Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years: 1876-1891 (vol. 3)


James White East and Ellen White West

In his Review report of the state of the cause on the Pacific Coast, James White expressed the conviction that it was best for him to work in the East and his wife in the West. Ellen shared this conviction. She reflected on this in one of her letters to James: 3BIO 135.7

I am rejoiced that you have the blessing of God in your labors. This may be just as the Lord would have it—you doing your work, and I doing my work here. We are evidently both in the way of duty.—Letter 24, 1880. 3BIO 136.1

Writing from Oakland on April 6, she told James: 3BIO 136.2

Never doubt my love for you. But I find my duty calls me from you sometimes, and I shall be obedient to the call. My influence at times will be more favorable alone than if you are with me. I shall be with you when I can, but in the future we both may have to endure the trial of separation more in our labors than in the past.—Letter 19, 1880.

At about the same time he wrote to Ellen: “I hope by your good counsel and help of the Lord to avoid any breakdown this spring.”—JW to EGW, April 11, 1880. On May 4 he wrote Willie: 3BIO 136.3

I undertake to do too much work. I shall not deny that I love to work, and am inclined to take too much on my hands. 3BIO 136.4

As the duties he had assumed at the headquarters of the work pressed in upon him, James was inclined to become irritable. He misconstrued things told him or written to him, and at times lashed out at those he felt were not handling their part of the work as they should or were undermining his administration. As the time approaches for a change in leadership in an organization, there are often opportunities for misunderstandings. There is strong evidence that this was taking place in the case of James White. For one who has nurtured an enterprise from its inception, it is often difficult to relinquish the burden. 3BIO 136.5

White was particularly upset by what he supposed was the attitude toward him by some in California, and in his correspondence he made rash and unfortunate statements. Ellen White attempted to temper this by way of letters to him. When he was dealing unevenly with men, preferring some above others, she wrote in her letter of March 25: 3BIO 136.6

One man's mind and one man's judgment must not mold the cause of God, for his peculiar, personal feelings may come in to be exercised in various ways and may injure greatly the cause of God.... 3BIO 136.7

Our special preferences should not control our actions in decisions. Here, I have been shown, was your danger. If you take to a man you will be in danger of ruining him by exalting him and doing too much for him. If you dislike him, you will do the very opposite of this, and you imperil souls and mar the work of God. 3BIO 137.1

The angel of God in my last vision presented this to me very distinctly. He pointed to you and said, “Praise not, exalt not, any man. Censure and humiliate no man. Be cautious in your words, trust not too much to your own judgment, for it is liable to be biased by your feelings. Mar not the work of God by your likes and dislikes. I was shown that you must give respect to the judgment of your brethren while you shall advise and counsel with them.—Letter 49, 1880. 3BIO 137.2

During this rather critical time she wrote significantly: 3BIO 137.3

It would be hard for you to cease being general; nevertheless, you must begin to accustom yourself to this position for your own good spiritually and for the good of the cause of God.—Letter 53, 1880.

In the interchange of correspondence during the five months the pair were separated by half the continent, there were expressions of loneliness and words of encouragement. As she closed her letter written the morning of April 17, she declared: 3BIO 137.4

I am most of the time very happy, very cheerful in God. I miss you at times very much, especially when not engaged heart and soul in active labor.... The call comes, Breakfast; then it is the cars for my journey. Good morning—God bless you with the riches of His grace and lift up daily the health of His countenance is the most earnest prayer of your wife, Ellen.—Letter 23, 1880. 3BIO 137.5

She studied and worked to aid her husband in gaining and maintaining right attitudes and perspectives. On March 18, responding to a letter in which he had expressed his hurt, she wrote in part: 3BIO 137.6

I know it is natural to wish to be appreciated, and those in California have not all shown appreciation, for I have been shown that this was the case.... But I think you are entirely deceived in thinking that there is great prejudice against you. I have not been able to see or hear one lisp of it yet.... 3BIO 138.1

I have been shown that in the future we shall see how closely all our trials were connected with our salvation, and how these light afflictions worked out for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” We shall have enough to praise God for in the future life. We shall thank the Lord for every reproof which taught us our own weakness and our Saviour's power, patience, and love.... 3BIO 138.2

I feel so grateful that the Lord is of tender pity, full of mercy.... I must not let one thought or one feeling arise in my heart against my brethren, for they may be in the sight of God more righteous than I. My feelings must not be stirred. We have battles to fight with ourselves, but we should continually encourage our brethren. We should lay no stumbling blocks in their way, and should cherish only the very kindest feelings toward them. Satan is willing and anxious to tear them down. Let us not unite our forces with his. They have their conflicts and trials. God forbid that we should add one trial to those they have to bear. 3BIO 138.3

Then she spoke of how she determined to relate herself to that special situation she alone must face in her heaven-appointed work of bearing testimonies: 3BIO 138.4

I will write out the testimonies of reproof for anyone and then my feelings shall not be exercised against them. I will look within. I will seek to make my ways in the strength of Jesus perfect before God. And when tempted to feel unkindly or to be suspicious and to find fault, I will put this out of my heart quickly, for the soul temple is surely being desecrated and defiled by Satan. The love that Jesus possessed, it is the duty of us both to welcome and cherish, and to have that charity that thinketh no evil; then our influence will be fragrant as sweet perfume. 3BIO 138.5

Bringing the letter to a close, she urged: 3BIO 138.6

Let us, dear husband, make melody to God in our hearts. Let us not be found accusers of our brethren, for this is the work Satan is engaged in. Let us talk of Jesus and His matchless love.... Let us bring ourselves into harmony with heaven and we will then be in harmony with our brethren and at peace among ourselves. Let us now, both of us, redeem the time.—Letter 5, 1880. 3BIO 139.1

From time to time, in writing to Willie and to Ellen, James reiterated his intention to heed the counsel given to him. His letter to his wife written April 18 is to the point and yields some insights: 3BIO 139.2

You exhort me to throw off responsibilities. This I shall not neglect to do. It is necessary to save my strength and proper balance of mind, that I let others take the responsibilities. But never shall I consent to go here and there, and to do this and that, by the direction of others. When I come to that point, it will be time for me to retire. A retreat is the most skillful part of military action, which you and I should be considering, but we must avoid extremes. 3BIO 139.3

I am considering these things with great care. Whatever the Lord has shown you respecting my duty, take time to write it out carefully and give me the complete idea.... We both see a great deal to do in the line of writing, and our brethren are constantly urging us into the field to speak. In the fear of God, we must take this matter in our own hands, and be our own judges of what we should do and how much. 3BIO 139.4