In honor and recognition of the late Elisabeth Elliot, I thought it valuable to spend some time this post discussing the impact that she has had on so many. I’m not an Elisabeth Elliot scholar. I haven’t made it through all of her books or followed her throughout the years as she spoke and wrote. But I can recognize a devoted and impactful woman of God when I see her influence.
I don’t mourn her loss for her sake - she has finally gone home to be with the Lord for whom she gave her life. I mourn her loss because we’ve lost such a powerful influence here on earth. Recently, I listened to a Focus on the Family podcast of Elliot speaking to thousands of people in 1983. That coupled with my reading back through some of her well-known statements causes me to smile at the beautiful reunion that must have occurred between her and the Lord just the other day. How I long for that reunion one day too!
In listening to her and studying more about her, I've learned that a thematic connection between much of what Elliot said and wrote was our need for perseverance in this life. In the face of adversity, she - like everyone else - had a choice to make. She could sulk and wallow; become angry and bitter with the Lord for thwarting her life goals; or she could submit herself under His leadership and find joy in the midst of the struggle.
In a culture that widely promotes that we should just give up or take the easy way out, Elliot’s teachings are so, so refreshing. God’s will for us is not to give in - to quit fighting - to become angry with His plan for us. He knows us best. He knows what we need and what will ultimately cause us to look most like Jesus.
Elliot had said, “God will not protect you from anything that will make you more like Jesus.” I find so much value in this - don’t you? Some authors, even within Christian circles, write as if the Bible is our self-help guide to make life easier and treat God like He is our big heavenly protector. While the Bible is pivotal in providing knowledge and faith, which therefore gives us comfort, it's not about us - it's about God. And while God does protect us from many things we'll never know, He also allows some in His love and desire to see us molded into the image of His son - because He knows that this is what's best for us!
"God will not protect you from anything that will make you more like Jesus."
The life and experiences of someone like Elisabeth Elliot give us cause to pause and ponder another way to deal with life – to not necessarily understand the hurt, but to use it to lean into the Father and trust that He’s shaping us to look like His Son.
For those of you who don’t know much of who this lady was, let me share perhaps the most noteworthy of stories from her life. Elisabeth and her husband Jim waited for five and a half years to marry – not because they had to but because they had to be sure that God was leading them through life together. They moved to Ecuador to reach a tribal people with the gospel of Christ - giving of themselves immensely and expecting nothing in return. Only three years into their marriage, Elisabeth's husband was brutally killed by the very same tribe of people they had gone to reach for Christ. At that point, there are a myriad of responses open to her, but she exhibited a resolve to make the best choice. She ultimately went back to this people and continued the work that her husband and other men had begun.
Many of us in the face of a similar situation would grow in bitterness and angst. While Elliot undoubtedly felt these raw emotions, she chose to surrender those to the Lord and allow Him to heal the broken places of her heart. Elliot had at one time stated, “the spirit is liquid and easily flows and surges, sinking and boiling with the currents of circumstances. Bringing every thought into the obedience of Christ is no easy-chair job.” This is remarkable for us to highlight because it wasn’t that she was without mental battles. Her life threw her some pretty crazy circumstances. But she understood that God calls us to persevere through the doubts and uncertainties as you cling to the Father and trust Him to make His Son known through you. Isn’t this what so many of us desire for our lives? We all should!
It’s important for me to note that oftentimes people become discouraged by the thoughts that race through their brains. Perhaps they believe that they aren’t quite good enough or that other people certainly can’t have thoughts so negative or impure or awful as them. But that’s simply not true. NOT that we encourage and allow those thoughts, but we should call them out for what they are – lies. Elisabeth Elliot is a challenge to us now NOT because she never had a negative thought or doubted what was to become of her life. But she chose early on whom she was going to serve and then chose to place her thoughts appropriately, that she might fight forward for the cause of the Kingdom of God.
It’s important for us to consider the legacy that we want to leave behind. It’s important for us to consider that moment when we meet Jesus face to face and when the only thing that truly matters is that we have adhered to Him for our salvation. And it’s important for us to realize that it is in the daily decisions that we make that we are making the BIG decisions.
So I encourage you today to fight forward. Remember that the Lord is on our side. Is there anything greater?! And be encouraged by the positive example of a woman who exhibited what it is to lay aside self and fight for the very things the Lord is asking us to do. It can be done…one day at a time. And then we can anticipate those words so sweet to our souls - “well done.”