Somehow, and I’m not quite sure how, I had gone more than 22 years without reading a single book by Elisabeth Elliot. In the last three weeks, I’ve read two. The Lord has spoken to me abundantly through her writings. My next few posts, Lord willing, shall tell of what I have gleaned.
First, a quick recap of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot’s story: They met in college, but both felt led to missions on differing continents. Even after falling in love with one another, it was five more years before they felt the Lord’s leading to marry, to act on those feelings. Throughout those 5 years, they corresponded a good bit and this is an excerpt from one of Jim’s letters to Elisabeth.
He speaks of the sense of loss they feel at not being together. He first shares how this loss is well worth bearing if it leads to the saving of souls and makes reference to a quote from Amy Carmichael which states “If Thy dear home be fuller, Lord, because a little emptier my house on earth, what rich reward!” But then he says that there must also be the realization that they have actually lost nothing. This is the part which most ministered to my heart in my current season. It also reminds me of another well-loved Jim Elliot quote which states “Wherever you are, be all there.”
“Your ‘sense of loss’ at our not being able to share things these past few months is not new to me. I know it, and often tell Him about it. And such thoughts as ‘If they dear home be fuller, Lord…’ are a consolation. And then the realistic facing of non-accomplishment comes to me and crushes to silence all telling. For if, really, we have denied ourselves to and from each other for His sake, then should we not expect to see about us the profit of such denial? And this I look vainly for. It comes to this: I am a single man for the kingdom’s sake, its more rapid advance, its more potent realization in my own life. But where is that advance and that realization? I am willing that ‘my house on earth be emptier,’ but not unless ‘His house be fuller.’ And I think it right that we hold God to his bargain. I err, of course, in making visible results of our separation the final test, and, in truth, rejoice in seeing beyond results which are obvious. But I reason thus that I should be more importunate in prayer, more dogged in devotion, and should not get, as you say, to a ‘weary acceptance of things as they are.’
Besides this, there is the somewhat philosophical realization that actually I have lost nothing. We may imagine what it would be like to share a given event and feel loss at having to experience it alone. But let us not forget-that loss is imagined, not real. I imagine peaks of enjoyment when I think of doing things together, but let not the hoping for it dull the doing of it alone. What is, is actual-what might be simply is not, and I must not therefore query God as thought He robbed me-of things that are not. Further, the things that are, belong to us, and they are good, God given, and enriched. Let not out longing slay the appetite of our living. It is true that our youth is fast fleeting, and I know the rush of wants, the perfect fury of desire which such a thought summons. All that it involves-this getting on to thirty-brings a push of hurry and a surge of “possible” regrets over the soul. And, Betty, this is just exactly what we have bargained for. Obedience involves for us, not physical suffering, perhaps, nor social ostracism as it has for some, but this warring with worries and regrets, this bringing into captivity our thoughts. We have planted (in our integrity) the banner of our trust in God. The consequences are His responsibility.
My Sovereign God,
Let not the hoping for it dull the doing of it alone…
Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living…
How these words both comfort and convict my soul. I long to be where you will, doing what you will. Bring my thoughts into captivity. Use me, mold me, shape me. Put to death my pride, my independence. Put to death the idols that I have made out of security, protection, and stability. Make me more like Christ….cause all of me to say with Him and with full joy “Not as I will, but as you will,” for too is my spirit willing, and yet my flesh weak.