remembering Elisabeth Elliott

Elisabeth Elliott – I read the notice of her death today with a mix of sadness and nostalgia.  That notice brought back memories – huddling with students reading Passion and Purity. Holed up in my bedroom reading Keep a Quiet Heart. Going with a group of friends to hear her speak at Elmbrook Church outside Milwaukee. Waiting for A Chance to Die to be in bookstores.

She ministered to me with her willingness to surrender all that she was and had to the Lord.  With a voice of a prophet, she could cut through all your arguments and bring you to the bottom line- Jesus is worthy of your trust, every day, every way, no matter what you’re going through.

I have never met her, but she was a mentor. She was a popular but challenging speaker in the early to mid 80s when I was a young campus staff.  Each time I heard her, I tucked away some nugget of truth, some treasure, to chew on and digest. I still have one cassette tape of the first message I heard her give at an Elmbrook Women’s Leadership weekend , titled “Learning to Know God.”  I can’t bear to part with it (I still have a tape player in my car)!

elisabeth elliott booksI would devour anything she published. I’ve read most of her books and given away more. I still have six of her books on my shelf – they are timeless.

  •  Passion and Purity: Bring your love life under Jesus Christ’s control
  • Discipline- the Glad Surrender
  • Keep a Quiet Heart
  • The Path of Loneliness
  • Shadow of the Almighty
  • The Savage: my kinsmen
  • A Chance to Die: the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael

Each book brought its own clear message at a time when it was most needed. Her book on loneliness came to me at a point when I needed to learn to offer even that as a gift, a sacrifice, to the Lord.

But probably my favorite is a small book called, These Strange Ashes.

The story is about her first year as a missionary before she married Jim Elliott.  It’s a story of hard work, under harder conditions, that produced the makings of a Bible translation.  It’s the story of how her suitcase containing the work flew off the top of the bus she was traveling on.  And these strange ashes, nothing was left of the work she had done for a year.  Oh, painful though it was, it was clear. The One she served would choose how He wanted to use it.

She showed me that you have gifts while God gives them to you.  And when He takes them away, you thank Him for giving it to you in the first place.  Though she had been married three times, she spent a good deal of time as a single woman.  She demonstrated that you can make no assumptions about how God will provide, how He will use you, or what the path ahead will bring–only that He will be faithful to you in that path.

She taught me that the Lord is the Lord. He can choose what He will use in your life.  He can choose whether it’s a burnt offering or something that will grow.  In either case, surrendering to His choice, out of His goodness, His love, His sovereignty, was the theme of her life.

At KC83, a student congress held in Kansas City in 1983, she said this,

Is what you are living for worth dying for? It better be, because you are dying for it one day at a time.

Thank you, Elisabeth, for a lifetime of a wholehearted yes to Jesus!

Thank you, Lord, for giving her to us for a time and using her to show us how to live.

Do you have a lesson from Elisabeth Elliott?  What influence has she had on you?

Posted in Following Jesus, Life Lesson | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

on suffering as a leadership development tool

“There’s nothing in our framework about the role of suffering in developing leaders.” My colleague spoke with conviction and urgency. “I take your point,” I said. I’d been considering where that truth would fit in our framework. It’s not like we can manufacture the suffering that God desires to use to shape a leader. What he was saying is important – that as leaders, we need to recognize the work that suffering does in our hearts, and embrace it.

Difficult circumstances make us look at what is really important. True suffering, not just the discomfort of inconvenience, always is a clarifying function. It makes us see what really matters. When you lose a loved one, most other things fade away. The ultimate reality of life and death are purifying.

In those moments, we can see what really matters.

And in those moments we can see ourselves.  We can see what is inside, the demands for comfort, the grasp for control, the protest– without illusions, without props.

“Suffering introduces you to yourself and reminds you that you are not the person that you thought you were.”         Paul Tillich

Romans 5 teaches us that suffering produces good results in us when we will choose to trust the Lord through them. Suffering leads to endurance and on to proven character, resulting in hope.

Staying the course as a leader requires endurance. God uses suffering to build endurance in our lives, in a similar way to athletes who build endurance by their training methods. In a sense, suffering is God’s training for our souls. It is His test for faithfulness to Him no matter what, and trustworthiness with His agenda. He builds our capacities through it.

Jeremiah, in chapter 12, lays out a kind of complaint about what is happening to him. He is being mistreated by those around him; his lament lays out his loneliness and discouragement. God responds to him with this beautiful rebuke.

fitnessjog morguefile“If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble[a] in safe country,
how will you manage in the thickets by[b] the Jordan?

His message to Jeremiah? You are fighting the small battles now. There are bigger ones coming.

God has a way of building the capacities of our souls through difficulty. As we see Him be faithful to us in small things, we have faith that He will stand by us and deliver us when things get tougher. He will always be faithful to His promises. The question is – will we believe Him when the going gets rough?

Posted in Developing people | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments