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1926 - 2015
The ministry of Set Apart Girl® has been greatly impacted by Elisabeth Elliot’s life. We will dearly miss her. As a tribute to this heroine of the faith, we’d like to share a few ways that Elisabeth Elliot’s example has inspired us each along the narrow way of the Cross.
I remember reading a book preface by Elisabeth Elliot, in which she commented that few women had more of an influence upon her life than Amy Carmichael (a missionary to India in the early 1900’s). As we say goodbye to this amazing woman of God, I can echo those same words about her — there are few women who have had more impact upon my life than Elisabeth Elliot. In a world where Christian femininity is often shallow and self-promoting, Elisabeth Elliot’s humble yet no-nonsense approach to Truth has greatly shaped and influenced both my ministry direction and my personal relationship with God.
When I was a young bride-to-be, Elisabeth’s honest and challenging message about keeping Christ at the center of a relationship was a big part of my unfolding love story with Eric and the decisions that we made. When I was first starting out in ministry, Elisabeth’s unwavering, straightforward, uncompromising challenge to the modern church was refreshing, convicting, and inspiring. Her timely reminders and exhortations cut through cultural fog and pulled my gaze back to Jesus Christ. In recent years, her books on Christ-centered family and godly discipline strengthened and encouraged me tremendously.
I can honestly say that I have become much more bold to speak truth clearly and unashamedly because of Elisabeth Elliot’s example. I always deeply admired her continual focus on Jesus Christ, her reverence for the Word of God, and her uncompromising stand for purity in the Body of Christ. She understood that the Christian life means taking up your cross and following Him, and she challenged believers to live out that command in every practical area of their lives. Each time I pick up an Elisabeth Elliot book or read one of her quotes, it presses me more and more toward a Christ-centered existence.
Closing my eyes, I can still vividly remember evenings in Haiti when the sweltering air laid upon my skin like a heavy, uncomfortable blanket. After many hot, exhausting days, my fellow missionary and I would end up at the kitchen table listening to recordings of Elisabeth Elliot talk about love, sacrifice, trials, obedience, and surrender. During my nearly three years in Haiti, these times of listening to Elisabeth left us wonderfully strengthened, and in every message there was an essential testimony of her unwavering trust in God — in His authority, love, grace, and faithfulness.
Elisabeth once said that we must “live and serve free from fear.” This strength was so powerfully evidenced in her life: a long wait for marriage, surrendering the man she loved, complications on the mission field, enduring the death of her husband Jim and then returning to take the Gospel to the very people who had killed him, living in the jungle, and countless other examples that testify to a supernatural strength, courage, and peace. Her secret was to look past feelings of fear and set her mind upon all that God was and had promised. She built her life upon that reality.
Though I never met her face to face, Elisabeth Elliot Gren has left a lasting impact upon my life. She lived and opened her mouth so that Jesus would be known, glorified, loved, and followed. I’m deeply thankful to have learned from this faithful, radiant woman of God to rest my confidence and faith entirely upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and that no matter the situation or circumstance I come up against, it will never change the glorious reality of our great Savior and that His way is always worth it.
Passion and Purity has been my go-to Elisabeth Elliot title over the past several years: my own copy bearing worn edges, a broken spine with loose pages, and black ink in the margins. Not only have I turned to this book countless times for doses of truth pertaining to a surrendered love life, but also to be refreshed in what it looks like to live a life fully given to Christ.
“The love life of a Christian is a crucial battleground. There, if nowhere else, it will be determined as to who is Lord: the world, the self and the devil, or the Lord Christ.” This is precisely what Elisabeth Elliot’s teachings on love relationships boil down to: the worthy Lordship of Christ over all.
Elisabeth’s love story with Jim Elliot, which she shares in Passion and Purity, not only paints a picture of a pure and beautiful Heaven-born love, but also of lives that were so joyfully and radically abandoned to Christ that even romantic intentions and desires could not pull them away from His purposes. Jim and Elisabeth waited five long, heart-wrenching years for God to clearly reveal His will in their relationship and ultimately bring them together in marriage. We can’t help but sense a deeper conviction of Christ’s rightful position of Lord over every area of our lives when we observe Jim and Elisabeth Elliot’s example.
When I first read their love story it inspired me to yield mine to Christ. And it has been Elisabeth Elliot’s messages and writings on Christ-honoring relationships that have greatly shaped my own resolution to wait upon God, settling for nothing less than a love story that is arranged by His fatherly hand. Because God truly was the sponsor of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot’s relationship, even today, more than half a decade later, their testimony of patient, enduring love is still influencing lives for Jesus Christ. What could possibly be a greater honor or higher purpose of an earthly love story than to see souls drawn to Christ through it?
When Elisabeth spoke about mission work, she made something very clear: following Christ leads to a cross. To be a missionary, an individual MUST deny themselves, MUST take up their cross, and MUST follow Christ. These words of hers carry weight, not only because they are biblically grounded, but also because they are a reflection of the way she lived her life, specifically in her interaction with the Auca Indians.
January 8th, 1956. That is the day that the Aucas killed her husband and four other missionaries, leaving five widows in the jungles of Ecuador. Though I am sure the searing pain of loss must have been heart-rending, Elisabeth later said, “I prayed what seemed to be a rather ridiculous prayer at the time. I said, ‘Lord if there is anything you want me to do about the Aucas here I am, do whatever you want with me.’” That statement shows a heart that was fully surrendered to Christ — one who was living for His glory, rather than personal comfort, pleasure, or enjoyment.
The Lord granted that request. On October 8th, 1958, exactly thirty-three months after the fateful day when Jim Elliot was killed, Elisabeth and her three-year-old daughter Valerie entered the Auca tribe. Now, there could have been temptation to storm in with lingering bitterness, or even to enter with an air of superiority. That wasn’t Elisabeth’s attitude. Rather, she showed the tribe the same humility that Christ showed in Philippians 2:5-7, coming to serve those who had sinned against her. She probably would have been quick to tell you that it wasn’t always easy! Learning to catch fish with her hands, teaching her fingers the nimble art of hammock making, being deemed unintelligent for not understanding the language, and eating the odd things that were put in front of her must have been a challenge! Yet I am so encouraged by her example that she set by continually looking to Christ for satisfaction. She lived her life for His glory and approval, rather than the validation of others.
If you listen to Elisabeth Elliot’s messages or read her books, it doesn’t take long to notice that she was not one to beat around the bush when it came to truth. But rather than being harsh, her words were infused with the love of Jesus. In fact, it was her love for the Lord and love for others that motivated her bold stance on truth. Her life was dedicated to seeing others come to the knowledge of the truth that God might be glorified in and through many lives.
I was surprised to hear, by her own admission, that she was painfully shy growing up. But when she went to boarding school at fourteen, she was confronted by the headmaster and mistress of the school about her shyness. They told her it was a sin. She said she had never seen it as sin before and was very shaken up by it. But, as she said, it turned out to be a “blessed discipline.” She was willing to allow truth spoken by others to impact and change her own life so that she would be conformed more to the image of her Savior.
Through the course of her life, as she put aside her own comfort and the fear of man, the Lord used her in incredible ways, making her one of the most influential Christian women in history. As she heeded those who spoke truth to her, she was being readied to be one who would likewise boldly proclaim truth, and impact many for eternity.
God’s grace was overwhelmingly displayed in her life as she walked in obedience to Him. I am so thankful for the example of this faithful woman!
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