Thoughts on “Becoming Elisabeth Elliot” by Ellen Vaughn

“Be like her.”

That is what Joni Eareckson Tada, who wrote the forward to this book, could almost hear the LORD say to her after first meeting her hero in the faith, Elisabeth Elliot. Both women are giants in the faith and both are known for the great suffering they have had to endure. However, the one thing they have in common by Tada’s own admission is their ordinariness. Two ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances on a crazy life journey with a holy and wonderful God.

If you are like me, and are in desperate need to see what a life lived out in complete surrender along with strong and courageous faith looks like, look no further. In the world we live in, suffering is taught to be shunned and avoided at all costs. However, after getting through just the first half of the book, you realize suffering is something that Elliot never shied away from. She completely surrendered to the LORD’s will, come what may, one day at a time. And why in the world did she do that?

Because she knew that “Suffering is never for nothing…”

I’d like to be like her too.

And then there was baby Elisabeth Howard

Elisabeth Elliot was born Elisabeth Howard in Brussels, Belgium to American missionary parents on December 21, 1926. She grew up in a very strict, but loving environment. Her parents taught her to love the LORD with passion and commitment. However, hugs and kisses were sparsely given. There is one picture in particular that stood out to me in the book, with Elliot and her younger brother, Tom. It was shortly after Jim Elliot had been killed, and Tom had surprised her with a visit. They stood there holding each other’s arms with huge smiles on their faces. But no familial kiss or hug were exchanged. A different kind of manifestation of love, to be sure!


Luckily for all of us, Elisabeth, or as most who knew her called her, Betty, was a prolific journaler. So Ellen Vaughn, her biographer, was able to not only know what was happening around her based on circumstances, but also her personal responses based on her journal entries. Betty wrote about Amy Carmichael, a missionary in India, who had a profound impact on her. When Betty was older, she reflected on what drew her to Carmichael: “… there was something so clean and pure and steel-like in Amy Carmichael’s absolutely flintlike determination to be obedient,” (page 38).

This same obedience would be used to describe Betty herself, as well as her husband, Jim Elliot. As already mentioned, Jim Elliot was infamously killed in Ecuador by the Waodoni tribe. He along with four of his friends, were speared to death as they attempted to befriend the dangerous, unreached tribe for the sake of the gospel. Jim was also a prolific journaler, and famously coined the phrase, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose,” (page 74).

Love at first site plus 5 years

Their love affair was by no means ideal. He was determined to remain single so that he could serve Christ free of entanglements. His hesitation in committing completely to Betty is evident in the fact that they had a five-year courtship. Few women would have been so patient, however, “Her own trust in God’s leading, no matter what, reinforced her endurance,” (page 75). Again, her determination to obedience to God’s will was, although beautiful, not an easy task.

The LORD brought them both to Ecuador by separate paths shortly before being married. As Jim bemoaned the fact that he was definitely no Paul (page 84), his plans of being a missionary to unreached tribes in Ecuador were coming together. Betty initially learned Spanish, but before she could be married to Jim, he insisted she learn Quichua. She also learned midwifery, as well as how to administer shots for medical purposes.

They married on October 8, 1953. Finally! They had their first and only child shortly after on February 27, 1955. Valerie Elliot. And it was not long after that, that Jim Elliot found himself at the end of a Waodoni spear on January 8, 1956. Such incredible joy, and such horrific pain, all in such a short amount of time.

Why so many know Elisabeth Elliot

And this is why we all know who Elisabeth Elliot is. Because even after her beloved husband was killed, she stayed in Ecuador, longing to go to the tribe that murdered him. Not to seek revenge, but to share the hope of the gospel with them. She truly loved them and wanted more than anything to share Jesus with this savage tribe. She cared little whether she lived or died, only that she would remain faithful and be made Christ-like (page 165).

Eventually, Betty did get a chance to live with the Waodoni under extraordinary circumstances. And unbelievably she went with her little daughter, who at that time was 3 years old. It boggles my mind that she would go into a jungle with all of its inherent dangers as well as live with a tribe that has been known to kill any foreigner in their midst. But go she did because as she wrote in her journal, “… I WOULD NEVER GO BECAUSE IT’S SAFE, BUT BECAUSE IT’S APPOINTED,” (page 205).


Was it worth it?

It would be satisfying to say that the sacrifice of her husband and four other young men was worth it because a certain number of the Waodoni tribe came to know Christ, or a particular number of missionaries came to give their lives in service to the gospel in foreign lands because of these men’s example. But it’s not always that clear cut and simple to understand. God doesn’t work the way we want Him to. He cannot be understood that readily.

My biggest take away from the book was that Mrs. Elliot didn’t look back on her life as a series of hills and valleys. Instead for her, “It was all about walking with Jesus… and in a mystical way, He was both the journey and the destination,” (page 253). The point wasn’t to have “success.” The point was obedience (page 259). As Vaughn puts it:

“There is always divine meaning and purpose in doing what He commands. It’s just that most often we can’t see that purpose; our human vision is not equipped with enough transcendent dimensions to access the loving purposes of eternity.”

(page 261)

What it’s about

It all comes down to knowing Him more and more. LORD may we know You more every day. Thank You for Your incredible, ordinary, and obedient servant, Elisabeth Elliot. I am so thankful for her example.

So yes, get this book and read it. It’s well worth your time and is an incredible story that will inspire you to walk increasingly more faithfully and obediently with Jesus.

©2024 Mud Hen Mama


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