cura librorum

Elisabeth Elliot: The Shadow of the Almighty
October 10, 2010, 08:31
Filed under: Book Reviews, Christian, Thoughts

Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot
Many different publishers and versions available.

Jim and Elisabeth Elliot (nee Howard) were my age only, oh, about 50 years ago? And yet the kind of passion that they display in their service for the Lord, the yearning to be constantly learning and nearer to Him, is something that feels almost ancient and intangible for us, so hopelessly mired in and tied to the swiftly passing world.

For example, even when Jim was not fully aware of God’s will for His life, two things kept him passionate and alive: he used that time to align his heart with God’s and reflect about how these even these dull, slow-seeming times could be used for God’s purpose in Him, and although Jim feels this dull weight of uncertainty and monotony inside of himself, he never forgets God’s greater narrative, and God’s heart for the lost. In the chapter, “The Test of Free Time,” Jim longs to join the missionary teams in South American to reach the thousands upon thousands who have not yet heard the gospel, yet because of family obligations must wait until the time is right for him to go. At this time, he’s also struggling with his commitment to Elisabeth (Bets) and the limits of how much of his heart he can (or should) offer her in light of his plans to become a missionary. He was 22 at the time that he wrote these particular entries.

July 19th, 1949 (Providentially, the day that I started work in 2010): How easy it is to lag spiritually at such times! … there is a very decided tendency to let the days slip through your fingers. I have had to reconcile myself to staying in the U.S. until I’ve proved myself in the work here. The brethren would have it no other way, so unless I go out with Dad to British Guaiana, I will have to wait until the way is clear for the Regions Beyond. Still, it is not wasted time, as I’m sure you, if anyone, will understand, Bets… Confident of the Lord’s glad promise, ‘He will give grace and glory, no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.’

July 23: Painted part of the hall today. Restless to do other things more directly related to the Glod’s work. Longing for a companion who will be a David to me, and me his Jonathan. Lack spiritual stamina to keep fresh in all this eating and doing. Oh there is time to read, and seek God, but my desire slackens. Lord, uphold thy lily-saint, Stay me Jehovah, for Thine is a strong right arm, and mine so weak! Saturday night again, and weary from work but seeking something from the Lord now. How shall I build with these weak and slack hands, Lord?

July 26:  Confession of pride must become an hourly thing for me. How vile and base my thoughts have been lately. Not just unkind or unsympathetic, but rotten. lewd thinking that cannot be overcome simply by willing to be rid of them. How dare I minister to God’s saints in such a condition? Lord, rebuke my flesh and deliver my heart from evil.

August 4: I must confess much leanness of soul today, Oh Patient Shepherd. How often I have been angered at delay, short-spirited, anxious to criticize. I noticed tonight, too, that one does not live to himself in this regard, but that a little leavening of dissatisfied temper will spread through a group and change outlooks. Then too, Meek Savior, I must bring a boisterous tongue, roguish lips to Thee for cleansing. Oh to be holy! Just to sense for a moment that I have somehow, however feebly, stimulated some measure of Thy character, Lord Jesus.

August 21: I sense tonight that my desires to be great are likely to frustrate God’s intents for good to be done through me. O Lord, let me pray again with earnest, honest heart: I will not to be great — only, God, grant to me Thy goodness.

Reading passages like these, prayers and supplications poured out to God on a daily basis for cleansing and holiness by a man who by today’s standards was already doing “more than enough,” often prompts me to suddenly put the book down and blink back tears of regret and fight that sudden thrill that comes when you feel too much all at once – the practical side of you that turns you back to your desk, to your thoughts about what you have to do during the day, little worries and fears. We don’t allow ourselves to dream big dreams like this anymore, because too often, our view of God is too narrow, based on the institution of church-going, or guilt-based, as we ask for forgiveness in not keeping up with His word or loving people properly. After all, does this kind of passion, intensity, longing for God exist in our world today? A constant desire to be with Him, honor Him, know more about Him? I do not think so, and if it does, I have yet to see it.

And I lament the lack of such a passion within myself as well. This was especially clear to me as I was reading this book when I first started working in mid-July, and Jim & Elisabeth’s lives kept me sane in the midst of so much temptation to throw God’s standards to the winds and give into social pressures, a sense of entitlement about working in a place with so many benefits, and to see my work and advancement as most important. Though this couple I’ve never personally met, I feel such fellowship and encouragement from them by virtue of the example of their lives and the intensity with which they pursued God’s will in their lives.

My prayer for myself, through this book, was that I would keep my mind and heart open to God’s vision for my life, and not let the mundane and the quotidian cloud and narrow His purpose for me, even though it’s uncertain right now. He has a plan for me, for each of us, and if only we’d long for Him and seek His will, it would be made manifest in us! Let us be dissatisfied with this world, disgusted at our own desire to cling to rags rather than the proper garments of beloved sons and daughters of God.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:11-14 ESV)

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