Editor’s note: Little Ai, a Chinese Christian who is married to a house church pastor, recently wrote this reflection as she prepared for a hearing about fines levied against her and her husband for organizing religious activities. The charges have now gone through, and her family has been saddled with a large debt, as well as travel restrictions. Still, even in the midst of suffering, she realizes that her troubles are being used by God to address her heart issues and to help her know and trust her Savior.
A few months ago, my husband and I received notice that we would be fined 200,000 RMB [more than $30,000 USD]. When I saw this notice, I quickly became belligerent. The next day, I had to go and submit an application for a hearing regarding the matter. I imagined holding my head high as I went into that office. In my heart, I despised those I would see there. “Let’s see what my God will do to you one day,” I thought.
But the Holy Spirit reminded me of that day’s Scripture reading: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” The Spirit reminded me that sin lives in my heart, and that I am called to resist any thought that is not in accordance with God’s will. The greatest battle is not outside of me; it is in my own heart. I prayed that God would guard my heart.
The next day before I left home, I had a conversation with my son. He cannot speak yet, so I asked and answered the questions myself: “Little one, Mommy is going to fight a battle, but the battle is actually fought by the Lord. He has already won, and I am just following him to gather the spoils. Will Mommy get hurt in this process? Yes. We don’t know when or from where hidden spears and arrows will fly toward me. However, even if I am hurt, it is all in God’s hands. We do not have to worry.”
I put on high heels before I left, so I could walk more assertively. When I handed in my paperwork, the staff member at the Religious Affairs Bureau was very polite, addressing me with the formal, more courteous version of you. He asked me to sit down, have some water, and wait. It was as if God’s mercy grabbed hold of me. Although I knew the staff members at the bureau office are not my enemies—they are not the ones against whom I fight—I still wanted to be hostile toward them.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
The Fight Is Not with Flesh and Blood
As I waited, God showed me that my enemy is the devil. He is the one in charge of this dark world. The staff at the bureau are merely a group of imprisoned people who live under his control. When this thought came, God immediately reminded me of certain brothers and sisters in the church. Sometimes I enjoy judging these other believers. Because we disagree about certain topics, I have built up walls inside myself and find it hard to serve with them, to the point that we cannot even talk in a friendly manner. My heart has no mercy.
God showed me that I was wrong. This Scripture came to mind: “Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” May God forgive me for my hardness of heart! I should show compassion to my brothers and sisters. Even if we disagree, we are still companions on our journey to heaven.
Before I left the office, I had a friendly conversation with the director of the bureau, and discussed the time of my hearing. Because I had planned to visit my hometown in the following days, I asked him to arrange the date a little later. At last, I said to him, “I’ll pray for you,” and left.
When I came back, one sister told me that another friend was very worried about what to do if we were fined a large amount of money. I told her a story: “Imagine the savings and properties owned by the richest person in the world. He may be as ‘rich as a state,’ but his wealth is still a drop in the bucket compared to the wealth of my Father. I am his daughter. If his daughter needs money, my loving Father will surely provide it. There is no need to worry about money at all.”
God Wants to Deal with our Inner Being
God also led me to consider: if I could pray and ask the Lord to remove one thing—this fine or my sin—which would I choose? Of course I would choose for him to remove my sin. Even if the fine could be canceled, my sin remains; the burden of sin is too great for me to bear.
We would all love for God to come and solve our problems when we are in trouble. If we are not feeling well—”God, please heal us.” If we have cancer, we want God to remove the cancer cells through the hand of a doctor. If we are in financial difficulties—”God, please provide.” If our marriage is in crisis—”God, please change my spouse.” But how many healthy, financially well-off, happily married families in this world still live under the bondage and dominion of sin?
God came from heaven to earth. He knows the weaknesses we experience, and he will give us our daily bread. Most importantly, he came to get rid of the sin within us. God wants to deal with our inner being, which is full of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, and maliciousness. He died on the cross so he could surgically remove our dirty heart and replace it with a new heart.
I need to think about the lessons God wants me to learn in this persecution. If my heart is filled with anger, bitterness, and self-righteousness, then my heart is actually resisting God. Lord, have mercy! If my heart can submit to God’s sovereignty, accept the situation he has given me, pray for those who are in authority, and still be courageous to honor his word, then I am not being persecuted in vain. I know that this willingness to submit does not come from me, but from the Holy Spirit, who intends this to build and prune us. Thank you, Lord!
Ai was converted in 2004. She is married to a preacher, lives in a city on the southeast coast of China, and is studying for ministry alongside her husband.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Little Ai wrote that God used persecution to help her reflect and settle these things in her heart. Thank God that he uses difficulties and suffering to help us know and trust him more.