Ellen Harmon Faces A Dilemma

Ellen Harmon sat bundled up beside her bedroom window staring at the frosty landscape outside. It was December in Portland, Maine and the trees were bare against the wintry grey backdrop of the sky. Ellen barely noticed the details of the scene. Her mind was a million miles away recounting the events of the past two weeks.

A few days prior she had stood in front of a large group of Millerite Adventists gathered in her parent’s home. They had come from near and far to hear her recount the vision that God had given her. In many ways, the vision served to be an encouragement to the believers but it also challenged some of the views they currently held regarding the 2300 day prophecy and its fulfillment. Ellen had quaked at the prospect of sharing the vision publicly. She was weak and sickly and the prospect of sharing a vision that challenged the accepted understanding regarding the surrounding the great disappointment filled her with fear. But she had relented and then gathering up her courage, had managed to share the vision by the grace of God.

The reception had been warm and welcoming. The little group of faithful millerites had embraced the vision as a message from God and had been greatly comforted. Ellen’s own spirits had been lifted as she saw the positive outcome of the entire situation. However, about a week after that triumphant scene, God had given her a second vision. Ellen burrowed deeper into the warmth of her blankets, shrinking away from the recollection of the vision and the message that had accompanied it.

In the second vision, she was shown the trials that she would have to pass through and the terrible and sometimes bitter opposition she would have to face as she recounted to others what God had revealed to her. The angel who accompanied her in vision had reassured her that the grace of God would be sufficient for her and would sustain her through the trials. Ellen balked at the calling. She was seventeen years old, plagued with ill health and barely educated. The prospect of acting as a mouthpiece for God and sharing the visions he gave her was daunting enough but the added burden of trial and opposition made the entire enterprise seem completely untenable.

I can’t do it her mind wailed God, don’t you see? I just can’t do it? She gently rocked herself back and forth as her mind turned over the intricacies of the situation for what seemed like the millionth time. Why? Why had God laid this burden on her? Her? Of all people? There were so many others who were stronger, more literate and more capable and yet God had reached out and tapped her on the shoulder. Ellen shook her head as she gazed unseeingly out of her window. She had been wrestling with the decision for the better part of a weak, begging God to take the burden away from her. Yet every time she begged the words of the angel came back to haunt her; “Make known to others what I have revealed to you”

Wrestling

Finally, in desperation she had talked to her father about it, explaining to him her sense of weakness and inadequacy.

“I am so weak Papa” she had said, her eyes pleading, hoping that her father would say something to relieve her of the burden that had been laid on her “How can I be expected to bear such a heavy responsibility? And by myself?”

Her father had seen things differently. “Ellen” he had said softly, reassuringly “if God has called you to it then he will not fail to carry you through it. His grace is sufficient to provide for every necessity.”

“I can’t see my way clear papa” she had cried, tears welling up in her eyes “submission seems impossible to me right now”

Soon the abiding sense of God peace that she had felt in her heart began to fade away and she refused to attend the meetings that were held in her own home. The struggle was herculean.

Ellen sighed as she contemplated her position for what seemed like the millionth time. She could see no way out and she secretly wished she could just curl up into a tiny ball and die. She hugged herself and continued her rocking. There was a meeting being held in her home that evening and her family was anxious for her to attend.

I don’t know, she thought miserably to herself, I don’t know if I can even bring myself to be present let alone partake in the prayer. But it had been so long since she had attended a prayer meeting and the persistent lack of peace in her heart was disturbing. She feared that if she persisted in her course she would find herself completely cut off from the presence of God.

“I must go” she finally murmured to herself. At the very least she could ask her friends to pray for her and their prayers might offer her some level of comfort.

Desperate Times and Desperate Measures

That evening she made her way down to the living room where a small group of Adventists had started to gather. Everyone was delighted to see her and welcomed her warmly. Among them was John Pearson, who was acquainted with her struggles.

“Sister Harmon,” he said, as he made his way over to her with a warm smile “It is so good to see you among us again”

Ellen returned his smile feebly “thank you Brother Pearson” she said softly. There was a short pause before John Pearson moved a step closer and began to speak.

“Sister Harmon, I am acquainted with your particular struggles of late and I wanted to say…” he hesitated for a fraction of a second before plowing on “I wanted to encourage you to surrender your will to God” Ellen bit her lip and looked up at him not knowing how to respond.

The meeting was soon called to order and they began with a special season of prayer. Ellen’s friends began to pray especially for her and Ellen felt a strange and fierce struggle begin to play out in her heart. As the prayers on her behalf intensified Ellen began to feel the darkness that had blanketed her in the past few days begin to lift and she was enveloped with a sense of light.

Suddenly there was a loud gasp from John Pearson who was kneeling next to her. He had looked up during the prayer to see a ball of fire flash into the room and make its way straight towards Ellen. In the next moment, it struck her right over her heart and she collapsed to the ground. While her friends watched in terror Ellen felt surrounded by the presence of angels. At length one of the angels repeated the words that had been persistently ringing in her mind since she had received her second vision: “Make known to others what I have revealed to you”. The angel continued, exhorting her to deliver the messages that God would give her faithfully, promising her that if she would faithfully endure unto the end that she would eat the fruit of the tree of life and drink the water of life.

Encouraged by this assurance Ellen finally and fully surrendered herself to God, accepting the calling He had placed on her life. It was the end of a long and bitter struggle and despite her previous forebodings, the best was yet to come.

Citations and Further Reading
  • White, A.L. (1985) – Ellen G. White: Volume 1 – The Early Years: 1827-1862