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 (Manna 51: Family Focus)
The Lord Set My Heart Free
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The Lord Set My Heart Free

Crystal JingCanoga Park, California, USA

A Hard Time Letting Go of Past Beliefs

I did not believe in God’s existence before I married my husband in 2002. But since my mother-in-law was a Christian, we started to go to church. My initial feelings toward Christians were that everyone was very loving. Nevertheless, I couldn’t feel the presence of God. One month after we were married, my husband left China to start a Ph.D. program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At UCLA, he met a member from the True Jesus Church in CanogaPark who brought him to seek the truth. I joined him in the United States a year later and started to attend service too.

Praise God, He gave me the Holy Spirit just three weeks after I began going to church. That was my first personal experience of His wonderful grace. A week after that, my husband and I were baptized in the name of the Lord. Knowing that my sins were washed away, I sought to begin a new life. However, some of the ideas that stuck with me through ten-some years of education in China did not allow me to transition into a new life that easily.

For example, the Bible teaches that wives ought to submit to their husbands. To me, that was a concept applicable only in the days before the Chinese Revolution. I was a strong proponent of the idea that there should be no talk of submission in marriage. Women should have their own careers and be on par with men. Even one year after my baptism, many unresolved biblical issues still remained in my heart.

GraduateSchool and My Ambitions

Before I came to the US, I was a graduate student in China. I had two more years left of a five-year program. Not wanting to be separated from my husband for too long, I quit the program and came to the US on a spousal visa. Although it was a real pity to quit graduate school, I actually had my hopes up because I had been accepted by another graduate program at UCLA. I believed I could obtain a degree very quickly.

It was not until I arrived in the US that I found out my professor had very limited funding and couldn’t give me a scholarship. That meant I would be unable to start my studies right away because I would be incapable of paying the tuition. That came as a big blow to me. My education was my career. If I didn’t have a career, then I had nothing. I couldn’t even work because I was on a spousal visa.

I began to volunteer in the lab of a renowned professor at UCLA. I would help him in doing some research while I waited for the chance to be readmitted. Since we believed in God, my husband would put this matter into his prayers. At first, we had a lot of faith in God because many brothers and sisters told me that the Lord must love me greatly to have given me the Holy Spirit so quickly. They encouraged me by telling me that our God is a merciful God and that He would surely listen to our prayers and requests.

A Dwindling Faith

But as time passed, I heard no news of any scholarship and my heart became entrapped in doubt. Why doesn’t God listen to my prayers? Is it because He does not love me anymore? Maybe He only loves those whose faith is strong. Another three months passed and by October 2003, I felt that my chance of receiving the scholarship was probably close to zero. At that point, I considered applying to other schools.

My friends back home encouraged me to go ahead but my husband strongly disagreed. He felt that the possibility of me being accepted by other schools in California was very small. If I got accepted by a school in the East Coast, we would be forced to separate again, and he didn’t want this to happen. He told me the Bible taught that the husband and wife were one body, and it would be best if we did not separate.

He continued to encourage me not to lose faith, for the Lord would listen to our prayers. But, having waited so long, I could no longer hold on to my faith in God. I decided that I had to use my own might to fight for myself. Not surprisingly, my husband and I quarreled a lot.

Around that time, my husband had to prepare for his Ph.D. qualifying exam. I didn’t want to stir up too much trouble so I finally gave up on the application process. Nevertheless, in my heart, I was torn apart with worry. I figured that if I didn’t receive this awaited scholarship from UCLA or receive other scholarship offers, I would have wasted a whole year doing nothing. Such vexations further aggravated my existing bad temper. It affected my husband so much that he couldn’t prepare for his exam. A month later, my husband received notice that he failed his exam. Because each Ph.D. student has two chances to pass the exam, he had only one more chance. The pressure was intense.

I began to realize that I had been very selfish and had caused him to fail the exam. I tried to behave more maturely and to tone down my temper. Every Sabbath I would go to church with my husband but I was still very troubled. I felt no tinge of joy in my heart. I tried to pray and read the Bible, only to end up helplessly frustrated. By May 2004, my temper had become out of control. There was bitterness pent up inside me.

A lot of my college friends had received scholarships to come to the US to study, but I had nothing. When I compared myself with them, I felt small and started to regret not applying to other schools the previous year. Had I applied then, I could have been attending school with a full fellowship!

I began to doubt God. My friends were not even believers but they had the success that eluded me. I thought that surely God did not love me. Confused and uncertain about the future, I became moodier. I quarreled with my husband over many trivial matters. It was not as if I didn’t want to control myself. I did wonder what had become of me, but that failed to help me change. Sometimes, I would simmer down for a day or two but I eventually lost my temper again.

I feared that if I continued like that, my husband would fail his second attempt at the qualifying exam. Not only would I not be able to go to school, my husband wouldn’t obtain a degree. Perhaps he would despise me and our marriage would disintegrate.

The Turning Point at NYTS 2004

Around that time, a sister spoke to me about the National Youth Theological Seminar (NYTS). She said many people who went to NYTS changed a lot. So I registered for the seminar and asked the Lord to take away the burden in my heart. I was tired of being troubled; I wanted a joyful and content heart.

At NYTS, many brothers and sisters showed their concern and prayed for me, and I felt the warmth of the brethren in the Lord. Through one sister’s testimony, the Lord opened my heart and I felt my prayers heard. In that testimony, the sister testified how she came to church with her husband after her son’s suicide. The rest of their family blamed her husband for it. When something happens, it is so easy to put the blame on one person. When I heard that, tears fell from my face, and I felt that it was the Lord moving me. I thought of all the bitterness I had against my husband in my own situation.

Looking Deep Within Myself

I wasn’t thrilled when he came to the US to study. And because I didn’t want to be separated from him I had to withdraw from school. It was stressful, as the school did not simply allow withdrawals. It took me a year to complete the withdrawal process. I blamed my husband for the difficulties that I had encountered. I felt that I sacrificed so much. I also blamed him for not allowing me to apply to other schools where I could have received a scholarship.

There was much resentment in me. I said many things that hurt my husband and I became completely callous. When he got sick, I didn’t take care of him but wondered why he always got sick. Looking back, I realized I was always sour-faced with him and my words were like daggers waiting to pierce him. But my husband always had compassion and embraced my shortcomings. Even when he failed his qualifying exam, he didn’t say a single word of blame. On the other hand, he kept comforting me so I wouldn’t feel so bad. It dawned on me that it wasn’t that God didn’t love me or didn’t hear my prayers. Actually, He loved me a lot and gave me the most precious thing in this world—a wonderful husband and marriage.

If not for the Lord’s preservation that my husband had a heart of compassion, my marriage would have been destroyed by my ambition and vexations. I began to realize that putting one’s career before the family was a ridiculous concept. It is God’s true will to place Him first, our family second, and our career last.

This is the best way of life for us.

I thank God for the prayer after the testimony. He took away all my troubles, low self-esteem, and all the things I worried about. What was left was a thankful heart, for I know now how good it is to be in the Lord.

A Renewed and Thankful Heart

Upon returning home after NYTS, I felt very blessed the moment I laid eyes on my husband. My heart was filled with thankfulness. Of course, the problem with my school did not resolve itself right after NYTS, but my troubled heart had been replaced by feelings of peace and joy. My attitude towards church also changed. I started enjoying services at church, whereas before I felt it a burden to spend a whole day on Saturday for Sabbath. Thank the Lord for transforming me so I could enjoy service.

My husband and I also began attending services on Friday evenings. We never went before because I didn’t want to go. Although we now get home late on Fridays, I feel very joyful at heart. We also feel more inclined toward attending church activities. The Lord truly is a very good Shepherd. Through NYTS, He brought me back as a lost sheep to His fold.

I also began to see God’s blessings in my daily life. In January 2005, UCLA awarded me a scholarship so I could begin my studies. My advising professor happened to be a brother from church.

The Lord also blessed my husband so that he passed his second attempt at the Ph.D. qualifying exam. I know that I can continue to trust in Him for what comes next in my life!

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Publisher: True Jesus Church