Just this morning, Elisabeth Elliot passed through the “gates of splendor” into glory. She has been one of my heroes of the faith for almost 40 years. I first read her first book, Through Gates of Splendor, in college. It tells how her husband and five other men with their families came as missionaries to Ecuador and were burdened to reach a tribe of killers known then as the Aucas, now as the Waorani. The men devised ways to reach out to them, and then to meet them, and although the reception seemed friendly, later all five men were speared to death. Later Elisabeth, her young daughter Valerie, and Rachel Saint, sister to one of the slain men, were invited to go live with the Aucas, and many of them became believers in Christ as Savior and laid down their spears.
That book started me on a lifetime of reading missionary books and reading Elisabeth Elliot. Her commitment to simply reading the Bible, obeying it, and trusting God no matter what the circumstances were an inspiration.You know, it shouldn’t be: that should be normal Christian life for all believers. But sometimes having someone go before us and call back that though sometimes He calls us to go through deep waters and dark valleys, it’s ok, because He is with us, someone who knows those dark valleys by experience…well, there’s just nothing like it.
Besides her commitment to God and His Word, her views of what it means to be a Christian woman shaped my own thinking. Let Me Be a Woman was pivotal for me. The Shaping of a Christian Family influenced my own, Keep a Quiet Heart kept my focus where it needed to be. A Path Through Suffering was one of the books that helped me wrestle through questions on that subject. On Asking God Why was another favorite. The first chapter of The Savage My Kinsman, in which she talks about going on as a widow and quotes William Cullen Bryant’s poem “To a Waterfowl” has endeared that poem to me forever, especially the line: “He, who, from zone to zone, Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, In the long way that I must tread alone, Will lead my steps aright.” Back to the Bible used to send out daily e-mail devotionals taken from her books: I think I have kept a copy of most of them.
Just a few of my favorites of her quotes:
Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.
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.
Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.
This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.
Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.
The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.
To me, a lady is not frilly, flouncy, flippant, frivolous and fluff-brained, but she is gentle, she is gracious, she is godly and she is giving. You and I have the gift of femininity… the more womanly we are, the more manly men will be and the more God is glorified. Be women, be only women, be real women in obedience to God.
How can this person who so annoys or offends me be God’s messenger? Is God so unkind as to send that sort across my path? Insofar as his treatment of me requires more kindness than I can find in my own heart, demands love of a quality I do not possess, asks of me patience which only the Spirit of God can produce in me, he is God’s messenger. God sends him in order that he may send me running to God for help.
Leave it all in the Hands that were wounded for you.
This video shows a few clips from the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor (which I encourage you to see if you ever have a chance):
World Magazine reported in an article just last year that she “handled dementia just as she did the deaths of her husbands. ‘She accepted those things, [knowing] they were no surprise to God,’ Gren said. ‘It was something she would rather not have experienced, but she received it.'”
I was sorry to hear she passed away this morning. We’ve lost one of the greatest lights of the Christian world here, but I’m happy that now she is beyond the reach of dementia and old age. I pray for comfort for her family and the many who will miss her influence. May we each shine His light faithfully in the sphere of influence He gives us.
I am sure many articles and blog posts will be popping up about her over the next few days, but two I’ve read so far are:
From The Gospel Coalition: Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015)
From Christianity Today: Missionary Pioneer Elisabeth Elliot Passes Through Gates of Splendor
From John Piper (love how he captures some of her personality): Peaches in Paradise.
From Nancy Leigh DeMoss: She Trusted and She Obeyed.