Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Woman of Purpose {Elisabeth Elliot}

 


One of the greatest means the Lord has used in my life to excite me about the things of God (apart from His Word!) has been reading or hearing the stories of faithful Christians who've gone on before me. Every now and again I will be posting stories of different Christian women from the past and present- women who have lived lives of purpose for the Lord, so that we may be encouraged by their faithful examples! 

Ever since reading her book Passion and Purity as a teenager, Elisabeth Elliot has been a hero of the faith to me.

This courageous lady fell in love with her future husband during her college years, but waited five uncertain years for their union. Although they both cared for each other and knew it, they weren't sure of the Lord's leading in their lives, and whether they'd been called to serve Him together or apart.


So instead of wasting away as a lady in waiting, Elisabeth hastened after the Lord in diligent obedience. She learned Spanish, raised support, and went off to Ecuador as a missionary. Jim did the same, though they ended up in different parts of the country.

At just under thirty in the 1950's, Elisabeth was teetering over the border of "old maid." However, eventually the Lord did see fit to bring them together. Their immense enjoyment of married life could only have been heightened by five long years of separation and waiting!

Three years later, they had a little daughter. They were working for their Savior, blessed by a great team of coworkers, and relishing all of God's goodness to them. Life was {basically} bliss.

Darkness fell, and their sweet family life was shattered when Jim was murdered by the Auca Indians he was trying to evangelize.

What did Elisabeth do? If it were me, I'm afraid I'd pack my bags in a jiffy and run to the familiarity and comforts of home, family, and friends. I might bawl my eyes out, collapse, and shrink into my shell of cherished dreams lost forever.

Elisabeth stayed. She continued to serve and work hard, and one day lived among the very people who had killed her Jim. She loved them and poured out her life into them, and saw many of them come into Christ's kingdom. Her treasure was in heaven.

 Years (and I mean years) down the road, Elisabeth fell in love again. This time God called her to walk with a man through his painful bout with cancer. Her second marriage lasted only four years before Addison's life was claimed by the disease.


Four years later, she met and married Lars Gren.I'm happy to tell you that they are still married today, 35 years later. Now it is her husband who cares for her in failing health and old age.

Add dozens of books and hundreds of articles written, speaking engagements and radio work, and Elisabeth has led a very full, rich life. A life that has blessed, challenged and inspired the multitudes.

I admire Elisabeth for many reasons- she stood firm in the Lord, joyfully trusting Him and serving others through:
  • A five year waiting period for the man she loved (Think: she waited to marry Jim longer then she was actually married to him. That could have surely caused a heap of bitterness!)
  • Widowhood (twice!)
  • Single Parenting (no picnic)
  • Singleness for most of her adult life (when clearly the lady liked being married)
  • Living in a foreign country, far from any family member, despite culture shock and other challenges

Personal pains led her to meet the needs of others. There was no time in her day for pity parties. “Do you often feel like parched ground, unable to produce anything worthwhile? I do. When I am in need of refreshment, it isn't easy to think of the needs of others. But I have found that if, instead of praying for my own comfort and satisfaction, I ask the Lord to enable me to give to others, an amazing thing often happens - I find my own needs wonderfully met. Refreshment comes in ways I would never have thought of, both for others, and then, incidentally, for myself.”

  How did Elisabeth manage to thrive spiritually when her life circumstances were so difficult and painful? “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances" (Keep a Quiet Heart).


Elisabeth Elliot gives hope to all of us- everyone experiences pain this side of eternity, varied as the pains may be from person to person. Yet she affirmed that God has a purpose in all of our pains. "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."

If you've never read one of the many volumes written by this Woman of Purpose, I cannot recommend them to you highly enough. Some of my favorites include: Keep a Quiet Heart, Let Me Be A Woman, Passion and Purity, Through Gates of Splendor, Discipline: The Glad Surrender, and A Chance to Die (her biography of Amy Carmichael, one of her personal heroes of the faith). I hope to read, Lord willing, The Shaping of a Christian Family: How My Parents Nurtured My Faith in the new year.

Have you read much by or about Elisabeth Elliot? What quote, aspect of her life, or book, has influenced your thinking the most as a Christian woman?

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