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The Same Grace: Reflections on Losing a Hero of the Faith

Words by Lexy Sauvé // Image by Kathy Gilbert

As many words poured forth from admirers of Elisabeth Elliot this week, my heart was celebrating for Elliot as she was finally at rest eternally under the wings of her Savior. Writers have captured her life’s history, her spunky personality, and given credit to this hero of the faith for encouraging many followers in their pursuit of Christ-like holiness.

But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that was deeply, deeply grieved, maybe even selfishly, at the loss we’ve experienced on this side of heaven. I felt like there was no possible way God could raise up another woman so widely known for his purposes in speaking to women of the coming generations. Maybe Elliot herself felt the same way when sitting at the desk of her beloved Amy Carmichael, whom she affectionately called a mother of the faith. It’s the loss of these examples of fearless “daughters of Sarah” that reminds me each day is certainly not getting any better, and I experience holy jealousy at not inhabiting eternity with my risen Savior and his faithful followers.

I spent much of Monday writing about the priceless things I’ve learned from Elliot—my own mother of the faith—rediscovering wisdom through the many pages of her books that have grown quite flimsy from use, and being encouraged by the many men and women who have felt just as changed and encouraged by Elliot’s example as I have.

Elisabeth Elliot inherited her promised forever with Jesus through much faith and patience, while enduring many, many trials (Heb. 6:12). These are the men and women Paul tells us to imitate, to pattern our walks after, as they follow Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1). Many know that shortly after the birth of her only daughter, Valerie, Elliot’s now-famous missionary husband, Jim Elliot, was murdered by an unreached tribe the couple had determined to minister to. Not only did Elliot stay on as a missionary after becoming a very young widow, but she forgave her husband’s murderers and decided to move herself and her daughter to their tribe and live amongst them, being a living, breathing picture of forgiveness. God’s purposes in the unfortunate loss of her husband were indeed accomplished as many natives came to know Christ through Elliot's witness. She later remarried, but was again widowed just four years later by the evil disease of cancer. During this entire time she began sharing God’s biblical plan for women from a public pulpit, while raising her daughter. Eventually she met and married Lars Gren, her husband of 37 years, until her death at the age of 88, on June 15th of this year.

As I’ve looked at many pictures of Elliot this week—a young mom sporting a chunky baby on her hip, serious-faced at the camera, or flashing a glimpse of the gap between her front teeth as she laughed with friends—I’ve realized the same God and grace that empowered the ministry of that humble woman is the same grace available to us today.

The same God who wanted Elliot to speak to the issues women were facing in her time is the same God who wants to raise up many more faithful Titus 2 women for this generation! God is still stirring women who have hearts fully turned towards him, ready to give it all—husbands, lives, luxury, comfort, and predictable lives—for the sake of the gospel. God still wants to use women who count all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:8).

Elliot said, “Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, many letting goes.” She knew the secret to being used mightily by God was, as Carmichael memorably put it, seeing in it a chance to die.

Women, we are not without hope for being used mightily by God in our generation. I leave you with the words of John the Baptist to wrestle with: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).