Elisabeth Elliot has passed into glory. She was a missionary, mother, wife, author, speaker and a child of God. Elisabeth was one of whom “the world was not worthy”(Hebrews 11:38). To be completely honest, I can’t fully process the fact that she is gone. In this topsy turvy world Elisabeth remained a sensible and solid voice of wisdom. In the masses of people tossed to and fro, chasing vain pursuits, Elisabeth stood as a pillar of uncompromised truth. Elisabeth didn’t say what was popular to be liked by the general public. Elisabeth didn’t cower or shrink back in face of the opinions of man. She was smart, educated, witty, and blunt. She spoke truth, even when it was uncomfortable for others to hear.
I read her book, Passion and Purity as a freshman in college. I could say it was a book about romance, but it was truly a book about sacrifice. It was the story of her courtship with fellow Wheaton college student Jim Elliot. I believe it was the first time I truly learned that a Christian woman didn’t have to chase or pursue a man. Through Elisabeth’s story, I saw a young woman waiting on God to answer her prayers for romance. I saw a strong follower of Christ continuing to seek God even when her emotions distracted her. Elisabeth laid down her desires to be with Jim before God’s throne of grace. It’s a crazy love story of highs and lows, periods of silence between them, times of testing and ultimately a marriage. Passion and Purity and all it contained is such a counter cultural book for me. It instructed me to deny my feelings and desires to put God’s will for my life above all else. Elisabeth showed me that Christ and his love was more important than the love of any man.
I was a boy crazy girl who thought fulfillment would surely come in the arms of a man. I was obsessed with romance movies and chick flicks. I was infatuated with infatuation and had a string of crushes since the age of 9. Yet when I read Elisabeth’s book, I wanted something more. Elisabeth and Jim moved to Ecuador, married and had a daughter together. Shortly after they married Jim was killed on an outreach to the Auca Indian tribe. It was a crushing end to what seemed like a fairytale story. Girl loves God. Girl prays for husband. Girl marries the one. The one dies a violent death. It wasn’t supposed to end that way. Is that how God repays the one’s he loves? What about all of her waiting? What about all of her prayers? What about the handsome man who filled her life with adventure and love letters? If she ever had a chance to be offended at God, it was then. Yet instead of being angry at God, Elisabeth chose love. She chose to go to the very people that murdered her husband Jim and share the good news of Christ’s love with them. Elisabeth and a few other wives who’d lost their husbands were the first ones to reach the tribe. To this day, descendants of the Auca tribe love Jesus because of the witness of these women.
Elisabeth taught me that love and life aren’t always fair. We will walk through suffering and we will endure waiting as children of God. It’s not a pleasant feel good message but it’s true. Oh how we need that truth in this hour. It doesn’t have to feel good, life won’t always make us happy, suffering is a valuable part of our existence. Oh, how I needed that truth as a naïve and idealistic college freshman. When I read that book, I never imagined I would spend the next 10 years without a romantic interest or even a date. I never thought I would spent the entire decade of my twenties single. It was a long and painful waiting period but it was one Elisabeth prepared me for. She prepared me by helping me to see that the prize I was waiting for was not an earthly husband. I knew if God answered my prayers and brought me a husband, I would be overjoyed. Yet, Elisabeth helped me to see that the greatest prize was to know God. To know God in moments of joy, to know him in times of suffering, to be with him in good times or bad, rich or poor, in sickness and in health.
Elisabeth, I am glad that you are in heaven. Yet a part of me wishes you were here with us right now. I wish that you could teach our generation about perseverance, holiness, modesty, sacrifice, selflessness, courage. You are a true model of womanhood. How we need your example in our day. You’ve run the race, you’ve finished your journey and you’ve gotten the crown. In a way you are still here with us, because you’ve left behind your words and your stories. They will be with us for generations to come. Thank you for being a voice.