"God will not fail to do His part, which is ultimately the only part that matters." Elisabeth Elliot

A Life of Reckless Abandon for God

Becoming Elisabeth Elliot

When I began reading Elisabeth Elliot’s books, I kept a dictionary nearby — her vocabulary far surpassed mine. During the mid-90’s while I was raising babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, Elisabeth had a daily radio program, so I arranged my mornings around Gateway to Joy. On the one occasion that I attended an event where she was the speaker, I was, frankly, too intimidated to go to the book table and talk to her.  By that time, she was in her early seventies and had acquired the bearing and the force of character that one would associate with Huldah, the Old Testament prophetess in King Josiah’s day.

Known for being blunt and emphatic, Elisabeth Elliot brooked no excuses and suffered no whiners. In the 70’s, when everyone else was talking about feminism, she was talking about femininity.  Her life was a spectacular balance of assertiveness and submission, and the fleet of present-day complementarian bloggers are among her spiritual grandchildren. 

What I came to understand about Elisabeth Elliot is that she spoke with the certainty of one who had stepped into obedience enough times to have learned the secret that the resulting joy and the deepening intimacy with God are priceless.

In Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, Ellen Vaughn wades into the complicated backstory of a woman described by Joni Erickson Tada as “a captain–not a private–in the army of God.” (73) Newcomers to Elliot’s life will receive a crash course in the content from her first five or six books. Those already familiar with the stories about an agonizing and prolonged courtship, fiery young visionaries contacting a dangerous and unreached tribe, five missionaries speared to death, and a widow with a toddler learning the language of her husband’s killers will have the delightful experience of hearing those stories in a different voice.

It’s clear from the outset that Elisabeth Howard Elliot was born into a family designed to prepare her for a rigorous obedience to God. Trained in discipleship and clear thinking, “the Howard family didn’t talk about emotions; they exhorted one another for the glory of God.” (720) However, Vaughn’s access to Elisabeth’s journals and correspondence offer readers the gift of insight into some of Elisabeth’s wrestling, the continual recalibration of her will to God’s will. In order to say with integrity, “Suffering is never for nothing,” to write books describing discipline as a “glad surrender” and God’s guidance as “a slow and certain light,” one has to subscribe to the path of daily self-death.

A Commitment to Daily Faithfulness

In a life marked by huge upheavals and opportunities for both glory and sorrow, it was evident that Elisabeth Elliot became her awe-inspiring self, not in the dramatic chapters of her life documented by Life Magazine, but rather in her commitment to daily faithfulness in the unseen places. A faith both brutally practical and unmistakably mystical carried her into a life of bold truth-telling, forged in a crucible of loneliness and puzzlement over the ways of God. Leaning hard into her questions, she found God to be faithful and embraced him as “both journey and destination.” (3946)

"God will not fail to do His part, which is ultimately the only part that matters." Elisabeth Elliot

In her thoroughly researched and compelling presentation of Elisabeth Elliot’s life, author Ellen Vaughn concluded that Elisabeth’s story served to strengthen her own story, and that has been my own experience as well. The truth that sustained Elisabeth through the roaring storms and the dismal silences is the same truth that will sustain me. The bracing lessons that emerged from her missionary career resonate today for all of us who embrace a faithful following: “God will not fail to do His part, which is ultimately the only part that matters.”

Living this reality, Elisabeth Elliot gained what she could not lose.

Many thanks to NetGalley and to B&H Publishing for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Be watching my social media accounts in the coming days for a series of images featuring Elisabeth Elliot quotes and autumn scenes from here on my country hill!
You can find and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Hope to see you there!

Michele Morin

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, simply click on the title, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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What I’m Reading Now

Order your copy of Oh Wondrous Grace Chronicle here and buy one for a friend. I have an article in the current issue on the gift of work. (I know, it’s hard sometimes, but truly, it’s a gift from God, and he was the very first homemaker.) You’ll also find good words on the blessing of “Monday Night Dinners” from my friend Sue Moore Donaldson, the queen of hospitality.

Image Credit: Christine Morin, my talented daughter-in-love, who finds time in busy autumn to raise a fleet of monarch butterflies, while pouring herself into her two amazing children.

53 thoughts on “A Life of Reckless Abandon for God”

  1. “The truth that sustained Elisabeth through the roaring storms and the dismal silences is the same truth that will sustain me.” Very well said!

    I’ve enjoyed a number of Elizabeth’s books over the years, including her edits of Jim’s journals. Their story, and the story that followed, is inspiring. As the daddy to five daughters, a therapist who is fascinated about why and how relationships work, and someone who’s enjoyed Elizabeth’s books over the years, I’m going to need to add this to my list.


  2. This sounds like a riveting book about an incomparable Christian believer, Michele. It’s on my wish list! Thanks for sharing about Elizabeth here; as I’ve never read her books, I’d like to get to know her better.


  3. I was just imagining Elisabeth reading accolades over our shoulders, shrugging, and saying, “I just followed and obeyed God.” And I think that’s one thing that makes her writing and speaking so compelling. Some Christian and missionary “giants” are presented as so far above us that they are inspiring, but discouraging because they seem so unreachable. But she was so practical. Just die to self, obey God, and trust Him for the rest. This book is on my TBR list!


  4. How awesome that you got to hear her in person! It’s been awhile since I’ve read one of her books, so I love seeing her quotes pop up all the time. Valuable words of faith.


  5. Wow! Thanks for sharing this review – I’ve put the book on my wishlist now. “One has to subscribe to the path of daily self-death” and “commitment to daily faithfulness in the unseen places” – thought-provoking and a challenge to me. Blessings


  6. Do you regret not having approached her in person at the time? This sounds like a well written book and I just love that the author had access to Elisabeth’s journals and letters too as that always adds such dimension to any biography.


  7. Michelle, I’m totally jealous that you were able to hear Elisabeth Elliot speak! I’ve read everything she wrote, and she was my inspiration when on the mission field. We corresponded and she considered coming to Albania, but her schedule did not allow. Thank you for your thorough review of this book, and you personal testimony of benefitting from her teaching!


  8. From what I have read of Elisabeth Elliot, I think I would have been intimidated to approach her at a book signing table too! And…I had to look up “complementarian”. Although, I could use Mr. Google – no dictionary required.


  9. So many books that I would love to read – might have to put this one on my list. I did hear Elisabeth Elliot once at a conference here in the UK, an inspiring lady and I love that quote “God will not fail to do His part, which is ultimately the only part that matters.” Thanks Michele for highlighting.


  10. I’m so glad Elizabeth’s legacy continues to live on for another generation, so they can become acquainted with her and inspired by her. I too am putting this book on my TBP list–To Be Purchased List. Going to add These Strange Ashes as well!


  11. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn


  12. I remember Elizabeth Elliot’s words following the brutal death of her husband and the other missionaries, widowed with a small child. She said, “Do the next thing.” And keep doing the next thing and the next and the next. Such a picture of God’s grace and faithfulness and joy not based on circumstances.


  13. Elisabeth Elliot is certainly a prolific writer who really boils her subject matter down unapologetically, yet with humility.

    This looks like a very interesting and inspiring read.

    Thanks for sharing.


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