Ellen White Struggles To Survive

The summer of 1846 was a special one for James White and Ellen Harmon. On the 30th of August, they united their lives in marriage and began a partnership that would last the better part of 35 years. The newlyweds were desperately poor and necessity led them to set up home with Ellen’s parents, Robert and Eunice Harmon.

But poverty wasn’t their only affliction. In November Ellen, who had been battling advanced tuberculosis and bleeding from her lungs for the past two years, was laid low by a terrible bout of illness. She suffered in agony for nights on end while her husband, parents and other friends gathered around her bed to intercede for her in prayer. Finally, after three long, dark weeks Ellen pleaded with them to stop praying for her.

“I don’t…I can’t live like this” she moaned softly, tears rolling down her cheeks “your prayers and keeping me alive and prolong my suffering”

Her young husband was devastated by her desire to die and pleaded with her to be reasonable but she was in too much pain to be reasoned with. However, James couldn’t stop praying for his wife and he continued to wrestle with God for her life.

During one of these times of earnest intercession, Henry Nichols, the son of Otis Nichols felt the power of the Spirit resting on him. Standing up he walked across the room to Ellen’s sickbed and laid his hands on her forehead.

“Sister Ellen,” he said in a clear and distinct voice “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole”. As soon as the words came out of his mouth he fell back, completely overcome by the power of God.

A deafening cloud of silence fell over the room as those present took in what had just happened. Their eyes darted frantically between a now prostrated Henry and a reclining Ellen.

Ellen’s mind clung to Henry’s words and she believed that he was led by God to proclaim them over her. Immediately the pain left her and she was made completely whole. It was an amazing turning point in her experience and a testament of faith to those present, of the power of persistent, importunate prayer.

Choppy Waters

But Satan’s attacks on the young prophetess were far from over. A few weeks later James and Ellen were traveling from Portland, Maine to Boston Massachusetts. They chose to take passage on board a steamboat and were soon comfortably settled in their respective quarters in the men’s and women’s cabins.

Partway through the voyage, a terrible storm arose unexpectedly over the ocean. The vessel they were on pitched and tossed violently. Dishes in the dining car were thrown across the room and the large chandelier in one of the rooms fell to the floor, shattering on impact.

Inside the women’s cabin, many of Ellen’s bunkmates were white with terror. Some of the women began to cry out to God for mercy, some called out to the Virgin Mary for deliverance and others promised to serve God for the rest of their lives if they were spared. The room was a cacophony of sound, fear, and confusion.

One of the women who was in a top bunk was thrown to the floor, screaming as she went down. In the midst of all this, one of the women turned to Ellen and cried “Aren’t you afraid? Why are you so calm?”

Ellen shook her head. “No,” she said “I”m not afraid, I have made Jesus my refuge and if my work is done I might as well lie at the bottom of the ocean as anywhere else but if my work is not done all the water in the ocean cannot drown me. My trust is in God.

The storm eventually subsided and they reached Boston safely. Ellen was immensely grateful to step onto dry land but she was also reminded by this deliverance that God still had work for her to do.

Satan’s attempts to assassinate her had failed and despite his best efforts, God’s arm proved to be a mighty, impenetrable shield encircling his faithful messenger.

Further Reading

  • White, A.L. (1985) – Ellen White: The Early Years
  • Collins, N.J. (2005) – Heartwarming Stories of Adventist Pioneers (Book 1)