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“‘You are loved with an everlasting love,’ that’s what the Bible says, ‘and underneath are the everlasting arms.’”

If you, like me, grew up listening to “Gateway to Joy” on the radio every morning, you knew the next line was going to be, “This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot.” That soft, deep voice would proceed to tell you what she would be talking about with you today. And it was always biblical, profound, and pertinent.

My mom, grandma, and I affectionately referred to her as “E.E.”  We listened to cassette tapes of her teaching during our car trips, faithfully caught the fifteen-minute radio broadcast each morning, and always read The Gatekeeper (published monthly by Back to the Bible), as well as The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter (which she sent bi-monthly to supporters).

But who is this revered woman, you ask?

Elisabeth (Howard) Elliot Gren

Elisabeth Howard was born in Belgium to missionary parents, but grew up in the eastern United States. After graduating from Wheaton, Elisabeth went to Ecuador as a missionary. In 1953, she married Jim Elliot, a fellow Wheaton student who was also ministering to the Quichua Indians. (Passion and Purity and Quest for Love detail their unique love story.) In 1956, Jim and four other missionaries were killed while trying to make contact with the remote Huaorani tribe (then known as the Aucas). Jim and Elisabeth’s daughter Valerie was 10 months old at the time. (Read more in Through the Gates of Splendor.)

Elisabeth and her daughter continued to live and work with the Quichua Indians, when her path crossed with two Auca women. Through that meeting, Elisabeth was eventually able to go to live with the Aucas. She (along with her young daughter Valerie) spent two years ministering to the tribe, leading to Christ some of the same men who had been responsible for her husband’s death. (These experiences are chronicled in her book The Savage My Kinsman.)

In 1963, Elisabeth returned to the States along with her daughter. Elisabeth married theology professor Addison Leitch in 1969. He died of cancer a few years later. (When she writes of A Path Through Suffering and The Path of Loneliness, she knows whereof she speaks. These Strange Ashes and On Asking God Why are her honest reflections on faith and trials.)

In her straightforward manner, Elisabeth states the facts of her third marriage: “I had two lodgers in my home. One of them married my daughter, the other one, Lars Gren, married me.” And if you heard the story in person at a conference, she’d usually bring up, with her dry sense of humor, how at this point in their marriage Lars was beginning to worry that he would be next.

“Every experience, if offered to Jesus, can be your gateway to joy.”

Elisabeth was a Titus 2 “older woman” to an entire generation of Christian women. She penned over 20 books on femininity and practical Christianity (Let Me Be A Woman is perhaps one of her best-known titles), as well as biographies of her husband, Jim Elliot, and Amy Carmichael, missionary to India. She traveled regularly to speak to churches and women’s groups. And from 1988 to 2001, her daily “Gateway to Joy” radio broadcast blessed countless listeners.

As Elisabeth’s health failed, her radio program, newsletters, and travel were gradually discontinued. She rounded out her days at “The Cove” with her husband, Lars Gren. And on June 15, 2015, at the age of 88, she quietly slipped across Jordan’s shores, Secure In The Everlasting Arms.

But Elisabeth’s words and legacy remain to inspire a new generation. The timeless truths she shared are lessons just as applicable for today.

Her signature style was always practical, ever forthright. She never minced words. In fact, her rules for writers advised simple, clear, authenticity “devoid of sentimentality”. So her lessons were poignant but memorable.

She showed us The Mark of a Man and The Shaping of a Christian Family. She taught us that Love Has a Price Tag. She told us about Passion and Purity and that Sex Is A Whole Lot More Than Fun. She exemplified Discipline, The Glad Surrender. But most of all, she showed us how to Keep a Quiet Heart.

Each of her books are filled with quotable nuggets of truth. But today, I want to share with you a few of my favorite bits and pieces from Elisabeth Elliot’s newsletters and radio program. They are just a small sampling of the gems she has left us…

"'You are loved with an everlasting love...'"

Timeless Lessons from Elisabeth Elliot

“Act on principle, not on impulse; will, not emotion.”
-Elisabeth Elliot in Quest for Love

“Commit your uncertainties and fears to Him.”

There are just too many things to do. My natural response is to fret and fear. Both are forbidden: Fret not. Fear not. That tells me what not to do. What, then, should I do?

“I will run the course set out in Thy commandments, for they gladden my heart.” (Psalms 119:32 NEB)

There will be both time and strength today to run that course, for it is always possible to do the will of God. The course He sets for us in His commandments is not an obstacle course, but one carefully planned to suit our qualifications—that is, not too rigorous for our limitations, not too lenient for our strengths.

The plan of God for me, for this one day, is meant not to trouble but to gladden my heart. Christ’s yoke, according to His own promise, is not hard but easy—if we bear it together with Him and if we bear it as Christ bore it, in meekness and lowliness of heart.

“We must run with resolution the race for which we are entered, our eyes fixed on Jesus, on Whom faith depends from start to finish.” (Hebrews 12:2 NEB)

-Elisabeth Elliot in a September 1999 letter to supporters

“Jesus could not be accused of false advertising… When He said, ‘If you want to be My disciple, you must give up your right to yourself and take up the cross and follow Me’ those are the conditions. You must love. ‘If you do not love your brother, you’re a murderer. If you say that you love Me, you are a liar if you don’t love your brother.’”
-Elisabeth Elliot

“Do the next thing.”

Have you had the experience of feeling as if you’ve got far too many burdens to bear, far too many people to take care of, far too many things on your list to do? You just can’t possibly do it, and you get in a panic and you just want to sit down and collapse in a pile and feel sorry for yourself.

Well, I’ve felt that way a good many times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I’m told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea. I don’t know where this is. But this is a poem which was written about that legend. The legend is “Do the next thing.” And it’s spelled in what I suppose is Saxon spelling. “D-O-E” for “do,” “the,” and then next, “N-E-X-T.” “Thing”-“T-H-Y-N-G-E.”

The poem says, “Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.” That is a wonderfully saving truth. Just do the next thing…

What is the next thing for you to do? Small duties, perhaps? Jobs that nobody will notice as long as you do them? A dirty job that you would get out of if you could have your own preferences? Are you asked to take some great responsibility, which you really don’t feel qualified to do? You don’t have to do the whole thing right this minute, do you? I can tell you one thing that you do have to do right this minute. It’s the one thing that is required of all of us every minute of every day. Trust in the living God.

-Elisabeth Elliot in her radio program, “Gateway to Joy” (Read Full Transcript)

If we really comprehended the measure of the grace of God toward us, surely it would be easy for us to forgive others for the relatively small sins they have committed against us. (Elisabeth Elliot)

“Obey God in the least thing shown.”

Jim Elliot corresponded with one missionary in India and one in Ecuador, seeking to determine which field he should go to. In view of the information he received, he simply made a choice: Ecuador. It was not a “shot in the dark.” It was an act of faith in a God who promises to guide.

Must you have a “specific call”? A call is a combination of desire, concern, and commitment. “You can’t steer a parked car,” Jim used to say. It makes sense to move in the direction you believe God is leading, trusting Him as a faithful Shepherd to lead you in paths of righteousness for His (not your) name’s sake. Will He make it hard for His obedient sheep? Of course not. And if you are “steering your car” in the wrong direction, you can count on Isaiah 30:21.

Yes, both moving and waiting are required. But you have waited. It’s time to move. There may be more waiting, but God knows how to slow you down, quiet your heart, cause delays in order to accomplish His purposes. See Isaiah 41:10.

-Elisabeth Elliot in March/April 2000 issue of The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter
(Click here for more of Elisabeth’s thoughts on waiting.)

God will see to it that we are in circumstances best designed by His sovereign love to give us opportunities to bear fruit for Him. (Elisabeth Elliot)

Marriage won’t make you happy.

How many of us went into marriage imagining that that man would be able to make us happy? Well, it doesn’t take very long to find out that there isn’t a human being on earth that can make us happy. God said, “You have hewn out broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Come to the One who has the living water.

Your marital status–married, divorced, widowed, single–live to the hilt, live for God, here and now in this state, without being miserable for the rest of your life because God didn’t give you what you wanted.

If we are going to be transformed into the image of Christ, we are going to have to get rid of self-preoccupation, self-broodings, self-interest. Turn your eyes to Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

-Elisabeth Elliot in her radio program “Gateway to Joy”, March 28, 1997,
Series: Transformation in Christ, Message: Learning to Walk with Christ

How many of us went into marriage imagining that that man would be able to make us happy? Well, it doesn’t take very long to find out that there isn’t a human being on earth that can make us happy. God said, 'You have hewn out broken cisterns that can hold no water.' Come to the One who has the living water. Your marital status–married, divorced, widowed, single–live to the hilt, live for God, here and now in this state, without being miserable for the rest of your life because God didn’t give you what you wanted.

“Trust His timing. Receive His answer for today.”

Just the other day I read a quotation from George MacDonald in which he says,

“If you’re waiting for the salvation of someone for whom you’ve been praying for a long time, don’t suppose that God is not at work.”

Remember, God has to work at His own pace and He has heard your prayer for that person’s salvation. You can’t hustle souls into the kingdom. God must be working first in that person’s life before there will be any sort of detectable change.

We need to be careful that we don’t let a feeling of impossibility influence a full heart of simple faith in matters that confront us or concerning those for whom we pray.

-Elisabeth Elliot in her radio program, “Gateway to Joy”, November 5 & 6, 1997

Faith is proved most realistically by obedience… Trust and obey. (Elisabeth Elliot)

“Praise and sing to the Lord. Thank Him for everything.”

Having a quiet time with the Lord every day is absolutely essential if you expect to grow spiritually. But you have to plan it. It won’t “just happen.” We’re all much too busy. Early morning is best, and there are plenty of scriptural precedents for that (Jesus rose “a great while before day”; the psalmist said, “In the morning shalt Thou hear my voice”). If you meet the Lord before you meet anybody else, you’ll be “pointed in the right direction” for whatever comes. God knows how difficult it is for some to do this, and if you have a reason you can offer Him why early morning won’t work, I’m sure He’ll help you find another time. Sometimes the children’s afternoon nap time can be quiet time for a mother. At any rate, plan the time. Make up your mind to stick with it. Perhaps you’ll start with just fifteen minutes or so. You’ll be surprised at how soon you’ll be wanting more.

If you’re not very familiar with the Bible you can begin with Mark, the shortest Gospel. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s teaching. Read a few verses, a paragraph or a chapter. Then ask, does this passage teach me something about: (1) God, (2) Jesus Christ, (3) the Holy Spirit, (4) myself, (5) sins to confess or avoid, (6) commands to obey, (7) what Christian love is?

It helps me to keep a notebook. Try it. Write down some of your special prayer requests with the date. Record the answer when it comes. Note also some of the answers you’ve found to the above questions, or anything else you’ve learned. Tell your parents, siblings, your friends some of these things. That will help you to remember them. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a quiet time will make in your life.

May the Lord make us faithful in placing ourselves in His presence, listening to His Word, and offering our prayers to Him in faith.

-Elisabeth Elliot in June 1996 issue of The Gatekeeper

Aim, above all else, at loving God. (Elisabeth Elliot in Quest for Love)

Find more from Elisabeth Elliot online:

Excerpts from “Gateway to Joy” radio broadcasts are Copyright ©1997 Good News Broadcasting Association, Inc. (Back to the Bible), Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
“Gateway to Joy” section heading quote taken from The Gatekeeper tagline.
Latter section headings in quotation marks are taken from the last chapter of  Quest for Love.

Photography: JenniMarie Photography
(originally published in 2009; edited from the archives)

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27 Comments

  1. Avatar Kathy Falk says:

    I know that you wrote this blog a couple of years ago, but I’m frustrated because I remember hearing E.E. tell about her husband Addison Leitch on his deathbed. Though he was a seminary professor who preached the greatest sermon on grace she had ever heard, days before his death he kept asking her, “It is really true that my sins are forgiven?” Of course, Elisabeth kept reassuring him. I remember being so impressed with what she said to him, but I can’t remember now what it was she said. Do you by any chance know where I could find the story?
    (My sister-in-law’s father is E.E.’s brother Phil. E.E. sang at my brother/SIL’s wedding, and I have loved her teaching for many years!)

    1. Hello Kathy, I’m not familiar with this story, I’m sorry! Have you tried searching the Gateway to Joy archives?

    2. Kathy Falk…I don’t know if you ever found the quote you were asking about, but the “Elisabeth Elliot Quotes page on FB I run by Diane, a friend and colleague of Elizabeth’s, with input from E’s daughter, Val. I’d suggest asking there.

  2. Avatar Clifton D Berry says:

    In the Gateway to Joy program that aired on BBN Radio on Friday May 11, 2018 (last updated on May 10, 2018) Ms. Elliot reads a portion of a letter from a man. The letter is entitled Do You Love Me? Can you help me to obtain a copy of that letter or direct to someone who can? Thank you for considering this request.

  3. Hi, I recently came across your blog about Gateway to Joy. I wanted to let you know that the Bible Broadcasting Network is airing her programs again Monday-Friday at 11:15am ET. They are also available On Demand. Please click here for more information.

  4. Avatar Trish Elrod says:

    Amen. Still loving my dear friend Elisabeth and quote her frequently.
    Trish Elrod

  5. The wisdom on prayer is a wonderful thing to remember. For over 50 years, my grandmother prayed for the conversion of my grandfather. Two years ago, he was baptized! Now at 83, he faithfully goes to church EVERY DAY with my grandmother and prays and sings along. It took a very long time, but it was God’s time!

  6. Good to remember this wisdom on prayer. It does get discouraging to pray and pray for someone, yet we aren’t seeing any results. This is a good reminder to press on in prayer:)

  7. That first quote on prayer by George MacDonald is something I’ve been thinking about lately! I was encouraged by a recent sermon, too. The pastor mentioned his mother coming to the Lord after he had been praying for 20 years. May we all be persistent in prayer!

  8. Thanks for sharing. I am striving daily to spend more time in Gods presence. Emily thanks for the tip on Zip Journalism, I am def trying that out.

  9. I have found this to be true: once I committed myself to spending daily time with the Lord, I was soon hungering to spend even more! It has gotten to where I can tell when I haven’t spent enough time with Him lately, because I get the same symptoms of hunger spiritually as I do physically: I get irritable, I feel empty, I start to hurt.

    One thing I have found extremely helpful is something one of my former Bible study leaders calls “ZIP” journaling. You read one chapter at a time, and from each chapter, you pick out the Zinger, or what verse(s) really speak to you at the time, write down the Insight you gained from it, and then ideas for the Practical application it has in your own life. Even just one chapter a day can teach you so much!

  10. Avatar Rebekah Dickinson says:

    What a great article Gretchen. What I really wish to know is how did you get your picture taken with Lady EE? 🙂

    1. We went to hear her speak, and I got to meet her at the book table! 😉

  11. Love Elisabeth Elliot! Where would be without her wisdom?

  12. Is there any place where we can still *listen* to the Gateway To Joy broadcasts or only read them?
    Curiously,

    1. Gateway to Joy is on BBNRadio.org

  13. I also grew up under the tutelage of EE. Ever day, we would listen to her on the radio. I can still quote that intro as well!

    I wrote to her several years ago to thank you for the important part that she has played in helping me to become a woman of God. She wrote back, and included some whimsical quotes and clippings that she thought I would like. A hand scrawled note topped off my pleasure. Since then, I have heard from her twice. She and Lars are getting on up there in age, but are still as active as they can be, traveling to see their siblings, writing, and keeping house there in Massachusetts. What a heritage she has left all of us who were blessed enough to have known her!

  14. I grew up with her too! And I also had trouble adjusting to Nancy Leigh DeMoss! (although now I appreciate her as a powerful teacher of truth). Since she’s gone off the air I’ve soaked up wisdom from her books, “Let Me Be a Woman,” “Quest for Love,” “Passion and Purity,” and others, like “Keep a Quiet Heart.” Thanks for posting about her. She’s one of my heroes!

  15. This brought back such warm memories for me. I’ve read Elisabeth Elliot for years, but I had forgotten the years growing up when my mom would listen to Gateway to Joy and sometimes we would ride in the car together listening. I loved her voice, even though I was young enough that I can’t quite remember the thoughts she shared.

  16. It is possible to not have heard of Elizabeth Elliot… I haven’t! But I will check her out- she sounds very interesting. 🙂

  17. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I’ve been blessed… Thanks a lot!!! Debbie

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