I thank God that I can share His great mercy and blessings. Life is sometimes difficult, and we may face dire situations. But God’s word tells us that He’s always by our side, helping us walk this path.
In mid 2007, when I was living in Taipei, I had a chest exam to inspect some flu-like symptoms I had been experiencing. During the exam the doctor asked me, “Hasn’t anyone told you that you have a congenital heart defect?” I was surprised because I had never been told that I had a heart problem. I had only recently felt some discomfort in my chest.
After several tests, the doctors confirmed that I had a condition called partial anomalous pulmonary venous return. Normally, the pulmonary vein brings oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the heart, and this blood vessel is connected to the left side of the heart. However, in my case, the pulmonary vein was connected to the right side of my heart.
So for forty years, my heart had been relying only on the right side to pump blood. The doctor was very surprised that I had lived so long with this condition. Congenital pulmonary venous defects are usually detected and treated during infancy.
I was basically functioning with half of a heart, and as a result my blood oxygen level was quite low. The doctor told me that people with such low levels of oxygen are typically unable to walk or sing and suffer from frequent fainting. But I had never experienced any of these problems.
The doctor was amazed and said that it was a miracle that I had lived so long without suffering any of these symptoms. However, now that my condition had been discovered, it was necessary to have surgery to connect the pulmonary vein to the left side of my heart.
God’s Compassions Do Not Fail
After flying to San Francisco for further exams and follow-up, my wife and I decided to have the open heart surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. My surgery was scheduled for March 3rd 2008, a Monday. The operation would involve cutting my heart in half so that my pulmonary vein could be rerouted from the right side to the left. The shortest distance was through the middle, which was also the fastest and safest method.
As with other open heart surgeries, the operation would involve stopping the blood flow to the heart and lungs and sending it through a heart-lung machine, as well as stopping my heart from beating. The surgeon told me that my surgery carried a much higher risk than other heart surgeries, and that it was possible that I would not survive the operation.
I took time off from work after the surgery was scheduled, and I started to wonder why I even needed to go through surgery. God had protected me for forty years already; why wouldn’t He continue to protect me?
Everyone, Christian or not, wants to receive healing and recover from illness. We want peace and a smooth life, but difficulties are part of life. I had a lot of questions and doubts as the day of surgery approached.
On Saturday March 1, I saw the sermon title “Great Is Your Faithfulness” when I stepped into the chapel. God moved me to understand that this was the answer to my questions. During the sermon, the speaker cited Lamentations 3:22:
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
When I read this verse, I felt peace in my heart. And my prayer that Sabbath morning was very strong and full of power. My worries disappeared as I was filled with the Holy Spirit.
My heart was still satisfied and joyful when I got home after Sabbath service. However, as I was showering that evening, I suddenly felt a strong cold wind blowing. My body was covered in goose bumps. It was strange because the bathroom didn’t have windows and the door was closed. When this wind blew upon me, my mindset changed.
This thought entered my mind: “Why don’t you give up? This God is not worthy of your belief. You keep His commandments and worship Him in His church, but He still hasn’t protected you. Just give up.”
As I heard these words, I started to think, “Yes, this is true. I’m quite pitiful.” At this moment, another voice told me, “God is faithful. His compassion will not leave us. We must hold tightly onto God and He will never fail us.” Then I thought, “Yes, this is correct.”
Within three seconds, I had heard three voices: The first told me to give up on God, the second told me that God is faithful and that I should trust in Him, and the third was my own voice. So I decided to trust in God, and the cold wind disappeared.
The next afternoon at four o’clock, I felt moved by the Holy Spirit to kneel down and pray. This wasn’t a time that I normally prayed, but I knelt down and prayed because of this compulsion. I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I later found out that there was a group of brothers and sisters in Vancouver who were praying for me at the same time.
Although we didn’t know it at the time, the Holy Spirit compelled us to pray to prepare for the forthcoming spiritual battle.
Entrusting My Life to God
That evening, around seven, I gathered the family to pray for strength before my operation early the next morning.
During that prayer, I again felt a cold wind surround me. As it swirled around me, I heard the thought, “This God is not worthy of your belief. You should just give up. How did you get to this point? It’s a difficult and pitiful path. Just give up.”
I wanted to live, to receive healing and be healthy. I knew that God wanted me to give my burdens to Him. Yet I had such a hard time letting go because I had so many thoughts of “What if?” And God and Satan both knew I needed more faith.
I was still worried about the risks of the surgery and how my situation was even more complicated than typical open heart surgery. But because of my experience the previous evening, I knew that I needed to entrust my life to God when I started to doubt again. I prayed loudly to God with the help of the Holy Spirit.
I told God, “I entrust my life to You. No matter what I will face, I know that what You do is right.” The moment I truly entrusted my life to God was when I learned the hardest lesson of my life.
When I faced a life and death situation and handed my life to God, He sent angels to comfort me. During the prayer, I saw hundreds of angels surround me, and I knew that God was pleased with my prayer. These angels protected me from the cold wind—it was still there, but I was shielded from it by the angels that were around me.
I realized afterward that Satan wanted me to feel doubt and fear. I believe that when we concentrate on our difficulties and allow them to take over our thoughts, we will lose sight of what we should be focusing on—entrusting our problems to God. To be victorious, we must remember God’s faithfulness and banish fear and doubt by relying on Him.
PEACE AMIDST DANGER
On March 3, I was wheeled in to the operating room at 6 am. By the time I was aware of my surroundings, it was 2:30 am on March 5.
When I woke up, my first thought was, “Where did all the people go?” I didn’t know the day or time, and was not aware that I had just woken up from a very vivid dream.
While I was unconscious, I saw a beautiful green pasture, where there were thousands of brothers and sisters praying. There were so many of them it was impossible to count. It was a beautiful scene.
I moved close to one member and asked what they were praying for. He told me, “We are praying because we are about to fight a spiritual battle. We are waiting for God’s time.” I asked, “Can I join this prayer?”
I found a space to kneel down and pray with them. When I started praying, I realized that they were all praying for me. I had no concept of time while I was in this dream, but it took place while I was unconscious for almost two days.
While I was enjoying my time praying with other brothers and sisters and being filled by the Holy Spirit, I was unaware of the two critical moments I had endured physically.
During surgery, everything had gone according to plan. After completing the rerouting of my pulmonary vein, I was taken off of the heart-lung machine and my heart started beating again.
However, my heart was not beating regularly. The top half and bottom half of my heart were beating at different rates. Because the left side of my heart had been inactive for forty years, it was very small and weak. And because the blood vessels on the right side had been working extra hard for forty years, they were enlarged and pumping too much blood. So my heart was not able to beat correctly.
The surgeon’s backup plan, in case the planned surgery did not work, was to put a device in my heart to regulate the heartbeat, but I would have to rely on the device and medications for the rest of my life. At that moment, when he had to decide what to do, he had an inspiration.
They stopped the blood flow, put me back on the heart-lung machine, and stopped my heart again so that the surgeon could correct the irregular heartbeat. Instead of putting in a device, he enlarged the left side of my heart and made the blood vessels on the right side smaller. Then they started the blood flowing again and my heart started beating regularly.
The surgery lasted twice as long as expected because of this complication, but it was a success. The surgeon told me later that he didn’t know how he came up with the idea to enlarge the left side of my heart and narrow the blood vessels on the right side. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision.
Everything truly is in God’s hands. During a critical moment, while I was unconscious, without prayers for this specific situation or my family’s awareness, He inspired the surgeon according to His will.
The surgery was completed at 1:30 pm and I was sent to the intensive care unit (ICU) to recover. At 5 pm, my wife was about to leave the ICU and take her dinner break when several doctors suddenly ran to my bed. She heard the heart monitor beeping and was told that my blood pressure had suddenly dropped very low, which was of grave concern after heart surgery.
While they worked to stabilize me, my wife sent out a prayer request to the church because the doctors said my situation was dangerous. They did not know why my blood pressure had dropped, and could only monitor me and wait for me to recover.
Thank God, after one hour everything was back to normal and I was fine.
Peace from God
Two days later, when I was conscious, I realized how God gives us peace when we are completely helpless and unaware. While I was unconscious, unable to think or feel, I was going through a dangerous time physically. Yet spiritually, God allowed me to enjoy prayer together with others. It transcends what we can understand.
God gives us strength even when we have no understanding, feeling, or memory. The people around us are aware—they see that the situation is dangerous and they worry and are afraid. But for me, the one who was going through these critical moments, I was actually unaware. I was going through a battle of life and death, but God gave me peace in spirit. This is a very important understanding in faith.
The evening of March 5, the first night I was conscious after the surgery, I felt that I was unable to go on. Despite the painkillers, I still felt a lot of pain from the incisions each time I took a breath. I knew that I was breathing, but I felt no air coming in. It felt like I was suffocating.
At that time, Lamentations 3:22 and the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” came into my mind. Immediately, I felt much calmer, even though I still had trouble breathing. I remembered the lyrics of the hymn and how they described God’s faithfulness. When I heard the melody and recalled God’s mercy and love, I felt great peace.
After this, I started to recover quickly. On March 7, the doctor removed the chest tubes, which had been placed to remove excess blood after the surgery, and I went home the next day.
FAITH AND TRUST IN GOD
When I got home, I realized that normal activities were quite difficult. Simple things such as smiling, turning on the tap, drinking water, and talking on the phone were all so hard to do. I experienced how an illness can make us appreciate how great a blessing it is for us to be able to do everyday activities.
That first night back at home, I was reclining on the couch because I was still too weak to lie down on a bed. Suddenly, I saw three dark figures appear before me. In the past when I heard testimonies about members seeing evil spirits, I always thought that trying to scare people this way was a very old-fashioned tactic.
When I saw the spirits, I understood what they were. Miraculously, I was not afraid at all.
The three figures gave me the same message that I had heard before the surgery: “Just give up. What’s the point of struggling? Don’t you see how difficult it is for you? If you give up, we will take you away. You’ll be happy, okay?”
At this point, I was so weak from the chest pain that I couldn’t speak. So I thought in my heart, “Don’t touch me, I have God.” Although I hadn’t spoken out loud, they understood my thought and told me, “Then cry out loud. But you can’t even speak and you’re calling out to your God?”
As they said this, one grabbed my neck, one pushed my back, and the other pulled my legs. They said, “Let’s go. Just give up.” I summoned all my strength left and said, “God, please save me.” The three spirits disappeared.
After this appearance they never bothered me again. Their message was clear: They wanted me to give up. Whether through a thought, fear during prayer, or by appearing before my eyes, their message was for me to give up.
When we go through difficult times, we sometimes do just want to give up. But God wants us to trust in Him with all our heart and soul. Hard times are a process, not the conclusion. We will pass through and overcome.
It is difficult to constantly battle before we reach the end. But we must show God how much faith and trust we have in Him. He has already determined the result, when He will be with us forever. What He wants is for us to prove our faith during these difficulties.
I experienced God very deeply throughout this period, but even more, I understood that I had to share with brothers and sisters that God is real. The Holy Spirit is always strengthening us, especially in matters of life or death, and it happens not only when we pray by ourselves, but also through the intercession of others.
Most of us probably don’t spend much time interceding unless we know the person very well. But even brief intercessions are very effective. When I saw the vision of thousands of members praying for me, I believe that it was a representation of all the people who interceded for me.
Every prayer, no matter how short, truly comes before God. If God opens our eyes, we would see that He is always there fighting for us in spirit. We may be suffering physically, but in the invisible spiritual realm God is leading us through battle.
I hope that when we share God’s beautiful blessings, that we all deeply remember what God wants us to learn in our faith. God truly strengthens us step by step. We may not see Him with our eyes, but He tests our faith by what we can see and feel.
God is faithful. Through trials and tribulations, God always wants us to learn and to be rooted more deeply in faith. Be courageous and trust in Him, for He is always with us.