“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever, fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit, use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt and work out Thy will in my life at any cost now and forever.”* – Betty Howard’s prayer which her daughter Elisabeth took as her own at the age of 12
To the right of my desk is a bookcase filled with some of my favorite books. These authors inspire me to live a very different life. Among them are Charles Spurgeon, John Piper, Tom Elliff, Bertha Smith, Patricia St. John, and Elisabeth Elliot.
Elisabeth Elliot has died. Rather, she has gloriously entered into the very presence of the God whom she loved and served faithfully all her life. I am so thankful to have lived in the generation of her writing. For over a decade she has quietly lived in the shadow of Alzheimer’s, yet her writing and speaking have continued to leave their mark on generations who desire to know God as she knew Him.
I was five years old when Jim Elliot was killed along the Curaray River, in Ecuador. He left a young widow, Elisabeth Elliot, and a tiny daughter named Valerie. Elisabeth began writing to preserve Jim’s diaries and his memory for Valerie to know her dad as she grew up. Fortunately for all the rest of us, Elisabeth kept writing.
Sometime in my early teens, I first became aware of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. She published his journals in 1958 and I still have a copy of that first printing – Shadow of the Almighty – The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. I devoured Jim’s writing of his complete devotion for God and his passion for others to know Him. Elisabeth’s own burning love for God drew Jim’s heart to hers. Their marriage would be brief, but what Elisabeth learned of God in that time set a course for her to touch lives beyond her imagining.
Elisabeth Elliot was a no-nonsense kind of woman. She was consummately honest and frank in dealing with God and the culture of our day. These days, there seems to be little tolerance for spiritualizing or moralizing. I wonder if those who pick up her books today, in the stir of publicity at her passing, will be refreshed or shocked at her writing. She wastes no words, cutting through to what it truly is to be a follower of Christ…not of someone we made up…but the One who laid down His life for us all…that One.
Her bluntness, her disciplines, and her love of God have many times, over the years, shaken me out of dullness and loss of resolve…for which I will always be thankful.
I’ve been encouraged by all the young men and women who have commented about Elisabeth Elliot on social media since she died. To put her on some sort of pedestal would be wrong; to say her life pointed us to God and to a life only possible walking with Him, would be more accurate and right.
If you don’t know Elisabeth Elliot’s writing/speaking, begin here with the quotes below. Don’t stop with them, though. The links will help you on a journey you will never regret.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot, missionary to Auca indians in Ecuador”
― Elisabeth Elliot, The Journals of Jim Elliot
“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” ― Elisabeth Elliot, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael
“Stand true to your calling to be a man. Real women will always be relieved and grateful when men are willing to be men”
― Elisabeth Elliot, The Mark of a Man
“The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived – not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.” ― Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman
“One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”
― Elisabeth Elliot, Secure in the Everlasting Arms
“Think of the self that God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is ‘… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the loss’ of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses seem.” ― Elisabeth Elliot
Perhaps some future day, Lord,
Thy strong hand will lead me to the place
Where I must stand utterly alone;
Alone, Oh gracious Lover, but for Thee.
I shall be satisfied if I can see Jesus only.
I do not know Thy plan for years to come.
My spirit finds in Thee its perfect home: sufficiency.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now.
Lead on no matter where, no matter how,
I trust in Thee. – by Elisabeth Elliot, in her college years**
“You are loved with an everlasting love. And underneath are the everlasting arms.” – Thank you, Elisabeth Elliot. You’ve made it Home.
Thank you, Lars Gren, for loving and caring for this wife of yours. What a journey you two must have had together.
*Elisabeth Elliot 1926 – [a fast read on Elisabeth’s life by Adsideo Church]
**Elisabeth Elliot – 1926-2015 – a tribute by Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition
Peaches in Paradise – Why I Loved Elisabeth Elliot by John Piper
Goodreads.com – 164 Quotes of Elisabeth Elliot
Marriage: A Revolution & A Revelation – A Supreme Earthly Test of Discipleship (a manuscript draft by Elisabeth Elliot)
On the Subject of Forgiveness – Leaving Self Behind – Elisabeth Elliot
How to Simplify Your Life – an article by Elisabeth Elliot
30 Years Married – a Walk with God as Much as With Each Other – from the archives, on the impact of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel on living life married
The Journals of Jim Elliot compiled by Elisabeth Elliot
End of the Spear – a biopic on the lives of Elisabeth & Jim Elliot among the Auca people of Ecuador
Photo Credits: Image of Elisabeth Elliot from elisabethelliot.org