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


Tensions Begin to Show

Again and again in the interchange of letters between James and Ellen White in the spring of 1876, while he was involved with the work in Battle Creek and she was engaged in her writing in Oakland, they employed such phrases as “You are happy and ...free in your work” and “I am happy and free in my work.” The refrain intimates that some tensions were developing. It would seem that these revolved somewhat around the growing tendency on the part of James to feel that he should be privileged to dominate Ellen's work. His keen insight and firm hand in the leadership of the church had saved it many a tragedy, and his strong drive had pushed forward a work that could easily have faltered. But as he advanced in years he was inclined to become demanding and somewhat dictatorial. Through the years Ellen had cherished his counsel, and she much appreciated his assistance in preparing materials for the press. He had been very careful to avoid influencing her or interfering in any way with her special mission. She too had been careful not to be influenced in her work by either friend or foe. She maintained that she must work alone; her messages could be influenced only by God. 3BIO 33.3

On Friday, May 12, replying to a letter from James, she mentioned the fact that her calling upon him to assist her in preparing her writings for print had no doubt annoyed him. She declared: 3BIO 33.4

In regard to my independence, I have had no more than I should have in the matter under the circumstances. I do not receive your views or interpretation of my feelings on this matter. I understand myself much better than you understand me. But so it must be, and I will say no more in reference to the matter. I am glad you are free and happy, and I rejoice that God has blessed me with freedom, with peace, and cheerfulness and courage.... I shall look to God for guidance and shall try to move as He shall lead the way.—Letter 25, 1876. 3BIO 34.1

Although there were some differences of opinion between them at this time, it would be unfair and contrary to the facts to assume that their marriage was endangered. Illness and advancing age accentuated the situation. Nonetheless, the experience, together with the two thousand miles between them, might be said to mark the beginning of “the lonely years.” 3BIO 34.2

She was led to write to James four days later: 3BIO 34.3

It grieves me that I have said or written anything to grieve you. Forgive me, and I will be cautious not to start any subject to annoy and distress you. We are living in a most solemn time and we cannot afford to have in our old age differences to separate our feelings. I may not view all things as you do, but I do not think it would be my place or duty to try to make you see as I see and feel as I feel. Wherein I have done this, I am sorry.

I want an humble heart, a meek and quiet spirit. Wherein my feelings have been permitted to arise in any instance, it was wrong.... 3BIO 34.4

I wish that self should be hid in Jesus. I wish self to be crucified. I do not claim infallibility, or even perfection of Christian character. I am not free from mistakes and errors in my life. Had I followed my Saviour more closely, I should not have to mourn so much my unlikeness to His dear image. 3BIO 34.5

Time is short, very short. Life is uncertain. We know not when our probation may close. If we walk humbly before God, He will let us end our labors with joy. No more shall a line be traced by me or expression made in my letters to distress you. Again, I say, forgive me, every word or act that has grieved you.—Letter 27, 1876. 3BIO 34.6