LIFE IN EXILE
“Living in the World With No Hope, No God”(Ephesians 2:12)
In the midst of such dark torture, two of my teammates poisoned themselves and died consecutively. Yet another one hanged himself to death. They had all died and “freed” themselves from despair and sorrow. Yet since they had no God, they were without hope – how sad! (See Eph. 2:12).
One time, after our Camp had moved to Anhui Province, every team began preparing for the National Day celebration almost a month ahead of the date (October 1 st). Teammate Kehong Guo was assigned to sing a song of praise, the first verse of which was:
The sun is bright, the sun is red,
The sun is Mao Tse-tung;
Great thoughts are bright,
The earth and the sky are red in the light. (2 x)
Surprisingly, just a few days before the celebration, Guo committed suicide by hanging himself in the duck shed. A graduate of the Beijing People’s University, he was intelligent, capable and fluent in English. He had worked in a prominent position in the Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs in Beijing. Because of political reasons1, he ended up in a Labor Camp like the others did. His wife, labeled as a “Rightist,” was often abused and received a living allowance of only 18 yuan a month. This couple had a very good relationship. Feeling despised, pressured and devastated, they had earlier contemplated ending their lives at the same time in different locations. At the time Guo left for the Labor Camp, they promised to correspond with each other weekly. One day in Shanghai Guo’s wife committed suicide with coal gas. The telegram her brother sent to Guo was detained by the team-leader and did not reach him. Not having heard from his wife for weeks, Guo suspected something wrong. He, too, decided to commit suicide. The team leader, fearing another loss of life, assigned someone to keep a close watch on Guo. One drizzling morning, Guo’s group was assigned to work in the fields. Having watched him over a long period of time, the guard and others around him were somehow off their guard. The group leader, too, indiscreetly allowed Guo to be excused for not feeling well. At lunch-time, Guo was nowhere to be found, though he had made his bed and had placed on it two packets of cigarettes and a small knife. A thorough search in the tea grove, ordered by the group leader, was in vain. That evening, Cheng, the duck caretaker, led over 200 ducks back to the duck-shed. As he entered, he looked up to find a man hanging on the ceiling beam. He immediately ran to inform the leader. Trembling and too shocked for words, he signaled with his hands. The cadre leader followed him and found Guo hanging on the beam, dressed in clean, transparent plastic raincoat and long rain-boots. Guo was already dead with his tongue sticking out very long. It then dawned on us that the two packets of cigarettes were Guo’s token of thanks for his buriers and that the knife was meant for cutting the hanging rope.
Guo’s body was finally carried out and buried in a slope about 0.3 mile away, his name written with a writing brush on a wooden board. If sharp-sensing hounds should pass by, the corpse would be gone. After a few months of rain and sunshine, the wood board would rot, and memories of him would soon be wiped out also. For everyone around, such scenario inevitably provoked chilling and miserable thoughts and feelings.
Alas, every human life has an end! “Lazarus died” and “the rich man died” (Luke 16:22). For every human life, the degrees of fame or shame and poverty or wealth vary. How and when each man ends his life also varies. Death, however, fairly befalls every descendant of Adam. This is because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). How sad it is that those who do not believe in Jesus will not only die physically but will also experience the second death - the eternal death of the spirit! This is the absolute truth.
Xiang Wang had lung disease and was a long-term user of the specialty drug Rimifon. He was assigned to lighter chores in the Camp and was responsible for mimeographing during the time of the Cultural Revolution. One time when he tested the printing ink, the newspaper he used happened to bear the photograph of Mao Tse-tung. In those days, photographs of Mao Tse-tung always appeared on the front pages of newspapers and were considered as sacred. Unfortunately, someone made a report to the cadres, following which Wang was denounced numerous times, forced to self-criticize and to disclose his hidden motives. Unable to withstand such terrible mental stress, anxiety and fear over a long period, he finally killed himself by taking an overdose of his lung medication. It was a terrible death. Nevertheless, his suicide was described as “suicide for fear of criminal charges”. If there were no hope of eternal life, how does a man’s death differ from that of a dog?
As recipients of the Lord’s grace, we are different. We have the Holy Spirit within us. Therefore, though we are “hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (II Cor. 4:8-10). Paul was “burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (II Cor. 1:8-9). We thank the Lord that even when we are “against hope” we “believe in hope”. We need not despair because the one we believe in “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17,18). Dear brothers and sisters, for those of us who constantly receive grace at the throne of mercy, times of affliction are actually opportunities for us to practice faith and trust in God as well as self-denial.
John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, said it well. The fact that the Lord does not save us from trials does not mean that He is powerless or does not love us. Rather, he wants to test our faith and our love for Him to see if we will follow Him faithfully to the end, so that He may reward us accordingly. Things of this world, even life or death, are all temporary. We are not too mindful whether or not we are spared trials, because we look forward to the day when Jesus will come in all His glory.
Oh, may the Lord expand our territory, that our faith will be deeply rooted in the Lord Himself and in His Word; so that the peace and calmness within us will not be turned into anxiety and distress by the tempest surrounding us (see Matt. 8:25).
1. He was charged with being a “historical revolutionary” or as a “Rightist” – I do not remember clearly.