Confessions of a Happy Model
By Ganzhi, the United States
When I was young, my mother often taught me to sing hymns that praised God. As we sang the songs, she also taught me to dance, and my nine-year-old little brother would always joyfully join us. At that time, although my family was poor and we could only live in an adobe house, I was really happy. One time, my mother went out to spread the gospel and didn’t return when it was late. I felt scared at hearing the rustling leaves in the wind outside my house. But thinking of my mother’s words that I could pray to God when I feared, I hurriedly prayed to God and read God’s words. Gradually, I was not scared, feeling that God was protecting me by my side. On ordinary occasions, I also prayed to God whatever I met; for example, when I passed by cemeteries on my way to school, as soon as I prayed to God, I was unafraid. Additionally, I had been introverted and reticent, but ever since I believed in God with my mother, I had endless words that I would speak to the uncles and aunties who were also believers in God, and either happy or unhappy things, I would. At that time, I had God as my reliance, and felt great happiness in my heart.
However, such happy life was ruined by what happened to my family later. In 2003, my father owed many external debts and was unable to repay them. This undoubtedly worsened my already poor family. To claim their money back, creditors came to my home frequently. When my mother borrowed money from my relatives, they would lend some to us at first, but dared not later because they were afraid that we were unable to pay them back. When I attended school, I even had no money to buy food and always starved, much less had the money to pay for my tuition fees. So I decided to drop out of the junior middle school to go out to make money so I would save enough money for college and then make big money after graduation. At that time, I thought: Only money can save my family from poverty and only money can ensure us a happy life.
After I left home, I ever worked as a waitress in the catering industry, and also as a shopgirl. Since my figure was tall and slim, someone told me that I could earn big money being a model. So I signed up to study in a model school. Being a model is the most tiring job. When my workload was heavy, my sleep and meal time would become irregular. As a result, much of my hair was lost, my face was often pale, and my black eyes were rather scaring. I was weaker and weaker under the overwork, plus my poor health since I was little, soon I had cholecystitis, enterogastritis, rhinitis, and so on. Although I had to suffer a lot from these diseases, yet as long as I could earn money, I thought my suffering was worthwhile. By the year 2008, I had saved enough money to go to college and then smoothly passed the self-study higher education examination to fulfill my college dream. However, every time I saw those classmates from wealthy families, I couldn’t help feeling heartache because I had to work hard to earn money to support my study. By contrast, I thought I was still much bad-off. So I told myself that I couldn’t be satisfied with being debt-free; instead, I must, like those successes, let my family live a high-quality life, possess my own house and car and the clothes I liked in the future. Only this was happiness. During my college days, I studied and earned money as a model at the same time. Being too busy, I returned home less often, and my heart strayed from God ever further, even to the point that I would avoid reading God’s words when my mother asked me to; and would only listen for a while reluctantly if I had to.
In 2011, I graduated and found my classmates couldn’t make much money through the work related to my college major. If I followed suit, I thought, my dream would be difficult to achieve. Later, I learned from my friends that being a model in an international metropolis could make me earn more money. So I decided to leave home again to continue my struggle for the happy life I wanted. However, my mother objected to my decision. I clearly remembered that, on that day, my mother said to me sincerely and honestly, “Our fate is decided by the Heaven. Everything is in God’s hand. Don’t always plan for your future. Even if you labor and suffer a lot in the world, you’ll only get material satisfaction or may end in getting nothing. Your father and I used to bustle about to do business painstakingly, but what did we end up with? Aren’t we a warning to you? Now our family has no debts; we should be content with what we have. Stay at home and believe in God sincerely, OK? Only reading more of God’s words and pursuing the truth is the most valuable thing. If we leave God’s care and protection in the pursuit of fortune and fame, we can get nothing but agony in return. You are already in poor health now; when you lose your health, you’ll find what you pursue is not happiness. Let me read two passages of God’s words to you.” With this, she began to read: “Mankind does not just require a fair society in which everyone is well-fed and is equal and free, but the salvation of God and His provision of life to them. Only when man receives the salvation of God and His provision of life to them can the needs, yearning to explore, and spiritual emptiness of man be resolved” (“God Presides Over the Fate of All Mankind”). “In any case, all I wish is for man to understand that without the care, keeping, and provision of God, man cannot receive all that he was meant to receive, no matter how great the effort or struggle. Without the supply of life from God, man loses the sense of value in living and loses the sense of purpose in life” (“God Is the Source of Man’s Life”). As I listened, I thought: Although God’s words are good and believing in God is right, I need money to live. When I have enough money in the future, it will still not be late for me to return home to believe in God. Now, I’d better earn more money before I get old.
At this thought, I resumed my life of earning money. In the beginning, I went to Hangzhou and earned some money there. Later, I learned that there were more opportunities of earning money in Shanghai and that the rewards there were three times what I received in Hangzhou. After that, I passed through many places and arrived in Shanghai. From the outset, everything went smoothly. With the help and recommendation of my friends, I had more chances to work with many advertising companies and brokers. Busy as I was with different interviews every day, I received many job offers soon afterward, such as advertising campaigns, T-shows (fashion shows), car exhibitions, and so on. With my workload increasing, I contacted more people, and even went on the stage together with some singers and movie stars sometimes. In this way, I earned more money. As my schedule was becoming tighter, I was always on the move among airports, train stations, and bus stations, and traveled among different show places from before dawn to after dark, so I didn’t live on a regular schedule and had only three or four hours of sleep. Due to sleep deprivation and irregular diets for a long period, my immunity sharply decreased. In addition, my job required me to wear anti-seasonal clothes: In summer, I had to wear down jacket, even at temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius; in winter, I had to wear a gauze dress, despite the temperature lower than 30 degrees below zero. So I had new illnesses: rheumatism, cervical spondylosis, lumbar disease, and so on. What’s more, because of wearing high-heels for long, not merely were my feet full of calluses and bleeding blisters, but my legs and feet often went into spasm. Thus I even fell onto the runway several times, leaving my ankles and knees injured. At times, my schedule was cancelled when I offended someone. So, in order to earn money in this circle for more years, sometimes I had to maintain my relationship with others with a mask. For other times, I had to go to the bars, discos, KTVs, and other places as such for amusement and relaxation with my friends. Although I didn’t adapt to this way of relaxation, yet I had to do so to fit in with them. Although we contacted and helped each other in our work, I seldom had common language with them, let alone find someone with whom to exchange my confidences. Day after day, I felt ever more void and lonely. I had more money and better material enjoyment, but I had no sense of satisfaction and happiness. And not only that, but I didn’t know what happiness or contentment was. I felt my heart was just like a hole without bottom, which just couldn’t be stuffed no matter how.
Such a life I had lived for almost one year and it had brought me a considerable income. I should have stopped to have a good rest, but I was unwilling to miss any chance of earning money. Until June, 2016, my body was too exhausted that the diseases in me became dramatically worse. When I stayed alone at home, I was incessantly reflecting and asking myself: Am I still the one I used to be? Why am I, who often smiles on the surface, always unhappy? I have owned money, but never have I felt joy and happy in my deepest heart. Then what is happiness? Are all my pursuits not the true need deep inside my heart? I have already lost my direction, not knowing what’s needed in my heart. I had thought happiness was earning enough money to live a well-off life; I had never thought that I would have health problem in pursuing them, and actually, nor have I paid any attention to my health: Ignoring the need of both my body and spirit, I just worked my fingers to the bone, which brought me agony. I was walking a wrong road led by my worldly values; I needed God to save me and to reverse my wrong values and outlook on life. At this moment, a word came to my mind, “The end of man is the beginning of God. Rely on God and you won’t be lost….” Also I thought of God’s words my mother had read to me: “A world in man’s heart with no place for God is dark, empty without hope.” “Mankind does not just require a fair society in which everyone is well-fed and is equal and free, but the salvation of God and His provision of life to them. Only when man receives the salvation of God and His provision of life to them can the needs, yearning to explore, and spiritual emptiness of man be resolved” (“God Presides Over the Fate of All Mankind”).
Since I was born in a family with a religious belief, I could have believed in God and obeyed the path God had prepared for me. But I disobeyed God’s will, keen on earning big money to change my fate, to pursue the so-called happiness. As a result, after I had drifted in the world for many years and struggled to survive until today, I was tired both in mind and body, disease-stricken and unbearably wretched. Only after I thought of God’s words did I come to understand: These material things in my possession is nonsense; they just give me the sense of emptiness. I focus on working day after day, just like a money-making machine. My life is dull, my heart grows numb, and I felt like the walking dead, completely ignorant of the true meaning of life. I can’t live on like this. All I need is God’s salvation and the supply of His words for me. The more I thought, the more I repented and the sadder I was. Why didn’t I listen to mum’s advice? With tears of regret gushing out of my eyes, I knelt down to the ground, calling out constantly to God: “O God, are You still by my side? Are You still caring and protecting me? Now I know I need You urgently. O God, I have spared no efforts to earn money, to pursue what I called happiness. Only when I had suffered greatly and had no way out did I realize that Your words are the truth; without Your supply, everything is meaningless. O God, may You have mercy on me and save the fallen me….” After prayer, I was reminded that before I came to Shanghai, my mother had given me a MP3 player with God’s words in it. I immediately went to find it and then listened. During that period of time, I listened to God’s words as I prepared the meal, did the housework, or worked out. My heart felt the sense of fulfillment which I had never had before; although I was alone at home, I had no sense of loneliness. This was not something that could be bought with money.
One day, I heard God’s words say, “The question of most concern to Me is to whom your hearts are loyal. I would also like each of you to organize your thoughts and ask yourself to whom you are loyal and for whom you live. Perhaps you have never given careful consideration to this question, so let Me reveal the answer to you. All those with memory will confess this fact: Man lives for himself and is loyal to himself. I do not believe that your answer is entirely correct, for you each exist in your respective lives, each are struggling in your own distress. Therefore, what you are loyal to is the people you love and the things that please you, and you are not entirely loyal to yourselves. Because you are each influenced by the people, occurrences, and things around you, you are not truly loyal to yourselves.”
“If I were to now place some riches in front of you and ask you to choose freely, knowing that[a] I would not condemn you, then most would choose the riches and forsake the truth. The better among you would give up the riches and reluctantly choose the truth, while those in between would seize the riches in one hand and the truth in the other. … If you were asked to choose again, what then would be your position? Would it be the former still? Would what you give Me still be disappointment and wretched sorrow? … However, what I continue to be uneasy about is that when faced with injustice and justice, you always choose the former. But that is all in your past. I also hope to put out of My mind that which has happened in your past, one thing after the other, though this is very difficult to do. Yet I have very good means of accomplishing it. Let the future replace the past and allow the shadows of your past to be dispelled in exchange for your true self of today. This means I will have to trouble you to make the choice once more and see to whom you are loyal” (“To Whom Are You Loyal?”).
God’s words spoke out my inner voice. In the beginning, I thought my purpose of earning money was to pay off the family debts. However, when the debts were all cleared, my desire was still not fulfilled: I wanted to pursue a higher material life and earn more money. I was indeed living for my desire. In this society, under the influence of the surrounding people, matters, and things, and of the social trend — “Money is above everything,” I pursued these things excessively, thus leading to the breakdown of my body and mind. Even though God had expressed so many words, I still wouldn’t listen but was stiff-necked to walk my own way. It was not until I was afflicted and tortured by Satan, feeble and wounded all over, that I turned to God. At this moment, I matched God’s words up to my experience. God is indeed the practical God, and God’s words are indeed the truth. I just couldn’t help but pray to God: “O God, it’s worthwhile for me to suffer all these hardships. Without them, I wouldn’t wake up and couldn’t know Your sovereignty. O God, thanks for Your kind intention of saving me. If I can choose again, I will choose You and spend more time believing in You; I will listen to You, and will never let You down and be sad again.”
In the following several months, I spent most of my time listening to God’s words at home, feeling extremely liberated, and my state of mind was renewed. During that period, I thought a lot: My wrong outlook on life not only made me directionless, but it also harmed the relationship between me and my families. I used to talk about everything with my parents and siblings, but later on there was an estrangement between us. When my brother was studying at university, he couldn’t stand the pressure to study and so wanted to drop out. Regardless of his feeling, I told him one time after another, “No good job without good educational background; without a good job, you can’t make good money, let alone get married in the future.” In frustration, he said to me, “Sister, I don’t like my major. I’m not you. So, don’t force your preferences on me. As long as I can live happily even without money, it will be fine.” That was the first time we quarreled. At last, he quitted school. I couldn’t understand him, and he no longer spoke his heart to me. When my mother read God’s words to me, I didn’t want to listen; gradually, we spoke heart to heart with each other less and less. When my father and sister phoned me to show concern for me, I couldn’t feel their concern for me, but always responded with frostiness, only bent on my work. Thinking of this, I felt I had missed so many good days that I should have spent with my families. If only I could go back to the past! I wanted to attend meetings with my mother and especially longed to stay with brothers and sisters. So I dialed my mother’s phone number and told her why and how much I wanted to return before God. She was very excited at my words, and sighed with relief, “I have tried to persuade you for so many years but was in vain. This is really that God is doing His own work, creating this environment to put you out of your misery. It’s true that what is impossible for man is absolutely possible for God. Thanks be to God!” From this moment, the knot between me and my mother was undone. Following that, communicating our knowledge of God’s words became our common topic. Then I asked my mother to help me contact the church near my work. Nevertheless, the Chinese government persecuted the Christians so severely that the environment in all places were extremely adverse. Thus, it was difficult for me to get in touch with the local church.
I usually had to carry many things required to go to work, so by October, 2012, the heavy backpack had gravely pressed my cervical vertebrae and lumbar vertebrae. One day after the performances, one of my friends asked me, “How come you were lame on the runway?” I knew why, clearly. This situation had already lasted for some time: When I went to bed at night, my right leg and arm were numb, so I couldn’t sleep on my right side. The reminder of my friend gave me the urge to see a doctor. The doctor told me that the nerve compression of my right leg produced adhesion between sinew and muscles; the blood couldn’t run smoothly and the muscles atrophied. So my two legs were not of the same length, and it could only return to normal through therapy. But it was not until I had a therapy that I got to know the fees were quite expensive. Then I remembered the words in the Bible, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Right! Since I was sick, I had to spend money to treat it and it may not be cured radically. If I earned money regardless of my health at present, could I spend it alive tomorrow? If my savings all went on my illnesses, then it wouldn’t be long before I became empty-handed, and felt that my effort was not worth the candle. That was really called spending money to buy pains. Having experienced so many things, I had seen clearly: Money can’t buy health, nor spiritual comfort, nor happiness. Only after I have gained the truth will I become freed. Since only reading God’s words alone couldn’t make for quick progression of my life, I need someone who understands the truth to fellowship with me. When I thought of this, I decided to go back home. In January, 2013, I returned to my hometown and joined a local church.
In February, I returned to Shanghai. I worked and waited for brothers and sisters to contact me. In April, my constitution had declined and my incretion was imbalanced. In consequence, my face was swollen and was covered with poxes overnight. As I sat on the bench of the hospital waiting for my turn to see the doctor, I sought God’s will inward: O God, I still don’t know Your will, but I think it must contain your good intentions within this matter. Whether my face can be cured or not, I’m ready to submit to Your arrangement. Later, the doctor saw me and said, “Judging from your height, you must be a model. To a model, facial part is the most important. So why not come before it becomes so serious? To heal your face, it will take at least half a year or a year if you stop your work, but if you continue your work, then it’s hard to tell.” I thought: Everything is predestined by God; my face will naturally recover when it’s time for it to recover. So I spoke to him, “Let nature take its course.” Seeing that I was so calm, he was completely puzzled …
I got out of the hospital wearing a gauze mask, but my heart was very calm on my way home. I raised my head and what came into view were blue skies, white clouds, and brilliant sunshine: What a fine day! At this moment, my heart was suddenly enlightened. Then I got through to my mother and said to her excitedly, “Mum, do you still remember the story of Job you told me? After the great trials, he said such words as ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD’ (Job 1:21). Now I have some taste of these words.” She said, “What’s happening?” Then after relating the doctor’s words to her, I said, “In the past, I thought that since I was young, as long as I worked hard, I could realize my plan of buying a house, a car and establishing a career in the first-tier city after several years. But now, after my face is spotted with poxes, I understand that whether I can get what I want, it depends not on my own effort, but on God’s sovereignty and blessings. In the beginning, with the favorable condition God has bestowed on me, I could have lived a normal life. But excessive pursuit of money and overwork have caused me to suffer from a series of illnesses. Now although I have to stop working and I even don’t know when I can work again, yet money can no longer take hold of my heart and I’m really relaxed from my heart. I have true goals to pursue. I even don’t expect it when my face can recover; I believe, in that case, it may be a better thing for me. Now, with God to arrange and plan everything for me, I can really take off the mental load off my mind.” My mother said, “Now you know, everything that we have is given by God. It’s good that we can understand God’s kind intentions for us. Don’t complain against God.”
From then on, I started to correct my inconsistent schedule of living and activities: having three daily meals on a regular basis, keeping early hours, jogging and exercising in the park. Gradually, my life returned to normal. And I never thought that my face could fully recover two months later. This was also the time when brothers and sisters finally contacted me. And then, my church life began. During the meeting, I shared my experience with my brothers and sisters. After they knew my poor condition, a sister and doctor taught me how to nurse my health; sometimes I would have no time to eat the meal after work in order to attend the meeting, they would cook food for me, giving me the family-like warmth. When we fellowshiped about God’s words together, I felt very brightened, and came to know more of God’s work, God’s sovereignty, and God’s salvation for man.
I saw God’s words say, “The sentence ‘the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day’ tells people that God’s everything is immaterial, and although God can provide all of your material needs, once all of your material needs have been met, can the satisfaction from these things replace your pursuit of truth? That is clearly not possible! … I’ll give you an example: When you’re hungry, you need food. This food can be relatively good or relatively lacking, but as long as you have your fill, that unpleasant feeling of being hungry will no longer be there — it will be gone. You can sit there in peace, and your body will be at rest. People’s hunger can be resolved with food, but when you’re following God and feel that you have no understanding of Him, how can you resolve the emptiness in your heart? Can it be resolved with food? Or when you’re following God and don’t understand His will, what can you use to make up for that hunger in your heart? In the process of your experience of salvation through God, while pursuing a change in your disposition, if you don’t understand His will or don’t know what the truth is, if you don’t understand God’s disposition, don’t you feel very uneasy? Don’t you feel a strong hunger and thirst in your heart? Don’t these feelings prevent you from feeling peace in your heart? So how can you make up for that hunger in your heart — is there a way to resolve it? Some people go shopping, some find their friends to confide in, some people sleep their fill…. Can these things resolve your actual difficulties? All of you fully understand these kinds of practices. When you feel powerless, when you feel a strong desire to gain enlightenment from God to allow you to know the reality of truth and His will, what do you need most? What you need isn’t a full meal, and it’s not a few kind words. More than that, it’s not the transient comfort and satisfaction of the flesh — what you need is for God to directly, clearly tell you what you should do and how you should do it, to clearly tell you what the truth is. After you’ve understood this, even if it’s just a tiny bit, don’t you feel more satisfied in your heart than if you had eaten a good meal? … Everything that God does is truth and life. The truth for mankind is something that they cannot lack in their lives, that they can never do without; you could also say that it’s the greatest thing. Although you can’t look at it or touch it, its importance to you cannot be ignored; it is the only thing that can bring peace to your heart” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III”).
The Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life says: “Now we have recognized that, if you have no truth, you won’t have the right outlook on life and the right road of life. And without the right road of life, you will live under Satan’s domain, and will always feel tired and painful, right? But if you live before God and live in accordance with the truth, God will transform you and rearrange your life, because God rules over everything and over the fate of all mankind. On the contrary, if you betray God and are willing to live under Satan’s domain, God will let you go. And you will be afflicted and tortured by Satan willfully, until you are devoured by it. Now that you know the true way, know the way of salvation, and if you can pursue the truth, God will bless you and open up a way out for you.”
I couldn’t help sighing: These words are a mirror of my life. In the past, I believed that, without money, I couldn’t live even one day in the world, so I earned money at full stretch and became the slave of money, living in unbearable pain without any hope. It is God’s salvation that has allowed me to find true happiness, to understand that true happiness comes from God and that only God is my haven of happiness. God’s words are the reality of all the positive things; only by living according to God’s words can we live out the image of a true human. The material things bought with my hard-won money can only give me temporary fleshly enjoyments; they can’t bring me true life, nor can they make my heart satisfied. Even though I owned as much money as I could, without truth, I would still die from Satan’s trampling and affliction. It is God who has changed me and rearranged my life, stopping me from walking along the wrong way. I’m willing to proceed on the right road God has pointed out to me, to pursue the truth and go back to living as a normal person.
Later, I saw brothers and sisters were preaching gospel, and also wanted to share with more people what I had gained from my experience. Because there were many models beside me who lived in pain like I used to do, I also wanted them to come before God, so that they could walk out of their pain earlier, and receive God’s care and protection. Afterward, I worked and cooperated with brothers and sisters to preach the gospel. My friends, seeing I was lighter-hearted and happier than before, also wanted to seek for the God I believed in. I happily testified about God’s work to them. Such a life was extremely meaningful and I was so secure and happy in my heart.
In 2014, I went home to celebrate the Spring Festival. When I met my families again, I had so much to say to them again, and they all felt happy for me after listening to my experiences. And, I plucked up my courage to apologize to them. I shouldn’t have imposed my perspective of pursuit on my younger brother, which brought him depression and pain. I felt accused in my heart, now I just wanted to respect his choice and let God rule over his life. Besides, my father and my sister often were worried about me and phoned me, but I always felt annoyed with them, with the excuse that I was busy. I was sorry for having deeply hurt them and hoped they could forgive me. After my apology, they all said that I was changed because I knew to respect their opinions and decisions. My relationship with my mother was closer than before, and we kept nothing from each other. I regained the sense of happiness I had when I was little.
Looking back, when I was busy in the world, my daily life was dull and empty, I struggled with difficulty and had no hope. Now God has brought me back to His house, allowing me to enjoy His love and receive true happiness. Just like God’s words saying, “He desires to seek, seek your heart and your spirit. He wants to bring you food and water and to awaken you, so you are no longer thirsty, no longer hungry. When you are weary and when you begin to feel the desolation of this world, do not be perplexed, do not cry. Almighty God, the Watcher, will embrace your arrival any time” (“The Sighing of the Almighty”). I’m willing to testify about God’s love to more people. But in China, it’s the atheistic government that takes power. They don’t allow us to preach and testify about God’s gospel; they persecute Christians with cruelty and drive believers in God to the wall, making them unable to return home, even putting some of them in prison and torturing them to death. So, at the beginning of 2015, I came to America, a country with freedom of religion, and threw myself into spreading and testifying about God’s work of the last days here. Despite the tiredness and hardships, yet I felt, as long as more people could accept God’s work and God’s salvation and could leave the sea of suffering like me, I would feel sweet and happy in my heart. As I have seen clearly that only by following God, pursuing to gain the truth, and walking the road God has prepared for us can we have the most meaningful life. All the glory be to Almighty God!
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