Messenger of the Lord


Rheumatism in Both Ankles

Two years later, Ellen White slipped on ice, badly wrenching her ankle, and had to struggle with crutches for six weeks. Rheumatism eventually affected both ankles and bothered her severely till her death. MOL 64.4

When three months pregnant in March 1860, she, with James, was heading west to Iowa. James’s report in the Review (March 6) was graphic: “We left Battle Creek at 3:00 P.M., changed cars at midnight at Chicago, reached the Mississippi River at 7:00 A.M., crossed the ice on foot, walking behind the baggage drawn on a sleigh by four men, the ice being too weak to bear up horses; and felt relief when we stepped upon Iowa soil.” MOL 64.5

The first night in Iowa, Ellen White became very ill, vomiting and raising blood. But on she went, through the mud of springtime in Iowa, speaking often in the meetings. MOL 64.6

After the birth of John Herbert, she slowly regained strength. Six weeks after delivery, she commented in a letter to Lucinda Hall that she was so weak that she crawled up stairs on her knees, that she had “a good cry now and then,” and found that “it does me good.” Barely three months after his birth, the baby died. MOL 64.7

Ellen White’s Australian years were most productive, not only in helping to establish a sound educational and evangelistic program in that young country, but in authoring The Desire of Ages plus thousands of pages of timely letters. But not without cost! Her illnesses in Australia were devastating: “I made the long journey and attended the conference held in Melbourne.... Just before the conference closed I was stricken with a severe illness. For eleven months I suffered from malarial fever and inflammatory rheumatism. During the period I experienced the most terrible suffering of my whole life. I was unable to lift my feet from the floor without suffering great pain. My right arm, from the elbow down, was the only part of my body that was free from pain. My hips and my spine were in constant pain. I could not lie on my cot for more than two hours at a time, though I had rubber cushions under me. I would drag myself to a similar bed to change my position. Thus the nights passed.... Physicians said I would never be able to walk again, and I had fears that my life was to be a perpetual conflict with suffering.” 13 MOL 64.8

How did she manage? Those who stood by could gratefully validate her further reflections: “But in all this there was a cheerful side. My Saviour seemed to be close beside me. I felt His sacred presence in my heart, and I was thankful. These months of suffering were the happiest months of my life, because of the companionship of my Saviour. He was my hope and crown of rejoicing. I am so thankful that I had this experience, because I am better acquainted with my precious Lord and Saviour.... MOL 64.9

“I felt at first that I could not bear this inactivity. I think I fretted in spirit over it, and at times darkness gathered about me. This unreconciliation was at the beginning of my suffering and helplessness, but it was not long before I saw that the affliction was a part of God’s plan. I carefully reviewed the history of the past few years, and the work the Lord had given me to do. Not once had He failed me. Often He had manifested Himself in a marked manner, and I saw nothing in the past of which to complain. I realized that, like threads of gold, precious things had run through all this severe experience. MOL 65.1

“Then I prayed earnestly and realized continually sweet comfort in the promises of God: ‘Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.’ ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.’” 14 MOL 65.2

For reasons that God alone can explain, Ellen White suffered much in her life. Yet, she was a remarkably productive, active woman, and out of her suffering came a philosophy of suffering that has been a solid rock for millions. Her book, The Ministry of Healing, plus many hundreds of letters to others who also were under great affliction, might never have been written without her own experience providing the human setting for basic divine principles. MOL 65.3

One thing is certain: Ellen White never used her physical afflictions as a means of gaining the pity of others. To the contrary, when others saw her cheery spirit and determined resolve under intense physical adversities, they took courage. 15 MOL 65.4

Her life of literary production and personal ministry, plus her extensive public travels, strongly argues for an awareness of how the human will can triumph over physical hardships in the pursuit of God’s plan for one’s life. In 1915, reaching the age of 87 was not common! Her last known writing, a letter (June 14, 1914), overflowed with hope and Christian joy. 16 The cause of her death, on July 16, 1915, as recorded on both her death certificate and the cemetery sexton’s records, was: “Chronic myocarditis; (Contributory) Asthenia resulting from intracapsular fracture of the left femur (Feb. 13, 1915); (Secondary contributory) arterio-sclerosis.” MOL 65.5