Editor’s Note: Seventh-day Adventists believe in the prophetic ministry of Ellen G. White. During her lifetime she was frequently challenged by poor health. What follows are excerpts from her 1892 diary where she writes of her inability to do her work, the experience of pain, and difficulty sleeping. It is our hope that our readers may find some much-needed encouragement as we also encounter illness and trials. There is hope found in a relationship with Jesus.1
April 22, 1892
I do not understand why I am lying here, unable to labor for the Lord; but God understands, and that is enough for me.
The past night has been one of great tediousness. I was obliged to get up six times to change my position, for my back and limbs were full of pain. My neck was so painful that it distressed me to lie on the pillow. But the Lord is good, and He draws near to me as I lift up my heart in prayer to Him, beseeching Him for grace and for restoration to health.
The past night was an almost sleepless one. I am so thankful that I could commune with God, and leave myself without murmuring in His merciful hands. I can use my arms and hands better than I could, and with considerable effort I can dress myself.
Satan is watching to see if I will hide my faith under a cloud of unbelief by murmuring against the One who has done everything for me. I am determined not to distrust God. I shall keep looking up to where the rainbow of promise encircles the throne. I shall triumph in God. Daily my soul is refreshed by the contemplation of the great love of our heavenly Father.
The night has been long and trying. I lay awake from half past ten to half past two, so full of nervous pain that I could not rest. But I will not repine. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). I shall be glad when the days lengthen and the nights shorten.
Another long, trying night has nearly passed. Daylight will soon come. I slept well during the first part of the night, but when I awoke, the nervous pain came on once more, so severely that I could scarcely compose myself to pray intelligently. After a time the nervousness passed away, and I prayed most earnestly to my heavenly Father. I presented before Him the promise, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). Even in my pain I can rejoice in the Lord, and this gives me peace. Christ is my personal Saviour. He has pledged His word to accomplish the salvation of all who believe in Him, and He will verify His promise.
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). These words show us why God’s wrath descended on His only begotten Son, why the innocent suffered for the guilty, why the just bore the punishment wholly due to the unjust. Jesus came to bear the penalty of man’s transgression, to uphold and vindicate the immutability of the law of God, and the rectitude of His government. He came to make an end of sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness. He can lift sinners from their low estate, and in so doing magnify the law of Jehovah. These thoughts made me almost forget my pain.
During these sleepless hours, the subject of overcoming has been the burden of my thoughts. “To him that overcometh,” the Lord declares, “will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21).
Christ is the greatest missionary our world has ever seen, and I have faith that He will heal me.
I slept the first part of the night, but during the latter part I could not rest. I committed my case to the Lord, and was comforted by the thought that I am a subject of His care. I do find peace and comfort in prayer, but I should look upon it as a great blessing from the Lord if I could pass the hours of the night in sleep.
Another night of restlessness and suffering has passed. I welcome the coming of five o’clock in the morning; for then Emily Campbell builds my fire, and I can be dressed. I will not allow my mind to dwell on the dark side. Jesus has light and comfort and hope and joy for me. I want to face the light, that the brightness of the Sun of Righteousness may shine into my heart, and be reflected to others. It is the duty of every Christian to shine—to shed abroad the light of the grace that Christ imparts. God would have me, even in my pain, praise Him, showing that I realize that His presence is with me.
I put my trust in the Lord Jesus. I cry after God. “As the hart panteth after the water books, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Ps. 42:1). Here in the home, in my pain and suffering, I must be imbued with the Spirit of Christ. It is now that I must put my trust in the Lord. At times I can do little else than cling to Jesus, saying, “I am thy child. I trust in Thee. I have Thy pledged word, ‘My grace is sufficient’ [2 Cor. 12:9].” Then relief comes, and I praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy.
I am compassed with infirmities, yet I am of good courage in the Lord. Although the enemy is permitted to afflict me, yet I have great blessings from day to day. My head is free from pain, shielded by the hand of the Lord. My shoulders and arms are full of pain, but my right forearm from the elbow to the tip of my fingers is free from pain. I am able to do much important writing.
Trials and disappointments will come to God’s workers, but did they not come to Jesus? Shall we cover the Lord’s altar with mourning and sighing and tears? God forbid. It comforts me to meditate upon the loving words of Jesus, to think of His courtesy, His sympathy, His compassion. I long to be like Him. I will rest in His care. He will make me a conqueror over evil.
I am told by some who come to see me that I shall never again have the use of my limbs. But I do not accept this view as truth. I know that the Lord has a work for me to do, and I will put my trust in Him. The outlook is not cheering, but God knows my situation. I rejoice that I can use my right hand. Bolstered up in a chair with pillows, I write many pages. I am able to keep my workers supplied with all they can possibly do. I could keep two more busy.
Sick or well, I feel that every power of body and mind should be employed in glorifying God. We are not our own, to please and gratify self. We have been purchased by the blood of Christ, and it is our daily duty, as well as our privilege, to consecrate all that we have and are to the Saviour.
Last night I was not able to sleep after twelve o’clock. It was my thoughts more than pain of body that troubled me. There are some trials that it is not best to dwell upon, because there seems no clear way out of them. I try to cast my burden upon the Lord, but I do not always leave it there. I take it up again, when I should leave it with the Saviour.
During my wakeful hours I have sought the Lord most earnestly, asking Him to join my weakness to His strength, my ignorance to his wisdom, my unworthiness to His merit, my frailty to His enduring might, my poverty to His boundless wealth.
The Saviour is our comforter. This I have proved Him to be. I do not understand why I am so afflicted. At first I tried to reason out why I did not have strength to bear my testimony to the people in this country.2 But I try no longer.
My constant prayer is that I may be uplifted into a purer, holier atmosphere. I am pleading with God to remove my suffering. And although I continue to suffer, I am comforted by the thought that Jesus knows, and that He will help me. I shall see light in His light. My right arm is free from pain, and for this blessing I thank the Lord. The dear Saviour will not leave us nor forsake us. . . . He encourages us in all our afflictions, . . . and enables me to rejoice in His great mercy.
Last night I obtained some rest, for which I thank my heavenly Father.
I praise the Lord that in my affliction I may have the light and love of Jesus. His presence is everything to me—comfort, hope, and soothing balm. Sometimes perplexing thoughts crowd upon my mind, but I will not cherish these thoughts. Jesus will take my troubles if I bring them to Him, and ask Him to carry them for me. It is not always easy to have trusting faith. We must behold Jesus by faith as an ever-present help in time of need. We must drink deep of the water of salvation, if we would be spiritually refreshed. The Lord is good and merciful. He is my Saviour, my joy and my crown of rejoicing. I will magnify His name.
During the past night I slept more than usual, and for this I thank my heavenly Father.
Last night I did not sleep well. My mind was troubled, but I tried to lay my burdens at the feet of Jesus. Today I have written twenty pages.
I have passed an unusually disagreeable night. I was afflicted with pain in every limb, and seven times during the night I was obliged to change my position. This means much pain.
We did not get home from the school yesterday evening until after dark. I rested well during the night. I am grateful to my heavenly Father that my strength is increasing. I can use my limbs much better than I could. During my wakeful hours my mind is busy planning how we can best be a blessing to the believers in this country, and how we can best work for unbelievers.
1 Selected from Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1990), vol. 8, pp. 44-55.
2 Ellen White was living in Australia in 1892.