Elisabeth Elliot, Christian author, speaker passed away yesterday. But she always knew she was just passing through. Decades ago, she wrote a book called Through the Gates of Splendor . It is a book of courage. It is a story of tenacious and compassionate faith that moves people to serve Christ and go to the “ends of the earth” even if it means never coming back. It is a story of missionaries who love well, serve well, and do not cower and give in to pity regarding the pain and struggles in life.Through the Gates of Splendor is a book written by a woman whose courage, tenacity, and love of Christ compelled her to live a holy life both publicly and privately and to share her wisdom in a straightforward manner with women like me.
Elisabeth Elliot went through the deaths of 2 husbands- one a violent death when she was a young woman with a ten-month old baby. She was in Ecuador, lands away from the Eastern part of the United States. She grieved, stood her ground, and continued ministering to the people there, ultimately sharing the gospel with those who had taken the life of her husband. She went through a lot. But she knew that she was not alone. She states that when she learned of her husband, Jim Elliot’s death, the scripture that came to her mind was “When you pass through the waters, i will be with you.” (Isaiah 43:1) Boldly and humbly accepting with both hands what God had allowed in her life. She would say “Where He leads me I will follow, What He feeds me I will swallow.” I’m certain the quote was about a lot more than trying new foods on the mission field. Another quote that I have so held on to through the years is, “In acceptance lies peace.” Her focus was not on herself and her needs, but on serving Christ. Period. God used her mightily as she trusted Him to lead her through whatever circumstance He allowed. He used her mightily on the mission field. He used her mightily in the comforts of her own home as she shared her wisdom, stories, and insights on the radio with women like me for so many years.
As a young mom, I would so look forward to hearing her words. She always came on the radio during my children’s nap time. In my early “mom” days, I had up to 3 sleeping preschoolers along with a nursing baby. (We had 6 children by the time my oldest was 8 years old….Life was full, to say the least!) Knowing that Elisabeth Elliot was coming on the radio for 15 minutes was motivation for me to ensure that the children were fed and in their beds for napping well before the time when she came on the radio, because I intrinsically knew that I needed her wisdom. I so appreciated her straightforward but caring way of saying it like it is. She didn’t sugarcoat the gospel. There’s a cost for serving Christ. She didn’t sugarcoat or blur the lines of what it means to me a woman. She knew that life was not easy but did not make excuses for laziness or watering down the Word of God. She knew the Word through and through, for it was the foundation that had led her through so much of her life.
I can remember her saying things like “pick up the socks.” In a world that was demanding equality between men and women and was making constant cries of women not being “subservient” to men, Elisabeth Elliot had the wisdom and courage to know that in a Christian marriage, it is all about being subservient… to each other. That a woman who picks up the sock? Well, she may help motivate her husband to love well more than a woman who nags and whines about the sock. I can remember many internal debates I had with this Godly woman as I sought to find my way through the words of the world to the ways of scripture, and it wasn’t always an easy or pretty process. But her wisdom helped me through so much.
I could literally write a book on the way that her words impacted me, both as a college student at Urbana Mission Conference in 1984, and as a young mom listening to her on the radio on a daily basis. Now as an older woman with grown children, I am so thankful for the beauty of the way she lived her life. I have missed her on the radio, but was aware that she had her own battles with dementia…another life struggle that she was not immune to, but lived through. Through.
In a world that screams “I’M THROUGH” when times get tough, Elisabeth Elliot was a strong voice of conviction that cut through the ridiculous self-centered ideologies and called Christians to walk THROUGH life’s challenges with courage knowing that it is so not about us, because we are all just passing THROUGH. Passing through.
Passing through ….to? TO the Gates of Splendor. To the Full-on Presence of God. To the eternal Presence of God. To the Place and Person that we were created to Serve and Worship and Adore. This life can be lived with courage when we know that no matter what we go through, we are all just passing through. I am thankful for the beautiful convictions that this Godly woman shared and for the way she has helped women like me to become more tenacious in our faith as we cling to the hope that only comes through Christ, no matter what we must endure or go through.
Elisabeth Elliot’s life here has ended, but so not her influence. I cannot imagine what it is like to pass through the gates of splendor, but it just brings a smile to my face to picture what must be on the other side. She lived through so much with hope because she knew that it wasn’t the end of the story. I love this quote by her, “Of one thing I am perfectly sure ~ God’s story does not end in ashes.” Knowing that allows us to walk through our struggles, our ‘valleys of the shadow’, with hope, heart, and conviction.
One more thing. As I said earlier, I did have a few little debates with this Godly woman over the years. (She always won, by the way!) But one of my little tiffs with her was that she ended the radio program with a scripture that said, “The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. ” (Deuteronomy 33:27) I can remember wondering why that was the scripture she chose. As a young woman I can remember thinking there must be a better scripture she could end with. But as an older woman? It is now one of my favorite verses that I cling to on a daily basis. Why? Because of what I have been through. I have seen life come crashing down in so many areas that I could not hold up on my own…but…..”BUT…..UNDERNEATH are the EVERLASTING ARMS”. When everything falls apart, underneath are the everlasting arms. When there is nothing and no one to hold on to, He helps us THROUGH because ‘underneath are the everlasting arms.’ Elisabeth Elliot knew that, well. And now? Now, I know that too.
May His amazing love for you and me en-courage us to love well with conviction, stand firm, and walk through whatever His grace allows into our lives. For our God? Our God will walk through it all with us. For the Eternal God is our Refuge and Underneath are the Everlasting Arms. (Deut. 33:27) And like this precious woman of faith, we are all just passing through.
“We are women, and my plea is Let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands and with all my heart whatever that is”
~ Elisabeth Elliot, December 21, 1926-June 15, 2015
“Of one thing I am perfectly sure – God’s story does not end in ashes.”
~ Elisabeth Elliot
Photo taken in Cemetery at Beaver Dam Baptist Church, Shelby, NC