Discipline: The Glad Surrender

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Many of us share a respect and admiration for Elisabeth Elliot, world-famous missionary, speaker, writer and woman of God. We’ve eaten up her books on purity and femininity and walked through her devotionals, but not everyone has heard of her book on gladly surrendering. But ladies: this is a don’t miss. 

I first read Discipline: The Glad Surrender three years ago with my sister and a friend. We’d meet up once a week at our favorite coffee shop to discuss each chapter. I recently thumbed back through its pages and read all of the paragraphs I’d underlined. I hadn’t realized until now how much this one small book has influenced my thinking.

Discipline: The Glad Surrender

In her book, Elisabeth walked me through seven major disciplines:

  • The Body
  • The Mind
  • Place (authorities)
  • Time
  • Possessions
  • Work
  • Feelings

In typical Elliot fashion, she offers practical advice (i.e. “Don’t try to sit or kneel in one position too long. Stand up to pray, walk around, go outdoors and pray as you walk.”) along with deep, timeless, mindset-changing words, such as:

“We have said that Christian discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God. It is of the highest importance that we understand the necessity of two wills, the one created by the other and ordained free, both operating in accord. If we forget that there are two and dwell only on the sovereign will of God, we will abdicate our responsibility and lapse into the fatalism of Islam, which leaves all to the inscrutable and unknowable. If, on the other hand, we forget the sovereignty of God and see ourselves as independent, we will arrogate to ourselves all responsibility and leave God out of it-in other words, we make ourselves God. In both cases we fail to do His will, and the result is the forfeiting of our joy and freedom.”  (Chapter 6: A Sovereign God and Man’s Choice, page 33.)

Everyone has an area of their life they’re struggling to give over to God. How are we to offer Him our first fruits when it comes to things other than finances? What about our emotions? Our physical health? Our time? And how do all of these things connect to our spiritual lives? For such questions, I couldn’t recommend this book more highly. Give your busyness, your anxiety, your schedule, your people, your thoughts and your actions over to a sovereign, peaceful God. He is not a God of chaos, but of order (1 Corinthians 14:33) and He is ready to put my life in order, if I would only gladly surrender.

Which area do you most struggle to be disciplined in? (Success stories would be great too!)


  1. I especially struggle in the areas of time management and giving into my bodily passions (like overeating).

  2. Ah, discipline, that dread word! Yet how I need it in my life. One area I struggle to walk in discipline consistently is in body (exercising).

  3. Brittany Whitley says:

    Thank you for this post! I enjoy reading books by Elisabeth Elliot, but I have not been able to read this one yet. I would say I struggle most in the area of fear. It is often quite difficult for me to surrender my desire to control things. However, God has been faithfully working on me. Through reading Scripture and books by godly people and through prayer, He is causing me to rest in His sovereignty, His control. I praise God for how He is working in me and, although I am not where I want to be, I am no longer where I was.

  4. My biggest challenge is being disciplined in my thinking–focusing on God’s truth instead of negative self-think.

  5. I often struggle with time management. at work, I’m very good at it. At home and in my writing, not quite so much. The discipline of managing my time so that I can clean and write and read and spend time with my family and whatever else needs doing is definitely something I need to work on.

  6. For me my biggest struggle has been getting out of bed in the mornings. Bed can feel like a safe place compared to a world which for me has often felt hostile and threatening. The mornings I do arise early though I experience such peace and contentment, I feel like a productive human being who can actually make a difference in this world. 🙂 As I wake up it’s a constant battle to remind myself that God is with me and for me and that I actually do enjoy being up and awake! But for the grace of God go I and thank God for it.

  7. I struggle most with prioritizing my time and energy…

  8. Thank you for this post. It got me thinking again about the areas in which I struggle with discipline- especially my prayer life. I have rather given up that fight lately and simply ignored the problem, but you have reminded me to get to the root of the problem, look for solutions and keep fighting. Thank you

  9. Elizabeth Anderson says:

    The area I struggle with the most would be the discipline of self-control.

  10. Not to sound cliche, but I too struggle with regular Bible reading and prayer. It’s always a challenge, but there are times when it gets better, and it gets reflected in other parts of my life. Right now it isn’t so good. :/

    It’s true that I haven’t read the book you mentioned, either! I think I will download it as you probably don’t want to ship to Russia. 😉

  11. I think my biggest struggle is my time with God. I feel the desire to spend more time with God, and when I actually take a few minutes to focus solely on Him, I feel so much better and incredibly blessed. But I’m a college student, and it seems like there’s always something that I use as an excuse as to why I can’t spend time with God (I have to go the gym now, I need to go to work, I’m running late and have to get to class, I have to do a lot of reading tonight, etc.). I’m working on stopping the excuses and actually spend with God, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day. I’d also really like to discipline myself to take time to pray without a wandering mind.

    The book (and this post!) is something that I really needed to read about today. Both are friendly reminders to be serious about disciplining myself! I’d love to find a copy of the book and read it.

  12. This sounds like a great read. I struggle most with time management. I waste (a lot of) time on things I’d rather do. Which leads me to neglect spending time with God or investing in relationships with friends and family. But God’s working on me, reshaping my heart in His grace and mercy everyday.

  13. I have been so blessed by her writing for many, many years now. A few years ago I realised one area I needed to work on discipline was my thoughts – I was letting negative thoughts run rampant in my life. I was speaking a huge amount of condemnation over myself, despite the Bible verse “There is now NO condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”. And because we’ve been given the Spirit of POWER, it was a battle I won! Recent slips up discouraged me but I’m working on this with Him. 🙂 The current discipline has got to be time management – so easy to get swamped by things that aren’t necessary and miss the necessities (time with Him, rest, time with family).

  14. I would say either time-management or controlling my feelings is my greatest struggle.

  15. I struggle most with time management, at this point in my life. I work outside the home, plus have a two year old and a house and garden to keep up with. It’s so much easier to crash on my off days from work, or evenings…but then I get grumpy because of all the work I am NOT doing! It’s difficult for me to find the right balance right now.

  16. I love this book (and own it!) and I would highly recommend it to anyone; guy or girl.
    If you only ever read one of Elisabeth’s books; let it be this one 🙂
    The quoted paragraph that you put above is definitely one of the ones that stuck with me the most.
    God is sovereign and He has a perfect plan for my life. I am to be fully dependent on Him and His will; taking matters into my own hands never seems to work out too well…. but when I’m fully surrendered to Him and let Him take the lead and guide me, I can truly see that He does all things well.
    A surrendered life is a beautiful and peaceful life. 🙂

  17. I struggle with having a consistent, meaningful devotional time. Often, I lack the discipline needed to get up early to spend time in the Word and in prayer.

    Elisabeth Elliot is one of my heroes! Her writing has made a big impact on my life.

  18. I struggle with my time, especially in making priorities clear in my life. My time doesn’t reflect the priorities that I claim to have.

  19. I would say I struggle most with being disciplined with my feelings. I let them get the better of me and, that robs me of many joys in life. I would love to get my hands on this book!

  20. The area I struggle the most… Setting aside a consistent time for prayer on my own.

  21. For me, reading my Bible, and spending time in prayer has always been difficult… even just ”making time” for these things took huge amounts of discipline. 🙂 But recently, God has given me a true passion for His word and I WANT to spend time with Him more than ever before. This book sounds brilliant, and I would love to read it as I have just started a girl’s Bible study and think it is a very important topic. 🙂 Blessings

  22. There are several areas that I struggle to have discipline with, but probably the biggest area would be my thought life – too often I find thoughts creeping in that aren’t pleasing to the Lord and I really struggle getting rid of those thoughts

  23. The area I used to struggle with the most was in the area of prayer. I found it hard to talk to God, and honestly really neglected my prayer life. I certainly never spent any major chunks of time in prayer. This year I joined my church’s prayer team, which means praying for about an hour during morning service at church. The first time, I couldn’t concentrate very well, but I had brought along an empty prayer journal that I had been given years ago. I have found that journaling my prayers enables me to think clearly, gives me a record of who and what I pray for, and has actually made the way I pray grow. I also find that the hour goes by faster this way. Since my mind isn’t concentrating on where I am, I can visualize each person in the congregation, and better pray for each individual. It also helps to fill time if you spend time praising God, (the Psalms are a good place to start), before getting down to the requests. Also, If your church has a prayer service, you can use the lists from that.

  24. Time management is a big one. But I try again every morning, knowing that His mercy is like the sinkfull of dirty dishes- new every morning 😉 I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this book. I thought I knew all of hers!

  25. My mind and possessions, probably. Sounds like a great book!

    I have gotten much, much better at reading my Bible, though! A year or two ago I basically didn’t read my Bible, except on Sunday at church. But then, my friends set up this bible study challenge, for some of us kids (high school mostly, though I was in middle school when they started). They would send out a monthly calendar, and the challenge was to read a chapter everyday. Then, at the beginning of this year they started an ‘ultimate bible study challenge’; reading the Bible in a year. I have been doing both, and now reading my Bible everyday is a habit. Though, usually I do it at night. I need to get better at time management during the day, and read it then. So, another thing to work on. 🙂 Thanks for the giveaway!

  26. I struggle in the area of feelings which affects my thought life A LOT. Remaining emotionally pure can be extremely difficult at times, especially if you are prone to affection and sensitivity. I was recently tested in that area and God really used the situation to remind me that He is all I need. When I start taking my focus off of Jesus and giving attention to someone or something else, that person/thing becomes a rising idol which the enemy will use to dethrone Jesus as the King of my Heart. Thankfully, God is disconnecting me from potential idols; I am learning to be obedient and to listen to God’s voice instead of mine or the lies of the enemy. The only way we can maintain emotional purity is when we continually fix our eyes on Jesus and adjust our focus daily through PRAYER (worshiping in Spirit and truth) and devotional time spent in His Word, journaling, etc. God is still working on me, so please pray for me to focus on HIM and nothing else!

  27. I tend to struggle with thought patterns. Now that I started reading the Bible regularly, memorizing it, and praying more, I’ve seen improvement, but there is still a lot to work on. I would love to read her book. If I don’t win it, I will try and find a copy elsewhere. 🙂

  28. I think the area I struggle most to surrender is my mind….I tend to deal with thought patterns that aren’t godly. I would love to read this book! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy!

  29. I struggle most with my wandering thoughts. I tend to get focused and then get distracted. Praying for God to help me in that area has certainly started a success story.

    1. I really have a hard time surrendering this disease that I have. I feel like
      Im suffering a lot from it!

  30. Jordan Scott says:

    I struggle the most with the area of my body when it comes to discipline. I was born with a genetic disease called Cystic Fibrosis (CF) that effects almost every bodily system that I have, but especially the digestive and respiratory system. I basically fight to breathe and gain weight every day. Because of this disease, I must do daily breathing treatments, take several pills, and eat a high calorie/protein diet. Being a busy college student however, I struggle to maintain a good schedule and do everything I’m supposed to. I pray for discipline, and some days I’m really good at it! But I would love some encouragement and advice, especially from Elisabeth Elliot-one if my favorite authors!! Thank you for taking the time to read this and to consider me for the giveaway!

  31. I agree with a lot of the others who commented–time management is one of the biggest things I struggle with. This is not only in my walk with God, but in every aspect of my life. I love Elisabeth Elliot’s books but I have never read this one. It sounds great!

  32. What a generous giveaway! =)
    I struggle with my thought-life, probably most. Which then of course leads onto time-wasting too.
    Thanks for the opportunity, and the book recommendation =)

  33. Wow, I absolutely loved your thoughts (and the quote) on discipline. I love Elisabeth (named my first daughter after her!), but like you shared, I haven’t yet picked that one up yet.
    I can share a semi-success story, as the Lord is still working on my heart in this area. And it could be an area He works on for the rest of my life! I have struggled with the discipline of regularly giving Him my fear of loss…loss of people, loss of status, loss of regard from others…etc. But most importantly people. He began to truly dissect my heart on this matter last year, when the fear of losing my little girls was so strong. He began to show me that He was my all, my hope and my strength–even if I DID lose everyone I love. And just a few months after He began working in me regarding this, I lost me sweet Mother tragically the day after Christmas last year.
    He has been so faithful and so good to me in dealing with this grief, and learning to trust Him in sorrow. I recently posted a blog about it on my old blog itsajenslifedotcom.blogspot.com .

    1. Jen,
      How lovely to name your daughter after Elisabeth. I love that spelling. My own sister hopes to one day name her son Elliot for the same reason. Thank you for opening up about this fear we so rarely admit to. I have struggled (deeply) with this myself. I am not a wife or a mother, but I am very close to my parents and siblings and used to have panic attacks at the thought of one of them dying, especially dying young. God has done the same work in my heart that He is doing in yours. I am so very sorry to hear about the loss of your sweet mother. I have never gone through that myself, but God seems to continually bring the motherless (of all ages) into my path of friendship. Might I recommend Elisabeth Elliot’s writings on grief and loneliness? You may have already read them, but I thought I’d mention them just in case. She is so full of wisdom and empathy.

      Blessings to you,

      1. I purchased some of Elisabeth’s books on grief, but haven’t picked them up just yet. I did read Through the Gates of Splendor, and her thoughts at the end regarding the families losing their husbands/fathers were so powerful. Especially their perspective of eternity and their future hope. It was so humbling! One book I have read since Mom’s passing was Edith Schaeffer’s Affliction (Francis Schaeffer’s wife). It’s such a deep, beautiful and solid work on suffering theology. I affectionately recommend it to anyone going through any measure of sorrow or suffering.
        How precious that the Lord has brought these people in your path. It’s amazing that even though we don’t all go through the same things, He uses us to minister to each other. I have received some of the deepest comfort from people who love Jesus, but may not have suffered the same kind of loss.

        Thank you so much for your sweet and encouraging reply.
        The Lords blessings to you, too,

  34. I would have to say I struggle alot with disciplining my mind and also my time. I’m great at time management, if it’s things I want to get done, but including other’s or God in that is difficult for me. It’s something I really have to work hard at. While I really lack discipline of my mind, but so wish that I did. I love Elisabeth Elliot, and had never heard of this book, now I am very eager to read it for myself!
    Thanks for this great giveaway!

  35. I have the most to work on right now in the area of the mind and taking my thoughts captive.

  36. The current discipline that I am struggling with is time management/procrastination.

    But here’s the success story 🙂
    I have struggled in the past with reading my Bible consistently. I would do Bible studies, and read about the Bible (books, blogs, magazines…) but I didn’t find joy in simply reading His Word. Just this year, God has given me that joy! I would wake looking forward to reading, even when I was in the stereotypically “boring” sections. I believe He used the simple discipline (I purposed to wake and read whether I felt like it or not) to being to a place where it is no longer difficult.

  37. Elizabeth says:

    I struggle most to be disciplined in the area of my feelings. I have heard about Elisabeth Elliot but I have not read any of her books yet. Having this book to read will be a great help to me.

  38. Unfortunately, I struggle most with the aspect of time and setting aside time for prayer without a wandering and preoccupied mind. This book sounds like something I definitely need to pick up!

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