Monday, June 13, 2016

Jeanette Li: A Girl Born Facing Outside || Crown & Covenant Publications

Have you ever prayed to God asking him to “use you” for his kingdom? Have you ever been subsequently disappointed when God appointed suffering, loss, humility, and persecution in your life in answer to your prayers? I am sure I am not the only one who has been guilty of possessing this woeful misconception that being used for God’s kingdom and glory is somehow glamorous. If I am glorified and made much of, than that means God is being glorified in my life, right? Well, sometimes, but not necessarily. The life and testimony of Jeanette Li tells a different story. Her autobiography shares the journey of a woman used mightily and humbly by God, a woman whose life was anything but glamorous, a woman who turned down glittering opportunities for education, freedom, and a thriving career to serve at her rural school in her home village for meager wages, to work as an evangelist, take in homeless children, evangelize in hospitals, organize and maintain an orphanage, and eventually face persecution and imprisonment for her faith.

My pastor recently preached through the book of Jonah, a man who did not humble himself and follow God's will. During his sermon, my pastor pointed out that God provided a ship to Tarshish for Jonah as Jonah ran away in blatant disobedience from God's will. Just because the road is smoothly paved and the doors are open does not mean that is necessarily the direction God wants us to go. And yet how often are we guilty of assuming that because we want something for our lives, then God must want it too? How often have we usurped God and placed our own will as the sovereign authority? 
God will build his church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Jeanette Li 
Life is not marked with giant road signs saying, “God’s will in this direction”. It takes discernment, humility, prayer, and wisdom from God’s Word to determine where God means to use us and where he has called us. Li exemplifies this kind of faithful deliberation and wisdom in her life, continually seeking God’s guiding hand in His Word and through prayer, and then confidently and humbly going wherever he called her, even if it was not the easiest path or the one she necessarily wanted.

Li’s life was not an easy one. Her testimony and work as an evangelist made her vulnerable to persecution, imprisonment, and countless other dangers. When the People's Republic of China declared the annihilation of all religion in 1949, Li was considered a traitor, was imprisoned and brainwashed for her unwavering faith. And yet through her entire life, through every trial, Li testifies to God's grace and sovereignty, and how he orchestrated every event from her earliest days as a child all the way until the end. She praises God for caring for and providing for her even in the midst of persecution and suffering.

Li’s life was void of many of the liberties and luxuries we are familiar with and accustomed to. She was born a woman into a time when women were abused and trampled upon, viewed as worthless, treated as commodity, and seen as stupid and incapable of learning. Shortly after her birth, Li’s aunt told her parents to dispose of her. After all, she was a girl who would eventually marry into another clan and profit her family virtually nothing. But in God’s good providence Li’s parents kept her because they had lost all their previous children to sickness and couldn’t bear losing their last and only child.

What’s more, Li’s father was determined to raise his only daughter as a son, to give her the education, privileges and rights that a son would have in a household. As the only girl in her rural school in Deqing, Li learned to read when she was six years old. Unfortunately her father did not live long enough to see his desire completed to its full fruition, but he nonetheless impressed upon Li and her mother the need for her to acquire an education and this paved the way for Li's entrance into a missionary school, here exposure to the Gospel and eventual conversion, acquiring a job as a teacher and eventually an evangelist, and even pursuing a college education.

Li was a woman of action. In every situation she responded and reacted hastily with the necessary action, whether that meant taking in abandoned children on the street or destroying her nationalist identification papers while escaping a city besieged by Communists. But in every situation, Li always prayed first. She never ceased to cry out to God for help and to praise him when he provided. Every decision flowed from her firm conviction in God's promises. Her whole life was consumed with a keen awareness of God’s power and his readiness and willingness to listen to the cries of his people.

Jeanette Li's testimony provides courage and boldness for the disheartened saint. She was a woman whose faith in Christ thrived even as her country fought viciously to extinguish it. Her story gives us a glimpse into the life of the church in the midst of suffering and persecution and reminds us that Christ's church thrives under the worst assaults of the enemy.  
The church of Christ is his body. He purchased [her] with his own blood....You ask me if the church in China will be destroyed? How could it be, in the light of all these great promises?—Jeanette Li  
Comparing Li’s life with my own left me deeply convicted of the luxuries, worldly possessions, comforts, and pursuits I so frequently prioritize and stake my happiness and joy in rather than God's desire for my life . Li was born into every disadvantage possible and yet her disadvantages ultimately served more to her own advantage and to the glory of God. She was free of the worldly cares and distractions, the comforts that our society is plagued with. And this is the beauty of the Gospel, is it not? That God takes the weak, foolish things of this world to put to shame the wise.


  1. I have an old copy of this book I've been meaning to read for a long time now. I'll have to start it soon :)

    1. Yes! It is a very worthwhile read. :)


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