getting ahead of others as proper pursuits, thinking that our lives will have meaning and value only with fame and status, with others looking up to us and flocking, and being the center of attention. I thought nothing of expending thirty years of my time and energy to become a famous comic book artist, and not only did I spend all of my savings, but spent quite a lot of energy on it and even put my health on the line. Even though every failed submission was a huge blow and was very painful for me, I frequently felt lost and indecisive, and I had thought about giving up, the moment I thought of the glory of becoming famous, I couldn’t extricate myself from it. I continued down the path of comic books, fighting hand, tooth, and nail. Even when God’s salvation came upon me I still didn’t have the heart to focus on it. Instead, I wholeheartedly continued on rushing around and working hard for the sake of fame until another roadblock stopped me in my tracks. It was only then that I realized that I was being controlled and manipulated by Satan’s thinking of pursuing fame and fortune. I was nothing but a puppet for that idea; I had paid every price and expended everything for it, becoming a toy in Satan’s hands. I then thought again of those well-known people—although they were widely renowned, had good names, had people clustered around them and were admired, they weren’t at peace or fulfilled in their souls because of it. On the other hand, they felt even more empty and some became pessimistic and world-weary, deciding to commit suicide and end their lives. Many people were able to keep their feet firmly on the ground before making a name for themselves, but after becoming successful and well-known, the emptiness in their souls multiplied. They became decadent and depraved; some were all about eating, drinking, and merriment, fully indulging the flesh and their desires. Some started doing drugs in pursuit of excitement, going down a criminal path and ruining their lives. Some sold their bodies and lost all character and dignity just for the sake of fame. This made me see even more clearly that seeking to stand out from the crowd, seeking others’ admiration and popularity is not at all the right path in life and it cannot bring us truly happy lives. All it can do is make us more and more evil and corrupt, and even if we get it, it’s all emptiness and pain. This is one of the evil ways that Satan harms mankind. After I understood all of this I suddenly felt light in my heart; I was no longer so bent on, so obsessed with becoming famous. That really is thanks to God’s salvation for me! If it hadn’t been for the revelations of God’s words, I never would have been able to see the harm that pursuing fame and gain did to me, but I would have continued being toyed with and hurt by Satan. Now I need to make a new plan for my life and no longer seek fame and gain, which aren’t worth even a single penny.
Finding a New Direction
It was easy to say I would let go, but when the time came to actually do it, I found myself really reluctant. After all, I had given over three decades of my blood, sweat, and tears to comic books. However, I did shrink back at the thought of all the suffering pursuing fame and gain had brought to me; so, I came before God in prayer and asked Him to guide me on the road ahead so that I could be freed from the shackles of that pursuit. I later read this passage of God’s words in “God Himself, the Unique III”: “When you repeatedly investigate and carefully dissect the various goals of life that people pursue and their various different ways of living, you will find that not one of them fits the Creator’s original intention when He created humanity. All of them draw people away from the Creator’s sovereignty and care; they are all pits into which humanity falls, and which lead them to hell. After you recognize this, your task is to lay aside your old view of life, stay far from various traps, let God take charge of your life and make arrangements for you, try only to submit to God’s orchestrations and guidance, to have no choice, and to become a person who worships God.” “If one views life as an opportunity to experience the Creator’s sovereignty and come to know His authority, if one sees one’s life as a rare chance to perform one’s duty as a created human being and to fulfill one’s mission, then one will necessarily have the correct outlook on life, will live a life blessed and guided by the Creator, will walk in the light of the Creator, know the Creator’s sovereignty, come under His dominion, become a witness to His miraculous deeds and to His authority.”
God’s words pointed me toward the right path and direction for seeking. In order to free myself from the pain of pursuing fame and gain, I had to let go of my previous, erroneous goals for pursuit and outlook on life, and see that these things are one of the ways Satan corrupts mankind. I had to stop trying to be better than others and get famous so others would adore me and look up to me, but instead put my life into God’s hands, obeying God’s rule and arrangements for my career. I needed to be a good, solid person and in all things focus on undergoing, experiencing, and knowing the authority of the Creator and fulfilling my duty as one of creation, and to complete God’s mission for me. That’s the only value in human life, and it’s the only way to live out a most meaningful life. In the past, I didn’t understand God’s will, instead running myself ragged for over thirty years just for fame and gain. I lost my direction in life and I suffered greatly from Satan toying with me. Now that God’s words have pointed out a path of practice for me, I will never again live based on satanic fallacies and thinking. God created all things for us, humans; He has breathed life into us, and in the last days He has once again become flesh to be among mankind, working and saving humanity. I am a created being enjoying everything that God has bestowed, so I should possess a conscience and reason, and fulfill my duty before God to repay His love. God graced me with the ability to draw, so I should use that gift, that strength to bear witness to the Creator and live for the sake of satisfying God. Once I understood that, my heart brightened considerably and I knew what path I needed to take from then on.
The Only Valuable, Meaningful Life Is Seeking to Meet the Standards for a Created Being
One day, during my devotions I saw these words of God: “When you distance yourself from the land of evil and corruption, when you separate yourself from wicked groups, at the very least your thought, spirit, and heart will no longer continue to be abused and corrupted. When you come to a clean place and come into God’s presence, is this not a great blessing? … As a created being among all things in the universe and billions of people on this earth, how many people can have an opportunity like this, to bear testimony of the actions of the Lord of creation as a created being by giving themselves over to the fulfilling of their duty and responsibility? Who can have such an opportunity? Are there many of these people? What is the proportion of them? Are there one in ten thousand? No, there are even fewer! Especially you use the knowledge you have studied in order to perform your duty—this is so meaningful! Isn’t this such a great blessing? You are not testifying of a person, and you are not engaged in some mere cause. The One you serve is the Lord of creation—how wonderful this is! … Among all creation there is not a single person or a single group of people more blessed than you here. For what do those others live? They live for reincarnation, for the excitement of this earth. For what do you live? For your duty, for performing your duty as a created being. Is it not valuable to live this way? Extremely valuable!” (“You Can Obtain Truth After Turning Your True Heart Over to God”).
Reading God’s words was very moving for me. I felt thankful that God chose me and led me into the paradise of His family; with His words He waters and sustains me, He enlightens and guides me, allowing me to see Satan’s tactics of corrupting and hurting mankind. I will never again strive so bitterly for fame and gain. In the church I have seen that whenever a brother or sister has a difficulty, everyone will share fellowship on the truth, patiently supporting and helping them. When conflicts or misunderstandings arise between brothers and sisters, they are simple and open; they speak out what’s on their hearts and are honest people. This has brought me incomparable freedom and release. So many brothers and sisters enthusiastically perform their duty, putting everything into God’s gospel of the kingdom. Over the course of doing their duty they understand more and more of the truth, their knowledge of God gradually increases, and they progress quickly in their lives. Seeing all of this, I really admired them and looked forward to being able to fulfill my duty as well. After that, I entirely gave up on submitting my work to overseas publishers and began learning how to create gospel comics in the church. With God’s guidance, I learned very quickly. Now, I am very honored to be able to use this strength of mine to bear witness to God, and I have learned first-hand to no longer pursue fame and gain, but obey God’s rule and arrangements, fulfill the duty of a created being, and live within God’s care and leadership. This is the only way my heart is truly on steady footing and at ease. This kind of spiritual joy and peace is something that material enjoyment or fame and gain could never replace.
Life is short, time flies, and everything is fleeting. I can’t waste a single day—in performing my duty I pursue the truth, seek to understand God’s authority, cast off my satanic, corrupt disposition, and become someone who truly obeys and reveres God. Thanks be to God!