Christian Suffering: Remembering Xu Guoyong

Late last year, a Christian crowdfunding drive made headlines and sparked controversy on Chinese social media. Luo Er, the father of a five-year-old girl with leukemia, posted an article online in which he vented his frustration at God. Luo demanded that Jesus heal his daughter otherwise he would stop believing in him. Thousands of people read the article and donated over 2 million RMB ($290,000USD) to help pay for the medical expenses of the family. Tragically, Luo’s daughter died shortly after Luo started the campaign. Luo was later arrested for fraud and fined. Chinese Christians have hotly debated the incident, many questioning Luo’s intentions and asking how Christians should respond in the midst of such suffering.

One response to these questions of suffering comes from a writer for OC Gospel. “Rachel” reflects on the Luo incident by remembering another tragic story of Christian suffering. One year ago, Brother Xu Guoyong was tragically killed in a car accident while he was traveling in the United States. Brother Xu had given up a financially promising, secular career to follow God’s call to ministry, even though it meant a certain amount of physical suffering for himself and his family. Xu and his family never anticipated the other hardships that would soon follow. 

In this article, Rachel shares how Brother Xu and his family are an example of how Christians are to endure suffering.

If Suffering Is Real, Do I Really Still Want to Believe in Jesus?

Introduction

When my social media feed was flooded with messages about the crowdfunding campaign "Jesus, Stop Forcing Me to Be Your Enemy," I was forced to wonder (regardless of the truthfulness behind the scandal): If suffering is real how then do we face God? How do we look at suffering in life through the eyes of faith?

Text / Rachel

A few days ago I was shocked to see lots of people sharing an article on social media called, "Jesus, Stop Forcing Me to Be Your Enemy." This article was forwarded to me by ladies who are standing at the doorway to Christianity. I feared that their faith would be built upon the grounds that "God will grant whatever I request," so I talked a lot about issues of truth with them. In the end they indirectly criticized that, "After you believe in God you become more rational, but you lose warmth for humanity."

At that point, I especially missed Brother Xu Guoyong.

I only saw Brother Guoyong twice. He came to our church to share on the topic "How to Pray." At first, I was very arrogant to think that I didn't need anyone to teach me something so old hat. But, as soon as he started talking I was shocked.

A few years ago, Guoyong's daughter Leyi died in an accident when she fell from a high-rise window. His daughter died because of the negligence of Guoyong's sister, who was looking after her. His wife, already worried because of Guoyong's aunt's imprudent care of the child, that morning prayed, "God, protect my child." By that afternoon their child had the accident.

One Sunday a few years later Guoyong sat among us. He calmly reflected and asked us, "If you asked God for A and God didn't give you A, but instead gave you B, the opposite of A, what would you do?"

His family was almost torn apart. His wife's family harbored deep resentment against his sister. His wife's mother had started attending church before, but since the accident she didn't want to believe in Jesus anymore. His wife, for a long time, was unwilling to listen to the words, "Thank the Lord, praise the Lord." As a husband, Guoyong had given up a steady high-paying job to follow God's call. He turned over his life to work for a Christian publishing house. The salary wasn't high. Each day was a conscientious pursuit of God's will while living content within humble means. In order to increase their income a bit Guoyong's wife also worked. Nevertheless, how could Guoyong face things when his daughter died?

Guoyong said, "Without God I am incapable of leaving that kind of hardship. Before Leyi's accident, I never really thought about heaven and eternal life. I only had in mind my ministry in this life. But after that I started thinking seriously."

One day a child was born and because of acute leukemia she passed away. Her parents could not bear it. There was no one around them to comfort them. Guoyong went to counsel them. He told them how to calmly and rationally process their grief. They were greatly comforted. Guoyong was asked, "God made you go through so much. Do you understand what his will is?" He replied, "I've continuously sought his will. After talking with you today I understand a little more."

That day we all carried our burdens and worries into church. However, after he calmly finished his story we thought, our issues are not issues at all.

Guoyong was the one Christian I've seen who most resembled Jesus. He was the bearer of suffering, but also a gentle comforter. He had no form or majesty, but his entire being exuded compassion and understanding.

He said, "In prayer anything can be said to God."

When I remember that statement from Guoyong I think the phrase "Jesus, do not make me your enemy" isn't quite so shrill because it's a true reflection of someone's heart while they are in mourning. When Guoyong lost his daughter he sat alone in the dark. Maybe he felt resentment and interrogated God. Whatever he said was understandable.

Today Guoyong can no longer speak to us. Early in 2016, he left us after a fatal car accident while on a trip in the United States. The letter he wrote to his daughter Leyi can still be found on the Internet. He has already been reunited with her.

I was really shocked at the time. I think that God allowed him to experience so much suffering, surely, to also allow him to bless many more people. God so swiftly took him away, but he also gave a forewarning. His office colleagues one day came across a line from a poem by the British poet George Herbert that read, "Storms make oak trees grow deeper roots." They thought hard about the meaning of that line. Oaktree Publishing was founded eight years ago. They experienced a lot of difficulties, but they never experienced such a crisis. They never expected that the next day Guoyong would be in an accident. For Oaktree, the grievous news of his death was like branches being snapped off their tree.

After that, Guoyong's church quietly and in unison organized funds, funeral arrangements, and living arrangements for his family. None of this alarmed the world.

To the world, God seemed very cruel towards Guoyong. Guoyong was so godly, so humble and gentle. Why did God give him more suffering than anyone else?

But, I know well that in God's heart he loved Guoyong; he loved him and was concerned for him. Otherwise, he would not have entrusted so much suffering into Guoyong's hands, just like he did when Job trusted in him.

I often ask myself, if God determined to let a lot of suffering come into my life, would I still follow him?

Honestly, as weak as I am, I wouldn't dare boast that I certainly will not fall in the face of disaster. Even though I know that suffering is for my benefit, and even how much more wicked I often am during the best of times, yet I am still reluctant to say, "Lord, use me and break me, according to your desire, not mine." I fear pain.

But, I firmly believe that one day I will meet Guoyong and Leyi in heaven, as well as the wonderful One, the immeasurable yet most beautiful person—my intimate friend, my Lord Jesus Christ. Not because we are good enough, but because of his enormous love.

Original article: 如果苦难是真的,我是否还愿意相信耶稣?(OC Gospel)

Image credit: Jonathan Kos-Read, via Flickr.