Ode to Elisabeth Elliot

“God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will, a will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions.” -Elisabeth Elliot

Sometimes the people that end up influencing your life the most, you never actually meet. Such is the case with the beloved Elisabeth Elliot. We were first “introduced” when I was in college. Her book Passion and Purity was being passed around my group of friends as we tried to make sense of the dating world and discern the qualities needed in a potential husband.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m still reading her books (earlier this year A Chance to Die and currently Love Has a Price Tag).  I’m still learning from her.  I never tire of her “tell it like it is” approach, which I find particularly refreshing as I get older.  She is not concerned with popular opinion or speaking out against the culture. She makes no apologies for proclaiming the truth, yet always seems to do it in love.

Ms. Elliot did not have an easy life and she speaks honestly about the many painful things she providentially endured. She was widowed just three years after marrying missionary Jim Elliot, who was killed by the Auca tribe in Ecuador.  Their daughter was 10 months old when Jim died and Elisabeth chose to remain with the Indians two years after his death. Many years later she married Addison Leitch, a seminary professor,  and lost him to cancer after just a few years of marriage. She married a third time to hospital chaplain, Lars Gren, and they remain married today as partners in her ministry.

Deeply embedded in most all of her writing is an straightforward message about the Christian life: trust and obey. To her, this is the Christian life boiled down–simple, but immensely challenging. She constantly emphasizes the need to die to self (self-interest, self-awareness, self-promotion) and to trust all of life to the very One who made us, who loves us and who holds our future.

Culture today glorifies the opposite. It is completely self-concerned, self-aware and self-absorbed.  We constantly ask ourselves “How do I feel about that?” or “How does this affect me?” Ms. Elliot would remind us all that our feelings and experience constantly deceive us.  Instead, we must start with God and ask Him to help us think rightly.  We must continually seek the counsel of His Word- our Sourcebook and Guide. In it we find how to think about God and, by starting there, we are better able to interpret the world around us.

Ms. Elliot uses long forgotten words like temperance, piety, femininity and virtue- qualities she believes form the character of a Christian woman. I wonder, do we even know what these words mean anymore?  Books like Let Me Be a Woman and the Mark of a Man help us think about what it means to be a woman or man of God in a culture where gender roles are confused at best.

There was a time in my single life when I was in denial about my loneliness. When I finally faced that I was, indeed, lonely and needing encouragement from someone who understood this, her book The Path of Loneliness met me where I was and offered encouragement and a godly perspective to see that even my loneliness was a gift.  We all experience loneliness from time to time, married or not. She helped me see that the Lord was there with me as even He faced many lonely times during His mission on earth.

Please do yourself a favor and read Elisabeth Elliot, my friend and mentor. She is not always easy on the reader but I find time and time again it is exactly what I need to hear from a fellow pilgrim seeking to live for Jesus. Thank you Ms. Elliot for putting your thoughts on paper and pointing me again and again to my Savior. I’m forever indebted.

Your friend,  Courtney

{Archives from her newsletters (dating back to 1982) can be found here: elisabethelliot.org. Books are available on amazon.com. Some of her videos can also be found on youtube.com.}

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