In 1892 Ellen White was in her mid-60s. She had moved to Australia less than a year before and had recently published her book Steps to Christ. This article is the first half of a letter she wrote from Adelaide, Australia, on October 24, 1892, to William Grainger, president of Healdsburg College in California (now Pacific Union College), and his wife, Elizabeth. The letter gives insight into how White dealt with times of personal suffering and discouragement.
Dear Brother and Sister Grainger,
Although I have not written to any of you in the Healdsburg school, I have not forgotten you. I shall be much pleased to hear how you are prospering. We seem to be here in a far-off country, yet we are nigh the connecting links which bind us to Jesus Christ, the Great Center. One in Christ we have nourishment from the same parent stock.
I have been passing through great trial in pain and suffering and helplessness, but through it all I have obtained a precious experience more valuable to me than gold. When I was first convinced that I must give up my cherished plans to visit the churches in Australia and New Zealand, I felt to seriously question whether it was my duty to leave America and come to this far-off country. My sufferings were acute. Many sleepless hours of the nights I spent in going over and over our experience since we left Europe for America, and it has been a continual scene of anxiety, suffering, and burden-bearing. Then I said, What does it all mean?
I carefully reviewed the history of the past few years and the work the Lord gave me to do. Not once had He failed me, and often [He] manifested Himself to me in a marked manner, and I saw I had nothing of which to complain, but [instead], precious things running like threads of gold through all my experience. The Lord understood better than I the things that I needed, and I felt that He was drawing me very nigh to Himself and I must be careful not to dictate to God as to what He should do with me. This unreconciliation was at the beginning of my sufferings and helplessness, but it was not long until I felt that my affliction was a part of God’s plan. I found that by partly lying and partly sitting I could place myself in position to use my crippled hands, and although suffering much pain I could do considerable writing. Since coming to this country I have written sixteen hundred pages of paper of this size.
Many nights during the past nine months I was enabled to sleep but two hours a night, and then at times darkness would gather about me; but I prayed and realized much sweet comfort in drawing nigh to God. The promises, “Draw nigh to God and He will draw night to you;” “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him,” were fulfilled to me. I was all light in the Lord. Jesus was sacredly near, and I found the grace given sufficient, for my soul was stayed upon God and I was full of grateful praise to Him who loved me and gave Himself for me. I could say from a full heart, “I know whom I have believed.” 2 Timothy 1:12. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13. Through Jesus Christ I have come off more than conqueror, and held the vantage ground.
I cannot read the purpose of God in my affliction, but He knows what is best; and I will commit my soul, body, and spirit to Him as unto my faithful Creator. “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12. If we educated and trained our souls to have more faith, more love, greater patience, and a more perfect trust in our heavenly Father, I know we would have more peace and happiness day by day as we pass through the conflicts of this life.
The Lord is not pleased to have us fret and worry ourselves out of the arms of Jesus. More is needed of the quiet waiting and watching combined. We think unless we have feeling that we are not in the right track, and we keep looking within for some sign befitting the occasion; but the reckoning is not of feeling but of faith.
When we comply with the written Word, according to our best knowledge, then we are to walk by faith whether we feel any special gratification or not. We do dishonor God when we show we do not trust Him after He has given us such wondrous evidences of His great love in giving His only begotten Son Jesus to die, our sacrifice, that we may believe in Him, rest our hopes in Him, and trust in His Word without a question or doubt.
Keep looking unto Jesus, offering up silent prayers in faith, taking hold of His strength, whether you have any manifest feeling or not. Go right forward as if every prayer offered was lodged in the throne of God and responded to by the One whose promises never fail. Go right along singing and making melody to God in your hearts, even when depressed by a sense of weight and sadness. I tell you as one who knows, light will come, joy will be ours, and the mists and clouds will be rolled back. And we pass from the oppressive power of the shadow and darkness into the clear sunshine of His presence.
—from Letter 7, 1892
(Photo: Ellen White around 1899, from Ellen G. White Estate)