Elisabeth Elliot. Challenging. Authentic. Wise. Gifted. Fearless. Strong. Passionate. Compelling. Faith-filled. These adjectives barely begin to describe the beloved missionary and author who, for over 60 years, made a significant impact through the astounding stories of her life and experience of losing two husbands.
Early in the morning of June 15, 2015, this much-loved Christian pioneer and missionary, went home to be with her Savior. In that twinkling-of-an-eye her lifelong passion and rugged obedience saw their fulfillment in Christ’s presence, and I am overjoyed for her!
But on the other hand, here I sit saying a goodbye with tears streaming from my eyes to one of my most dear friends and mentors. I cannot fully express her influence on me.
Many of us became acquainted with Elisabeth Elliot through her story and work with the Auca Indians. In the 80s as a new believer, I read Through Gates of Splendor, The Shadow of the Almighty, and The Savage My Kinsman and learned what sacrifice, commitment, radical obedience really looked like. Young Jim and Elisabeth gave me a skin-on, flesh-and-blood example of people in my generation who were willing to give their all to Jesus.
Jim was so committed to sharing Christ’s love he told Elisabeth (he called her Betty) he had decided never to marry. Somehow in God’s economy, though, finding the right woman changed all that. After years of friendship with her, he realized that her longing to serve God was as deep as his, and so they married, eager for a lifetime of ministry together.
It seemed God’s plans were stopped when Jim was murdered on that beach in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle by the Indians along with 4 other dedicated young men trying to reach them for Christ. Still, Elisabeth accepted it as God’s will for her and their 10 month old daughter Valerie. Widowhood arrived only 3 years into their marriage.
What Elisabeth Elliot did next was something others thought foolhardy or crazy, even unthinkable.
Focused on continuing the work her husband had barely begun, she took little Valerie and left for the same tribe that speared her husband Jim. This riveting story has been told in books, magazines (LIFE, Reader’s Digest-August, 1956), and through a feature film.
I can’t imagine Elisabeth was anything but terrified as she and her little girl made their way through that dense, remote jungle in Ecuador. She wanted not only to see where her husband died, but she wanted to meet the men who killed him. But she reported to experiencing no fear! With her she took two invaluable things: an unshakable belief in the sovereign God and her camera.
Elisabeth and her daughter Valerie eventually lived and loved the tribe that speared her husband. Her life painted a picture of forgiveness to the world.
Her incredible wisdom was forged by the costly journey through great pain in this life, and now we have the benefit of gleaning rich nuggets of truth from her experiences. What great evidence that God still uses all we walk through in this world for greater purposes and good – so much more than we could possibly ever imagine.
Themes that permeate the writings of Elisabeth Elliot are those truths we still need reminded of in our world today – God’s all-encompassing love, contentment, finding joy in the midst of sorrow, faith, courage, and hope.
Quotable Elisabeth Elliot
“We are not meant to die merely in order to be dead. God could not want that for the creatures to whom He has given the breath of life. We die in order to live.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control
“The routines of housework and of mothering may be seen as a kind of death, and it is appropriate that they should be, for they offer the chance, day after day, to lay down one’s life for others. Then they are no longer routines. By being done with love and offered up to God with praise, they are thereby hallowed as the vessels of the tabernacle were hallowed–not because they were different from other vessels in quality or function, but because they were offered to God. A mother’s part in sustaining the life of her children and making it pleasant and comfortable is no triviality. It calls for self-sacrifice and humility, but it is the route, as was the humiliation of Jesus, to glory.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman
“The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
“When obedience to God contradicts what I think will give me pleasure, let me ask myself if I love him.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
“I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
“To those of us who are not theologians, does it matter whether a thing is ordained or merely allowed? Are events that seem out of control caused by God? Or does He allow them to occur at the hands of human beings? You can spend a lot of time pondering that one and end up pretty much where you started. In either case, the purpose remains the same – our sanctification. God is in the business of making us walking, breathing examples of the invisible reality of the presence of Christ in us.” ~Elisabeth Elliot, Be Still My Soul
“You can never lose what you have offered to Christ.” ~Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart
“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
“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ‘ashes’.” ~Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes
“The Word of God I think of as a straight edge, which shows up our own crookedness. We can’t really tell how crooked our thinking is until we line it up with the straight edge of Scripture.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
“Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
“…my plea is let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands and with all my heart whatever that is.” ~Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman
“When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!” ~Jim Elliot in Elisabeth’s The Journals of Jim Elliot
“Women still dream and hope, pin their emotions on some man who doesn’t reciprocate, and end up in confusion.” ~Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot’s words in Elisabeth’s The Journals of Jim Elliot
“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — “severe mercies” at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.” ~Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes
“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.” ~Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart
“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
“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
“Worship is not an experience. Worship is an act, and this takes discipline. We are to worship ”in spirit and in truth.” Never mind about the feelings. We are to worship in spite of them.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman
“There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
“Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and He gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we had only leisure. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot in Discipline: The Glad Surrender
(source) Daughter Valerie and Elisabeth Elliot in her later years and with the Auca Indians
Elisabeth’s Wonderful Books
Alongside my very favorite Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Rose are Elisabeth’s books. They’ve been immensely foundational for me as a young Christian woman, wife, and mother. Always drawing from her rich personal experiences, she makes difficult biblical concepts come alive with clarity and grace.
If I were to chose one to recommend to bolster the heart of a wife or mother, it would be Let Me Be a Woman.
You Can Still Listen To Elisabeth’s Teaching
You can still listen to EE‘s radio program which ran for 13 years. BBN shares a new audio teaching every day! She never once failed to challenge me in my faith. Her signature line was, “…and underneath are the everlasting arms…” (Deut. 33: 27).
“‘For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant”‘ ~Matthew 25: 14-21