The passing earlier this month of Christian author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot caused me to stop and reflect on how much we need women of strong and uncompromising faith who will model the love of Jesus in the midst of adversity and challenging circumstances. Elisabeth’s story is so incredibly inspiring because she spent her life doing just that.
In 1956 Elisabeth suddenly found herself a young widow with a ten-month-old daughter after her missionary husband, Jim Elliot, and four of his colleagues were killed in the jungles of Ecuador by members of a fierce tribe they were trying to reach with the gospel. While she could easily have turned inward and grown bitter over her loss, instead Elisabeth continued with her own missions work in Ecuador, befriending two women from the tribe. Three years after the tragedy Elisabeth went back to continue the outreach initiated by the five men, spending two years living and ministering among the people responsible for killing her husband. Her love and devotion to her Savior, and her choice to love those she might have hated, helped to turn many in that tribe to faith in Christ. What an awesome testimony!
For nearly fifty years after her husband Jim’s death, through her writing, speaking, and a daily radio program, Elisabeth encouraged believers — especially women — to lift their gaze above disappointment, heartache, tragedy, fear, and the daily challenges of life, and to make loving Jesus and serving others their priorities. Those who knew her personally or through her ministry confirmed that her sole life purpose was to set her heart on “things above” (Colossians 3:1). In a real sense, her life modeled the immortal words her late husband penned as a young man, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.”
Among the countless thousands of women who never knew her in person, but who were still mentored by her through her words and example, was Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren. Kay remembered Elisabeth Elliot as “one of my most sacred companions on the journey towards home,” and thanked her for “modeling for me what it looks like to follow hard after Jesus, for never walking away from God in your darkest days, and for holding true to your faith to the end. Thank you on behalf of millions of other women – young and old—who found in you a woman worthy to emulate.”
Wow! What a legacy this woman of God left behind as she made her way into the presence of her Lord. Elisabeth Elliot’s godly example to so many others caused me to think of the faithful women of God who mentored me in my walk with Jesus over the years — and to reflect on the responsibility I and other Christian women of my generation have to do the same: mentor, encourage, and intercede for those who are following after.
It’s certainly no secret that young Christians today face greater challenges than my generation did when we were growing in passion for the Lord and discovering our destiny in Him. There seems to be a constant invitation — even a demand — by a changing culture for them to exchange the eternal values of God’s kingdom for things that will pass away with time, and bring with them a lifetime of heartache and regret. My heart goes out to young people today — especially to young women — who face nearly non-stop pressure to make choices that will take them far from God’s best. Who will be there to encourage them, pray for them, and spur them on to be wholehearted lovers of Jesus in every circumstance and season of life?
I know the answer: I want to be there! My heartfelt daily prayer is that I — along with other women of this present generation who love Jesus — would rise up and step into the gap left by Elisabeth Elliot and other women of her generation, both well-known and hidden in obscurity, who have faithfully run the race and finished their earthly course. Like them may we model in our attitudes, actions, and choices lives of faith and courage that those who are following us will find worth emulating.
May God find us daily in our prayer closets interceding on behalf of our families, our communities, and those who are looking for their place and purpose in God’s kingdom. And may our voices be anointed by the Holy Spirit to rise and speak prophetically, powerfully, and with purpose into the lives of this next generation of God’s kingdom people, encouraging them and spurring them on to their full destiny in Christ.