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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death*

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

I have two rare congenital genetic diseases: progressive muscular dystrophy, which weakens my physical strength gradually, and myocardial noncompaction, which causes my heart to weaken gradually. Even though God granted me a gift for learning—and through self-empowerment and perseverance I got into Peking University—no matter how hard I try, I cannot triumph over my illnesses.

As early as 17 years ago, the doctor pronounced that I only had a few months left to live. At that time, I met God and called out to Him for help. I celebrated my 50th birthday in November 2022! However, I am growing weaker and eventually must prepare myself for meeting Jesus Christ. Looking back on my short life, the grace and mercy of God are greater than what I asked and what I imagined. How can I not give thanks and sing praise? Hallelujah!

What Is Life For?

Since I was young, I was taught to be an atheist, so I firmly believed that my destiny lay solely in my hands. I worked extra hard and got into Peking University. But when I was 20, the symptoms of my congenital diseases became more pronounced. I struggled for six long years before graduating. When my classmates asked me about my future goal, somehow, I blurted out: “To pursue truth.”

Two years later, I finally left my small hometown and embarked on the difficult path of working. Due to my body condition and discrimination in society, I drifted aimlessly for a few years. I eventually went to Shenzhen. God had prepared a place for me there. I started working for an internet company established by persons with disabilities. As my academic qualifications were the highest among them, it was natural that I was responsible for all technical duties.

Staying busy at work with the eager wish to change the destiny of the disabled stopped me from thinking about anything more. Yet, there were always some nights when I would think: To be carrying such burdens and always laboring, if it’s only for survival, then what’s the meaning of living?

One year I participated in the national vocational skills competition for the disabled and heard the Gospel for the first time. At that time, one of my university schoolmates worked in Shanghai, and after the competition, he took me to a church in Shanghai. My classmate was not a Christian, but his friend who accompanied us was. Having listened to the pastor’s sermon, I basically understood nothing, but I did take to heart one thing Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Afterwards, I had the chance to participate in the international vocational skills competition for the disabled in India, along with the national team. I heard that India was a “scary” place, as the water was filthy, and the mosquitoes were poisonous. Before we went on the trip, our team leader repeatedly warned us that we could only drink bottled water. I was a bit worried as my stomach has always been easily upset. Even though I didn’t know God, I made a wish: “If things go well on the trip, I will definitely go look for the true God.” At last, I came back unscathed!

Encountering the Gospel

One night in February 2004, I was working overtime till late. I read an article on an online literary forum by a disabled poet, Shi-ying, with whom I felt a deep connection. So, I found her articles and read them all. I firmly believed that she was the person I would spend the rest of my life with. With the convenience of the internet, I sent her an email at once, expressing my desire to know her in depth. In our email exchanges, I learned that she was a Christian, and her requirement for accepting me was that I, too, must become a Christian.

At that time, admittedly, love was a push factor for me to pursue the Gospel, yet I was in a confusing time, yearning to find direction for my soul. Perhaps some people with illnesses or disabilities would feel conflicted when they listened to the Gospel: Why did God make me this way? Or, they seek faith to find healing. At that time, what I urgently needed was a way to search for the meaning of life for the sake of my soul.

I digitally downloaded a Bible at once and took a deep dive into it. As I read, I kept referencing my own experiences and gradually felt a resonance. One day, I got the idea to visit a church, so I walked all the way there on my own, leaning only on my cane. I ended up taking the wrong path, traveling extra distance. When I got to the church and took a seat on a bench in the corridor, I was spent, my waist aching intensely. It was not a Sunday and the church sat in quietness. Then from a closed door on the side came the faint singing of praise. It was in this quietness and bliss, that I first felt touched by the Holy Spirit.

My Sins Forgiven

When I was learning about the Bible and continuously communicating with my girlfriend, Shi-ying, I understood that sin entered this world when Adam disobeyed God—and so did death. Diseases are an advocate for death, my flawed genes included. Not only does the incomplete body of man fail, but his soul is also corrupted by ever-spreading sin, so that he cannot save himself from the depths of it.

But how was I innocent? In times of difficulty, didn’t I curse the employers who would not give the disabled a chance? Didn’t I grow bitter and vindictive when I encountered rejection after rejection in society? Didn’t I blame my parents for my congenital diseases? These are all sinful thoughts. My weak body didn’t allow me to commit big bad deeds, but I did do a lot of small bad deeds, some of them even hard to talk about now.

Yet, man is used to sinning. Before knowing the Gospel, I did not discover any way to cleanse my sins, like following the rules, daily introspection, eliminating desires, or daily charitable acts. They were all self-deceptions. If people think they can be cleansed this way and are unaware of the poison clinging to the depths of their soul, they will eventually find themselves caged by sin again.

But from the Bible, I have gradually discovered the way for man to be cleansed. A ransom must be paid for sins in order for man to be saved. I am incapable of repaying this huge sum to God! That is why Jesus came. And, through my repentance, He settled the bill that was owed with His own blood, writing off all my sins! He uprooted the poison in my soul and attached me onto His branches. Since realizing this, I regained the hope of bearing good fruit.

After repenting to God for my sins, my life did change gradually. Before—because I can’t walk steadily and trip easily—every time I tripped, I would habitually curse, then get up on my feet begrudgingly. But now, whenever I trip, I quietly say to myself, “Thank you, God,” then get up again, knowing God will hold me up. At these moments, tripping has the amazing effect of bringing me joy instead.

Testimony in the Workplace

On May 25, 2005, I was baptized into the Lord Jesus Christ. Unworthy as I am, Jesus used me to be a good example in the technology company without dishonoring the name of God. I was honored by society on multiple occasions. First, I received the Top Ten Skilled Pacemakers recognition. Then the year after, I was nominated as one of the Top Ten Outstanding Young Persons. May all honor be to God who granted me motivation and joy.

The many disabled persons who worked in the corporation learned skills from me and gradually matured into outstanding talents with a foothold in the IT industry. This kind of achievement was unimaginable to my fellow disabled persons in the past.

One time, our corporation faced an immense challenge: a technical difficulty presented itself. If we could not work through it, the corporation’s growth would cease, and even the status quo would be hard to maintain. At that time, my subordinates mostly did not have a university education and were inexperienced. Only I had the ability to work it through. However, Shi-ying and I had just held our wedding of thanks and got married before God. I was in a dilemma. Yet, for the corporation, I started staying up late to work.

The Darkest Hour

After a dozen days, I returned home again in the wee hours of the night. My wife was still awake and was kneeling by our bed praying. The small television by the wall was still on. I sat on our bed, realizing it was playing a cartoon adaptation of Bible stories. Quietly but deeply, the theme song sang: “Many nights we pray, with no proof anyone could hear…”

Why, wasn’t this exactly how I felt? My wife worried about my health; I worried for the future of my fellow disabled colleagues. Prayer hadn’t seemed to yield any result. The challenge was insurmountable, and I was still overworking myself. I had no idea what God had planned for this. How much did God want me to give to overcome this challenge, or was I only acting out of my own will and pride?

My body finally gave out when the new year was upon us. I briefly handed over my work and was hospitalized. My wife was even blamed by the doctor after consultation: “He was still working under these conditions? Does he have a death wish?”

At that time, the people from church disagreed over what I did as well. One of the brothers thought I was punished for being proud and arrogant. Yet, when my colleagues came to my ward to give me the good news that the technical difficulty had been overcome a few days later, I knew that God had responded to our one-sided prayers. Now it was up to God to lead me in my critical condition.

After my condition stabilized, the doctor said there was nothing to be done in the hospital and told me to return home for recuperation. After I left the hospital, I gradually passed my duties to my successor and, in the end, left the position entirely. Considering my past performance and previous needs, the person in charge of the corporation kept me on the payroll.

Amazing Grace

At that time, the corporation arranged a car to take me and another colleague with kidney disease to the hospital for follow-up. This colleague was Ma, my apprentice and successor. In the car I never talked much, usually praying with my head low and eyes closed. Sometimes I would hum the song The Sun Above the Clouds: “When you soar on high in the sunny sky, or walk through the valley far below the sky, wherever you are, you will see the sun… high above the clouds…”

To my surprise, after some time, Ma was willing to go to church to learn more about Christianity. Later, he became my brother in Christ. A few of our friends with disabilities were also willing to learn more about the Gospel. So, we held Bible study gatherings at my place. I had once led them technically, but then I became their companion on the path of faith.

As it was inconvenient for the disabled to go to church, under God’s guidance, the church we went to at that time decided to start a new church at my place—Jehovah-Jireh. After the establishment of the new church, we received a lot of support. Brother Yiu from Hong Kong, amid his busy service, was willing to come give a sermon every month at our small church. Some healthy brothers and sisters often came over to serve and help. Through prayer, I also tried my best to share messages from the Bible. A few years later, a young brother from our church was called by God to study in a seminary, so I handed over the baton to him and his wife. I then started focusing on serving God by writing.

The Lily of the Valley

Even though I was gravely ill, everyone who saw me said that I looked very well—not at all like an ill person. It was God who held me up and used an unworthy vessel such as myself. A lot of times when I had no strength or energy, I would remember that in the Bible, God accepted “the poor widow’s two mites” (Mark 12:41–44). Then I would know that God did not look down on my small offering and would find strength again.

Once, when my life was hanging in the balance, a verse from the Psalms hit right home for me: “Because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). Since then, I have stopped fixating on “Why me?” What’s the point of asking, really? There is another verse: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalms 139:16). No matter how bumpy or treacherous my life is, God is always there guiding me! Time and again, He turned crisis into safety, fear into peace, sorrow into joy, pain into hope. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lily of the Valley in the shadow of death, giving out a sweet fragrance. Can you smell it? I now smell it all along the way!

Editor’s Note: One week after the author sent us this article, he passed away from COVID and is now with God. The next article was written by his wife.

*This story was first published in Chinese Today, Issue No. 737 (September 2023) and was translated into English by Kiara Ngai.

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20240201
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Apr-Jun 2024. CCMUSA.