“Encouragement comes to me from many different sources, and I would like to be able to pass some of it on to others,” reflected Elisabeth Elliot in her first newsletter, penned in the winter of 1982.
In the 21 years that followed Elliot would share stories, encouragement, and struggles with her readers—providing a glance at a heart that was, at the same time, captured and challenged by Christ. In a series on why Christians suffer she wrote:
The last newsletter told of my mother’s [cranial surgery]. I spent Thanksgiving weekend with her in the hospital. It was hard to see her thin, weak, and disoriented—she whom I think of as quick-witted and alive.
My psalm for the day was the sixty-third. I told myself that I must not dwell on things seen, but on things unseen…. When I went to see her later that morning, I read her the passages. I asked for reasons for thanksgiving she could think of, and she came up with quite a long list.
The Lord was there. I was sure of it, and I was strengthened. I think she was too.
Following her husband Jim Elliot’s slaughter by the indigenous tribe the two served as missionaries, Elliot invested her life not only in Christian ministry, but in returning to the tribe to know and serve them.
Though her story is one of inner strength and fortitude, it is also one of inner quietness and responsiveness. Elliot was, in every respect of the word, observant; listening and engaging with what she understood God doing in and around her—in life’s most trying moments as well as its daily frustrations. She explains:
Jesus slept on a pillow in the midst of a raging storm. How could he? The terrified disciples sure that the next wave would send them straight to the bottom shook him awake with rebuke.
He slept in the calm assurance that his father was in control. His was a quiet heart.
Purity of heart, said Kierkegaard, is to will one thing. The son willed only one thing: the will of his father. That’s what he came to earth to do. Nothing else.
A quiet heart is content with what God gives. It is enough. All is grace.
One morning my computer simply would not obey me. What a nuisance. I had my work laid out, my timing figured, my mind all set. My work was delayed, my timing thrown off, my thinking interrupted.
Then I remembered. It was not for nothing. All is under my father’s control—yes, recalcitrant computers, faulty transmissions, drawbridges which happen to be up when one is in a hurry. My portion. My cup. My lot is secure. My heart can be at peace. My father is in charge. How simple!
Response is what matters.
Elliot’s writings are profound in their honesty and simplicity. Above all, she connects faith to daily life—in both its banality and brutality. The source and hope is the same. She reminds:
Whatever may be troubling you at this moment is not new to the Lord Jesus. He is not taken by surprise. He is the same—in a prison cell in World War II and in the midst of your dilemma. It is no dilemma to Him. He is not going to leave you.
Weekend Reading List
- Celebrating Elisabeth Elliot’s Life: A Pioneer and Prayer Warrior. Jan Wismer for Today’s Christian Woman (Christianity Today).
- A Quiet Heart. Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter, March/April 1995.
- How to Simplify Your Life. Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter, January/February 2000.
- Suffering and Joy. Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter, March/April 1998.
- What the Savages Taught Me. Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter, July/August 2003.
- The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter Archive. Arranged by date, key topics noted.