At 6:15 this morning, Elisabeth Elliot died. It is a blunt sentence for a blunt woman. This is near the top of why I felt such an affection and admiration for her.
Blunt—not ungracious, not impetuous, not snappy or gruff. But direct, unsentimental, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, no whining allowed. Just pull your britches on and go die for Jesus—like Mary Slessor and Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael and Gertrude Ras Egede and Eleanor Macomber and Lottie Moon and Roslind Goforth and Malla Moe, to name a few whom she admired.
Her first husband, Jim Elliot, was one of the five missionaries speared to death by the Huaorani Indians in Ecuador in 1956. Elisabeth immortalized that moment in mission history with three books, Through Gates of Splendor, Shadow of the Almighty and The Savage My Kinsman, and established her voice for the cause of Christian missions and Christian womanhood and Christian purity in more than 20 other books, and 40 years of hard-hitting conference speaking.
She was not just gutsy with her words. Their daughter was 10 months old when Jim was killed. Elisabeth stayed on, working at first with the Quichua, but then, astonishingly, for two more years with the very tribe that had speared her husband.
In July 1997, I wrote this in my journal:
This morning, as I jogged and listened to a message by Elisabeth Elliot which she had given in Kansas City, I was deeply moved concerning my own inability to suffer magnanimously and without pouting. She was vintage Elliot and the message was the same as ever: Don’t get in touch with your feelings, submit radically to God, and do what is right no matter what. Put your love life on the altar and keep it there until God takes it off. Suffering is normal. Have you no scars, no wounds, with Jesus on the Calvary road?
Just like Jesus, and Jim Elliot, she called young people to come and die. Sacrifice and suffering were woven through her writing and speaking like a scarlet thread. She was not a romantic about missions. She disliked very much the sentimentalizing of discipleship.
We all know that missionaries don’t go, they “go forth,” they don’t walk, they “tread the burning sands,” they don’t die, they “lay down their lives.” But the work gets done even if it is sentimentalized! (The Gatekeeper)
The thread of suffering was not just woven through her words, but through her relationships. Not only did she lose her first husband to a violent death three years after they were married; she also lost her second husband, Addison Leitch, four years after her remarriage.